NIAAA Director talks about the impacts of alcoholism on family members and friends

Published by at 12:00 am under Professionals

Welcome to “First Steps to Al-Anon Recovery” from Al-Anon Family Groups.  This podcast features an interview with Dr. George Koob, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or the NIAAA.  In this interview, Dr. Koob talks about research on alcohol use disorders, including alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and their impact as it relates to the drinker’s family members and friends.

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6 comments

6 comments on “NIAAA Director talks about the impacts of alcoholism on family members and friends”

  1. Ronnie says:

    My son-in-law has a severe alcohol problem. He recently left or was let go from his job after 20 years. My daughter is distraught and does not feel that she knows this person anymore. He has driven drunk with his children in the car. I am watching this person throw everything away and feel helpless. Your podcast has helped me to try to understand.

    I encouraged him to attend an AA meeting and went with him for support. The honesty of those attending and the way they accepted responsibility for their actions was humbling. I don’t think they realise just how strong they really are.

    I don’t know if he will go again. He has already gone back to drinking himself into a stupor. He is on medication for depression and drinking alcohol with it. He is also angry when sober and blames his problems on my daughter and says she has made him ashamed of himself. He is making his family’s life miserable. Families definitely need this support.

  2. Laura A. says:

    I live with a physically sober alcoholic, yet experience the “war-zone” more often than I would like to admit. He is also a recovering addict. I met him in sobriety as I was following a suggestion to sit in open A.A. meetings in order for me to better understand my alcoholic father.

    Needless to say, I did everything but go sit at meetings to try to understand alcoholism as a disease. You see, my disease may be less evident due to the one symptom of ingesting alcohol, but my disease is just as cunning and baffling! I “found” a new addiction and was going to pursue it tooth and nail.

    I continued going to open A.A. meetings and ditched my Al-Anon meetings. You see, I was F.I.N.E. There was nothing “wrong” with me. Well, eventually I had to see my truth. We began a happy-go-lucky relationship (sexually based). The “protection” slipped. I was pregnant.

    When I found out, he hinted at an abortion. Being raised as a religious person, I adamantly refused. I laid down the law: he’d either be a part of our lives, or he would never show up one day in repentance. To my shock (naturally), he was unheard of for 2 weeks. He came back afterwards to say that he wanted to try to have a relationship with me. Well, it was never solidly built. I lived alone for the first 5 months of my pregnancy, until I was let go of my job for getting frequent kidney infections.

    I told him that I would no longer be able to pay my way alone. He suggested I move in with him, but told me he had no feelings for me. (I was devastated, but thought that since he was sober and in A.A, we could make things work.) I was delusional! I could not make him do anything. Nothing could “work” and nothing I did or didn’t, said or didn’t say, worked. Only a month later, he had relapsed into alcohol, pot, and crack cocaine.

    Boy, was I disappointed! Mostly, I was so hurt. I crawled back in to Al-Anon with my heart broken and my head completely insane. I learned how to love myself and to be responsible for my actions. I learned to let him go and hit his bottom. I did everything I could to leave him, saving every penny I possibly could. I told him when I would be leaving with our now almost one-year-old son and my now 5-month pregnant belly. (I was of the lucky .7% of women who could get pregnant with an IUD in place.)

    I told him I knew he was ill and that I loved him, but that I had to love me more. It broke my heart to leave him because I was convinced he was soon going to die of malnutrition or an overdose. He had been a violent drunk, and I had been a violent Al-Anon, and I hid it so well. I hated what his relapse had done to us all and couldn’t give my son the kind of life I was given.

    He got sober immediately. Then, I knew not what to do. I was thrilled, yet in fear that this was only temporary. All three of us moved! He was invited to a religious retreat that I had no part in arranging, and he had a spiritual awakening during those four days. He came home clean and stayed clean for two days. I was dying of worry inside for fear of the unknown! He began getting dressed on the third day (my birthday). I was devastated! Surely, he was about to go find his buddies–he came towards me in a strangely peaceful light and said, “I’m leaving.” He leaned in to give me a kiss as my tears welled up in my eyes. “I’m going to my meeting,” he said after he kissed my lips and then our son’s forehead.

