Swarnila (only one name used to protect identity) asks: I moved to Dubai recently, and was invited to stay with an old friend of mine.
He is married and has a eight-year-old boy. He used to use drugs long time back, but finally got rid of that dreadful habit, but unfortunately now he is hooked on to alcohol. At first he would drink on weekends, but now he drinks every night. The worst part is, he becomes abusive after drinking. Sometimes he gets violent as well.
All his friends have tried to stop him from drinking, but alas we all have failed.
This is affecting the boy! He started using bad words and he hits his classmates almost every other day. The wife has contributed to this situation as well. She hits the boy and the couple fights almost every night (in front of the child).
I have tried my best to make them understand, but again failed. Is there a way it can be fixed? My main concern is the boy.
Dr Sreekumar V. Nair (MBBS, M.D. Psychiatry, NMC Specialist Hospital, Dubai) replies: I appreciate your concern for your friend and his son.
Alcohol is an important preventable cause for problems in every aspect of our lives. Alcohol affects every organ in our body from head to toe. It causes tingling and numbness in the limbs. It affects the liver, kidney, heart, gastrointestinal system etc. It affects the sexual organs and causes sterility and impotence.
It is worth remembering Shakesphere’s quote in this regard, "ít provoketh and unprovoketh, it provketh the desire but taketh away the act".
This leads to a lot of emotional issues, which manifests as behavioural problems.
Having said that, the most important organ affected by alcohol is the brain. Usually a person starts dinking for the pleasure it gives, over time there are changes in the brain and then the person drinks not for the pleasure, but to avoid the displeasure or distress caused by the absence of alcohol.
This also leads to narrowing of repertoire, or in other words alcohol becomes the centre of his world.
All through the day, whatever he is doing, the thought of alcohol is present at the back of his mind. His social activity starts narrowing down towards people connected with alcohol and at this stage even family goes down in his priority list. Then problem starts. Your friend seems to be in this stage now.
His drinking, his abusiveness and aggressiveness, quarrels with wife and the general negative atmosphere in the house, all affects the child.
He feels insecure, gets conflicting message about what is right and what is wrong, learns that frustrations can be let out through or rather should be let out through anger and aggression.
Your friend’s son is manifesting symptoms of this. His problem cannot be completely resolved unless the family dynamics is corrected, which in turn needs resolution of the drinking problem of his father and the interpersonal issues of his father and mother.
The primary issue seems to be your friend’s drinking habit, and it is quite obvious that he needs professional help. But he would refuse any attempt to take him to a psychiatrist.
So what is needed is something we call the motivational counseling. Anybody who commands his respect can try doing this.
- The general principle is to be non-judgmental, give a feeling that he is understood, and not to give advices.
- The discussion should progress in such a way that he himself comes out with the bad effects it is having on his family, himself and in particular his son.
- The discussion should focus on not his health so much as on the loss of prestige and standing in the society. It should also focus on the loss of face his son must be experiencing at school, among his friends and others.
Several attempts may be required to bring in this insight in him. If this fails, in the best interest of his health and the wellbeing of his wife and son, you may have to use some force to take him to a hospital for professional help.
This can be done with the help of the police when he is abusive and aggressive. I am suggesting professional help because substance abuse is considered an illness, which is caused or influenced by many factors like heredity, social and environmental factors, family and marital issues, psychological problems, psychiatric disorders etc.
I sincerely wish your noble effort succeeds.
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Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.