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An Alcoholics view - Recovery and the Hospitals Role

Part 2

The following is from a submission I was asked to contribute to an Australian hospital's Drug and Alcohol policy review when I was around 25 years old, so please excuse the writing style!. I have split it into 3 parts as it is a fairly long article.


It is very important that the alcoholic, while in hospital, has contact with recovered alcoholics. They can offer not only understanding of the condition but first hand knowledge of the emotional turmoil that the person is experiencing. While nonalcoholics can learn to understand the 'illness', they will never know the terror of the "emotional" roller coaster. Neither will they experience the hallucinations, tremors, greasy sweats nor the feeling of things crawling underneath their skin (electric fleas). Even after detoxing, night horrors and sweats can continue for months, even years. Only the ones that have been through it can understand. Meeting recovered alcoholics can also give the person hope that they may some day achieve sobriety.

The recovering alcoholic, (who is serious about becoming sober) is usually very ashamed of their condition and extremely susceptible to negative thinking. We tend to wallow in self-pity, which is a luxury we cannot afford. It helps to set us up for the next "bust". We need to surround ourselves with positive people who show empathy (not sympathy) towards the condition. We are extremely sensitive at this time and already feel like social lepers. An alcoholic will very quickly pick up on anyone that shows distaste. Remember that we may have chosen to drink but we did not choose to become alcoholic.

While we are in hospital, we hopefully begin to realise what we have done to ourselves and to the sometimes terrible things we have done to other people. This is good, but can be dangerous as we can become very depressed, remorseful and have suicidal ideas. I have thought on many occasions, "I can't beat this, I may as well pull the plug now and do myself and society a favour'.

The attitude of the doctors and nursing staff is so important. WE ARE HUMAN and need to be treated as such. I realise how difficult it is for the nursing staff to handle us at times and this is why the idea of a contract is good. The person may be intoxicated at the time of signing the contract. If the person has a copy of it by their bed, it should go a long way to reminding them of the conditions of their stay. Sometimes the person may need reminding by their doctor and the nursing staff that the reason that they are in hospital is because they have admitted to having a problem and requested help. That cry for help was as good as saying 'My ways are not working, my life has become unmanageable, please show me a better way"

An alcoholic needs to give up resistance and follow another's directions. The client should agree to follow all reasonable directions from hospital staff as part of their contract. It should also be made extremely clear that any aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated. The staff and other patients have a right to feel safe and not threatened either verbally or physically. The alcoholic should be encouraged to handle their emotions by "talking them out' instead of acting them out. Aggression does not necessarily mean that the person is usually aggressive. It is all a part of the emotional rollercoaster of withdrawal but nevertheless, is unacceptable.


End Part 2 ... 

Michael Bloch

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