Alcoholism, unlike some other diseases, does not appear all at once. It sometimes takes years to develop. This slow progression allows the drinker, family members and co-workers to sometimes unknowingly develop an elaborate system of denial.
Subtle as it might be, the individual’s life gradually becomes dominated by alcohol. This change in lifestyle may be characterized as a turn toward alcohol; alcohol begins to serve as the organizing principle of life. This turn is the point at which the individual ceases to choose alcohol freely and begins to need it. The need for alcohol becomes the central focus and, in fact, the controller of the individual’s behavior and thinking. The need to include more and more alcohol in one’s life grows stronger and becomes incompatible with daily responsibilities.
Alcohol becomes the organizing principle for the family as well, with the problem drinking rippling through family relationships. Faced with the threat of alcoholism consuming their loved one, family members sometimes fall into the denial pattern. It can contribute to a pattern of multigenerational alcoholics where the adult children fall into the same cycle of excessive drinking — being unable to stop, hurting loved ones, affecting their jobs and denying there is a problem.
Alcohol becomes a new secret family member. It is an intruder to the rest of the family, which must make major unhealthy adaptions in relationships within the family and outside of it. The family members often feel they must continue to make accommodations in their perceptions and behaviors to continue functioning and maintain what is now the family’s denial. The family develops a system of excuses to explain the drinking to make it acceptable.
If you think that you might have a drinking problem, or someone has mentioned this to you, there are several options available to you. Contact Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 for a confidential consultation or counseling. Check to see if you have a Peer Support Program member at your unit and talk with them, or call one of Peace Officers Fellowship members listed here. These members have agreed to give up their anonymity so that others who are in need of help can find the support they need. Don’t worry about calling us; helping other alcoholics is one of the ways we stay sober.