The emotional impact of alcoholism

The unhappy side of happy hour

This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week runs from 17th to 23rd November.

Alcohol is the most socially acceptable drug that society has now, it’s also one of the most available and affordable. We use it to express our feelings, to cover them up, and in many cases, to avoid them.

It stops us from connecting with our fear, guilt, shame and loneliness. It magics our painful feelings away and allows us temporarily to feel OK.

But what is at the root of our compulsive drinking?

The source of any addiction is our own belief system; we think things about ourselves that are wrong, or inaccurate. Generally, no addict perceives themselves to be a worthwhile person and they don’t feel anyone would want to care for them if it was known what they were really like. There is always a history of abandonment; possibly a parent or caregiver leaving the family, or much more often, there has been emotional abandonment.

On a spiritual level, we seek escape when life has lost its meaning, we begin to feel disconnected, and as our addiction becomes a bigger part of our lives, that feeling of disconnection increases.

Alcoholics are extremely likely to have been the children of alcoholic parents, and may have grown up in a home where emotions could not be trusted, and where secrets were kept in order to avoid the shame.

Often, addiction has a history of trauma which is sometimes ‘forgotten’, buried deeply within us. Our rational brain locks up the memories for fear they with overwhelm us, but in order for us to resolve our feelings connected with traumatic events in our past, we need to unlock these memories and re experience the emotions. To help bypass the rational brain and connect with feelings, a counsellor, alongside talking, might suggest using creative techniques such as visualisation, artwork or working with dreams.


Published statistics for recovery are extremely unclear, no one approach works for everyone, but if you feel counselling may be the right approach for you, there are two important things that need to be considered before starting out on the journey.

  • There must be a truthful desire to stop drinking.
  • You will need to be sober during your counselling sessions.

Support for a recovering alcoholic might also include a twelve-step or Smart Recovery programme and your doctor may suggest medication such as Nalmefene, to reduce the urge to drink.

Ultimately though, at the top of the list of routes to recovery, is making the connections to the real reasons for drinking, and working through the feelings related to the original pain.  

Additional information can be found here:


Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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