Why Do Alcoholics Drink?

by pgh

“Why do alcoholics drink even when it hurts them and everyone around them?”

If you’ve ever watched a friend or loved destroy their life for the sake of the bottle, you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself this very question.  It can be frustrating and painful to watch someone destroy themselves and hurt everyone around them for seemingly no reason. Why do people drink alcohol even when its destroying their body, their mind, and the people they care about?

So What’s The Answer?

In a society where the majority of the population enjoys a drink or two, why does alcoholism seem to grip some, while leaving others untouched?  The truth is, there’s really no way to identify a root cause of someone’s alcohol problem.  However, here are a few common contributing causes to alcoholism:

Alleviate Anxiety & Fear – The alcoholic may have deep seated anxieties and fears that they’re afraid to confront.  Alcohol may be a way of self-medicating.

Existential Relief – Part of the human condition is that we all struggle to find meaning in our short, finite lives.  Alcoholics may turn to the bottle as way of finding comfort and avoiding this difficult psychological struggle.

Gain A Sense Of Control – For some, alcohol gives them a sense of control – at least while they’re intoxicated.  It offers escape from a world where they feel they have very little control.

Physical Pain – Some turn to alcohol to self medicate for chronic pain or illness.

It just happened to them – For whatever reason, some people are just more susceptible to addiction.  It could be a product of genetics, it could be a product of their upbringing, it could be a combination of both.

Why Does It Matter?

At the end of the day, no matter how much you analyze and ruminate, there is no way to truly understanding why someone drinks.  Any potential cause of alcoholism is intertwined with dozens, even hundreds of contributing factors.  Even the alcoholic themself likely couldn’t tell you why they drink.  It’s just something they do.

Even if you could accurately decipher the root cause of an alcoholic’s addiction (and their are likely many different contributing factors), what good does that do?  If you’re dealing with a chronic alcoholic, you don’t need to understand what causes them to drink.  Trying to understand the rationale behind an irrational disease is an exercise in self-torture.  It can even lead to self-blame and more pain.

Don’t fall into that trap; an alcoholic’s weakness for alcohol cannot be your fault.  Instead of asking yourself “why” and trying to assign blame, aim to better understand how you can help the person move closer to surrender and eventual treatment.  Try to understand how you can avoid letting your loved one’s alcoholism affect your own happiness.  If the person afflicted is a family member or your significant other, consider going to an Al-anon meeting.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ross May 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I like your article although I couldn’t disagree with you more about understanding why an individual chooses to drink too much. Understanding why for that individual is elemental to be able to live a happy life without the use of alcohol.