    He has been sober for 2 and a half years now. I have been in Al-Anon for 6 years now. We are still together, and it was not because of our own doing. This program saved both of our lives. I don’t know what the future of our relationship holds. Though the house is no longer on fire, there is a lot of rubble and damage, but we are not alone. He has A.A, and I have Al-Anon as well as a Higher Power who will not take me where His/Her grace won’t lead me.

    When I begin to “forget” and raise a stink about him being in a dry-drunk daze, listening to a podcast like this brings me new perspective and gratitude. Thanks for reminding me how sick we both are, and thanks for sharing.

  3. Shelly P says:

    I was in a great marriage for over seven years and then my husband was in a car wreck and became addicted to pills. I put up with it for a few years and he became mean and hurtful. He never hit me or the kids, but I was always making excuses for him. I left him on Valentines Day six years ago, took the kids and what I needed to my parents and stayed there.

    I gave him an ultimatum, either get in AA and get a sponsor or we were done. He fought me at first, but through Al-Anon I had an outlet and knew he needed to be in a program. I also knew that no two people follow the same path to recovery. I gave him time to prove himself. I still loved him and prayed to God that he would go.

    Finally on March 17th he went to his first meeting and he has been going ever since. It saved our marriage and without the Al-Anon book saying, who is wise enough to make a decision for another let me know, I had to make up my own mind since my story was mine and different from all others. All of our stories are different.

    I read my Bible every day and when it said, before I take a radical step should I not try again with the help of God, that one hit me in my soul. I made a vow to this man and I was not going to give up if he did not.

    That was eleven years ago and we are happier today than the day we got married. There is hope and Al-Anon showed it to me and AA showed it to him. Thanks, Al-Anon!

  4. Rob L says:

    I also relate to the comment that living with an alcoholic is like living in a war zone. I no longer live with active alcoholism, and yet I still have dreams at night in which I am screaming at the alcoholic, berating him for everything I think he did wrong. It reminds me of people’s descriptions of their experience with “shell shock”–years later. I cannot get these dreams to stop. My best way of coping with them has been to share them with my Al-Anon Sponsor.

  5. georgia s. says:

    I definitely relate to the statement that living with an active drinker is like living in a war zone. That is exactly what I experienced and, of course, I want to protect my children. What Dr. Koob does not mention is that living with a sober or abstaining drinker who may or may not be attending A.A. can also be a disaster.

    Getting the drinker to treatment is not the end of the problem. It is only one step in the solution and cleanup from the disaster. My husband and I are not living “happily ever after.” Both myself and our children are dealing with the wreckage of the past and the present in terms of my husband’s emotional mood swings. It is hard on me and my children to live through the “dry drunks.” At least when he was drinking, he either left the house or passed out, which shut him up.

    And, of course, I am frightened for my children. Will they become drinkers because they inherited their father’s genes? Will their marriages be an emotional minefield because they have witnessed so much of my husband and I screaming at each other?

    I questioned whether or not Al-Anon could really help me to help my children. It seemed like a divorce would be the best solution. My therapist told me that whether or not I stayed in the marriage, I still needed help and support for myself. It took several of my sessions but she finally got through to me that I need ongoing support and that my recovery did not depend upon what my alcoholic husband was or was not doing.

    Recovery in Al-Anon isn’t limited to 20 sessions, like my therapy was. Therapy got me started looking at myself and my situation. Al-Anon meetings are helping me to see my part in the marriage and how I can change my life by changing my attitudes and actions.

    I’m still in the marriage and my husband still has dry drunks. But thanks to the help of Al-Anon, I don’t feel poisoned by his toxic waste. My children have learned in Alateen that they are not the cause of their father’s drinking or mood swings. I can’t change their genes, but I can help them to go on with their lives, just as I have learned, and the benefits of “detaching with love” from their father.

  6. Bonnie P. says:

    This is an excellent question and answer session with Dr. Koob. I am both a health provider and an Al-Anon member of 3 years. Hearing Dr. Koob’s analogy that living with an alcoholic/misuser of alcohol is like living in a war zone was extremely helpful. That describes the situation with my ex-husband (the alcoholic) perfectly– it was a minefield of troubles, stress and fear. Also the explanation of alcoholism as a brain disorder/disease makes it easier for me to wrap my head around it. I will share the news with my Al-Anon groups that these podcasts are available. Thank you!

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