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Though many people who struggle with alcoholism wish to reduce their consumption or get sober, it is rarely an easy feat. 75 year-old Chea* knew this all too well, he could not remember the last time he had spent a day sober. To deal with past trauma, Chea had been turning to the bottle for years as an escape, but his excessive drinking had taken a toll on his health and family. Residing under the same roof as his grand-children, Chea’s erratic and at times violent behaviour was disrupting the family life. Not knowing what to do, Chea’s family had turned away from him, and he felt isolated and lost.
That was until Vanny, one of CCT’s social worker, reached out to Chea and offered him some help. Still clinging to the bottle, Chea felt it was now or never to make a change and decided to join CCT’s Alcohol Support Group. For the first few months, Chea would attend the meetings while drunk, and frequently disrupted discussions – but Vanny was not ready to give up on him. Through counselling and group discussions, Vanny helped Chea realize how alcoholism was negatively impacting his health and family. After slowly coming to terms with his addiction and understanding its wide-reaching effects, Chea decided to give up alcohol altogether.
Since that day, Chea changed for the better. After entering recovery, Chea reconnected with his Buddhist upbringing and he now visits the local pagoda regularly. Before Chea spent all his time drinking, but now he helps care for his grandchildren and positively contributes to the family life.
Excessive alcohol use creates a range of health and social issues that weaken the family unit. Alcoholism is often linked to violence in the household and child maltreatment; children raised in an alcoholic household are at greater risk of experiencing emotional and psychological abuse, physical violence and sexual abuse. Even when violence does not take place, the financial toll of alcoholism can result in parents being unable to meet their child’s basic needs and encroaches on the child’s need for consistency and security. The repercussions of growing up in an alcoholic family often last well into adulthood.
Providing Alcohol Support groups in at-risk communities is one strategy CCT uses to improve the capacity of families to better care for their children and prevent unnecessary family breakdowns – with such success that one support group recently asked CCT to change the time of their regular meeting. Because group members were drinking less, they returned to full time work and no longer could meet during the day.
When asked what he enjoys the most about his new sober life, Chea says it is his family’s newfound love and respect towards him, and being able to act as a role model for his grandchildren. By sharing his story, Chea hopes to inspire others to get help and dare to explore life beyond alcohol.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy.