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Return to Normal Drinking

No one likes a drunk. At best, the person may become a little drunk at a party, and we excuse it. At worst, the person may be regularly drunk, embarrass themselves and everyone within hearing distance. Everyone knows that their drinking is out of control except the drinker.

This type of drinking is not carried out for pleasure; it is compulsive drinking, or drinking with a purpose. The good news is that it is not necessary for people to give up alcohol completely. It is possible for them to return to normal drinking like the rest of us.

Reducing the alcohol intake is not easy. If consumption has reached a point of physical addiction, a return to normality must be carried out carefully. If the body has adapted to the large amounts, it must readapt to lower levels. This can be carried out rapidly but is not nice and may require medical supervision, or reduction can be carried out gently.

The aim is for the person to return to normal drinking which is moderate social drinking and moderate drinking with meals. Partners of heavy drinkers usually want zero intake but this is often not realistic or even necessary.

There are many reasons why people want to reduce their alcohol consumption. The main ones are: to improve their health, increase their lifespan, improve their quality of life, keep their job, keep their partner, save money, and be safe again.

There is a program to return to normal drinking. It does not require turning to God, becoming a Buddhist, being locked up in a clinic, or drinking two gallons of fizzy gunk every day. What it requires is a decision to return to normal drinking and a willingness to work through a program to make it happen.

The stages are as follows:

1 Decide on what alcohol consumption is acceptable. This may be times of day, amount per day, occasions when it is acceptable. This must be decided by the person, not      by the partner, doctor or therapist.
2 Identify the reasons for drinking to excess. Common reasons given include: escape from life, boredom, helps with communication when shy, helps with communication if    oppressed by someone, celebration or reward, social, with meal, to help relax, to help sleep or generally a bad habit.
3 Deal with each of the causes of drinking so that there are new and better ways of coping with the problems.
4 Monitor the drinking by recognising the reason for having each drink.
5 Drinking reduces naturally and establishes a habit of drinking less.
6 Remove the thought that drinking helps deal with problems.

There is no magic to the program; it simply recognises that some people use alcohol as a coping mechanism and they need a better one. They can then drink socially or at meal times without a driving need or craving to keep on drinking.

The author, Grahame Milton-Jones is a Psychotherapist working at the Family Medical Centre, Albir and can be reached on 966 865 072.

The Core Team

Dawn Blythe

Clinic Director, Practice Midwife

Yvonne Evans

Clinic Director, Nurse

Dr. An Croonenborghs

General Practitioner

Jane Evans