Alcoholism, Enabling, and Alcohol Relapse

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It is interesting to point out something that family members who have been negatively affected by the alcoholism of another family member evidently do not comprehend. It seems to be that by shielding the alcohol addicted individual with lies and deceitfulness to those outside the family, these well-intentioned family members have in essence created a circumstance that makes it easier for the alcohol dependent individual to persevere and proceed with his or her harmful, destructive lifestyle.

In fact, rather than helping the alcoholic and themselves, these family members have in truth become enablers who have unintentionally helped deteriorate the alcohol dependent person’s drinking problem even further.

Relapses Can and Do Happen

Another key alcohol addiction issue involves alcohol relapses.  Relapses take place when an alcoholic has successfully gone through alcoholism rehabilitation and then resorts to drinking a number of weeks or months later.  At first glance, this predicament flies in the face of rational thinking and sounds so doubtful that it forces a person to wonder why anyone who has experienced the wretchedness of alcohol dependency can return to drinking a short while after successful alcohol treatment and in turn after attaining recovery.  There are, to be sure, numerous rational reasons for this.

It should be mentioned, then again that alcohol addiction research that has centered on the long-term outcomes of alcohol dependency has revealed that long after the alcohol dependent individual has terminated his or her drinking, significant modifications in the way in which the alcohol addicted person’s brain functions are still present. As a consequence, all a recovering alcoholic has to do to involve himself or herself in actions that correspond with the changes that have come about in the brain is to begin drinking again.

The Necessity for A Significant Lifestyle Modification

There are other reasons why more than a few recovering alcoholics return to drinking a few weeks or a few months after achieving sobriety. According to the alcohol addiction research literature, to make a successful recovery, the alcohol addicted individual needs new ways of acting and thinking in order to deal more efficiently with taxing alcohol-related circumstances that will take place.

Circumstances such as returning to the same alcohol addictive environment or to the same geographic location; interacting once again with friends from the days when the alcohol addicted individual was drinking excessively; or familiar songs, smells, or activities—all of these circumstances can elicit memories that can trigger psychological anxiety or push hot buttons that influence the recovering alcohol dependent individual to engage in excessive drinking once again. Regrettably, all of these circumstances may not only get in the way of ongoing alcohol recovery for the alcohol dependent individual but they can also result in relapse and as a result circumvent one’s sobriety.


In an attempt to “protect” the family alcoholic, family members can essentially cause inadvertent destruction by enabling the unsafe drinking behavior of the alcohol dependent person.

The addiction research literature confirms the fact that most individuals who successfully complete alcohol rehabilitation go through at least one relapse. Alcohol dependent persons and their family members need to know this so that they do not get defeated or overwhelmed when a relapse takes place.

Fortunately, participation in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and follow-up therapy and training have resulted in more productive, enduring alcohol abuse and alcoholism rehab outcomes, have helped reduce alcohol relapses, and have helped recovering alcoholics accomplish enduring sobriety.

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