Alcoholism: The impacts extend far beyond just the person drinking

Bystanders often deal with the negative effects firsthand


Maria Torres, Features Editor

One second you think you’re fine. You only drink a little bit of alcohol on special occasions with your family. Drinking every once and a while won’t get you addicted, right?

Then you go to a party with your friends and you tell yourself it’s fine to have just one drink, you know your limits and you’re with your friends you’re supposed to have a good time and loosen up a bit. You then start going to parties every Friday night and you start drinking every weekend. You then find yourself drinking to get away from any conflict going on in your life and any pain it may be causing because drinking allows you to get away and feel happy. Without even realizing it you’re now an alcoholic, maybe you’re not a severe alcoholic where you survive off of alcohol and will do anything to get said alcohol but you’re now someone who drinks to get away from the pain, who drinks at least once a week, and who feels they need to drink in order to loosen up and have fun and be happy. 

There are different levels of alcoholism that no one talks about. Being an alcoholic can look like someone who’s going out every weekend drinking on Friday and Saturday maybe Sunday but finding that they’re becoming more and more dependent on alcohol to be “happy” and have “fun”. There’s also the other end of the spectrum where you depend on alcohol and if you even go a day without drinking your typical case of beer you’re in a bad mood and you’re going through withdrawals and you’re a different person because your body is reacting to not having your usual alcohol levels within your system. You end up spending all of your money on alcohol that you find yourself stealing from the people you love the most just to get enough alcohol to last you the week. 

Kay, who is a sophomore at Enochs, was willing to share their story.  “Last year I was going through a pretty rough patch in my life. I felt everyone around me was leaving or passing away. My only supporter in life was an alcoholic who liked to call himself a “functioning alcoholic” because he managed to live his everyday life while intoxicated. In 2017 he was intoxicated and committed suicide; after I had found out I fell into a deep rabbit hole of depression. Almost my entire family was leaving my side and I ended up turning to alcohol for an answer to all my problems. I ended up drinking daily for about three months. During this period I was losing more people by the day and I eventually ended up losing myself, I was in and out of abusive relationships. I finally realized I needed to start the New Year off happy so I cut down my drinking over a few weeks and eventually stopped drinking all together. The first step of getting help was fairly scary because judgment is something I try to avoid. It was fairly hard because I had been relying on alcohol for so long, but I was lucky enough to not go through severe withdrawals because I had eased myself off of the alcohol. I started therapy and started to find myself again. I’m now four months sober and am in a happy and healthy relationship. To anyone who may be going through alcohol abuse or anyone who lives around someone struggling with alcohol abuse stay strong, stay away from the things that’ll hurt you, and push through it. We’re all a little bit stronger than we think.” 

One thing about alcohol abuse that no one ever talks about is watching someone you love the most struggle with it. Ever since I was born my uncle suffered from alcohol abuse, I’ve always been told I never knew the “real” him because in every single version I saw of him he was either drunk or doing stupid things putting himself in harm’s way to get money to buy alcohol. Growing up I was never allowed to be alone with my uncle because no one knew what he would or wouldn’t do. He was never allowed to come over because my dad couldn’t bear to see his baby brother in that drunk state he was always in. All throughout my life my uncle was in and out of rehab trying to get clean but it never worked; this grown man who was 36 years old couldn’t go through with rehab because he had been drinking every day and night for twenty years to the point he had ulcers left and right and his body couldn’t function without alcohol. The moment he stopped drinking was the moment he felt like dying and it was when he realized he’d rather die than stop drinking. 

I had never had a relationship with my uncle until about seventh grade when my family had to start taking my uncle in because of the dumb things he was doing to my grandpa. It was definitely hard seeing someone I loved staying with my family for three days at a time once or twice every month with bruises covering his face and his whole body. I remember him leaving and not knowing whether he would come back or if he would get jumped again and be because he was trying to steal from the wrong person. I remember the last time I ever saw my uncle. He was going to fly down to Mexico with my grandpa and my dad had to drive him to the airport. My parents told me to say goodbye to my uncle, so I did. I waved goodbye to him as he buckled into the passenger seat and I turned around and wished he would stay out of my life because it was too hard to keep seeing him like this. Six months later four days after Christmas had passed my mom got a phone call saying my uncle had died down in Mexico. 

I remember not knowing how to feel and hating myself every day because of what I had said when he left. I remember hating myself for that being the last encounter I ever had. I hated that I didn’t get a proper goodbye, that I didn’t get one last hug or one last I love you. I hated that I didn’t have a close relationship with him like everyone else did because my parents wouldn’t let me near him in order to protect me. I remember hating myself for months on end for not wanting him in my life. Even though everyone told me it wasn’t my fault that that’s the way things ended between us and that I shouldn’t feel bad that will always be the biggest regret I have in my life. His death definitely changed my views on life and people and the things they go through immensely. During my grieving process, I learned that people who fight their demons on their own try to use alcohol or drugs or whatever it may be to help them cope because they feel they have no other support system. 

If you think or know you’re going through alcohol abuse or anyone you know is going through alcohol abuse please get help and please encourage them to get help before it’s too late. If you are a bystander watching someone close to you abuse alcohol and you need help don’t be afraid to get it, you deserve help just as much as anyone else. Alcohol abuse hits hard and not only does it affect the person who’s going through it but it affects everyone around them; everyone who loves and cares about them. The hardest part of getting help is actually asking for help or going to rehab. I promise there’s light at the end of the tunnel, you deserve to live a happy and healthy life. You deserve to have people in your corner rooting for you. You deserve to be happy without depending on alcohol and drugs. You deserve to not be robbed of your life – help exists. Don’t forget you deserve help just as much as anyone else. You are loved, you are supported, and you can do this, it’ll be okay. 

If you or somebody that you love are struggling with substance abuse, here are some resources: they have a hotline you can call if you are abusing alcohol and it is completely confidential they offer both English and Spanish they offer resources and support groups they offer support, advice, and help for bystanders they list places for alcohol and drug abuse rehabs in California