Q. I am a recovering alcoholic and my greatest fear is relapsing, especially during the holiday season.
Yours is not a question. It is a statement of fact and I would agree with you that there are circumstances in the life of an alcoholic that quite rightly cause reason for concern.
End of year peer pressure to celebrate is one such reality and I would hope that between you, the entire family and therapy team, you were able to discuss this concern and that you were able to get through this troubling time in your life.
It is for people such as yourself that the group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can be so helpful. Millions of people all over the world go through such concerns every year and many millions get help and support from AA.
This movement was started in 1935 by a surgeon and a stockbroker, both of who were ruining their lives by drinking too much.
The theory behind the practice is based on the broad psychological techniques that enable the individual to change core beliefs and practices through a 12-step programme.
Millions of people have found help through this worldwide movement. I would hope that you have gone or are going through this type of programme and that you will find help.
That said, however, there are other questions that arise at this time and which are to do with the relationship man has with alcohol. There are those who believe, for example, that all alcohol is bad and that it is to be prohibited.
Those who profess Islam for example, fall in this category and consider all alcohol haram. No self respecting Muslim has a position other than this. Many Christians (not Catholics) hold the same view and have a very clear understanding that alcohol is to be avoided. Other Christians, however, hold the view that because Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine, then alcohol is fine. Others go to quote chapter and verse to state that what is prohibited is the state of being drunk.
Many Christians are said to drink alcohol in hiding because they fear reprimand from fellow church members.
Part of the strain in the relationship between early Christians and missionaries was because alcohol was prohibited for Africans while missionaries could drink as much as they liked! As a young man, Jomo Kenyatta is said to have found himself in trouble with the Church on this account.
The truth about alcohol is that it has been with man since the beginning of time, and is, in all probability will be with us for as long as we live.
For the African for example, most if not all ceremonies involved some form of alcohol. Birth, marriage, death or even sale / purchase of land involved ceremonies in which alcohol was used.
The reality, therefore, is that we must find a way of co-existing with alcohol with or without the festive season.
In your case however, (as one who describes himself as an alcoholic) alcohol is NOT for you. In this regard your body exists in such a way that alcohol is not a social beverage but is a deadly poison.
To put it simply, as an alcoholic, you cannot be a social drinker because the first taste of alcohol will push you to drinking more and more without stopping. In a similar way, some people smoke and enjoy cigarettes. People who suffer from Asthma will in certain cases die if exposed to smoking.
For others, harm comes by way of sugar (diabetes), salt (hypertension), meat for gout.
So, many people live with different challenges.
In some countries, up to 87 per cent of the people aged 18 and over report that they have tasted alcohol while nearly 60 per cent report to have drunk in the past one month.
In some countries, however, the rates of heavy consumption have reached epidemic proportions and have become a public health problem.
Russia is an example of such consumption.
Whereas millions of adults use alcohol safely, doctors recommend that children be prevented from using any amount of alcohol.
There is much scientific knowledge that backs this view. For example, those who use alcohol as teenagers are more likely to turn out to be alcoholics than those who postpone the use of alcohol until adulthood. At what age did you start the use?
It is true that the growing brain of the teenager is harmed more by alcohol than the adult brain.
So, even as you look to the challenges of pressure to drink, remember help is at hand from family, AA, therapists and many others.