Interview of Michael Mahon on Alcoholism in the Family

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How to Identify Alcoholism in the family, and what a family member can do to Help.

2020-2021 has been a huge year for diagnosing my patients with alcohol addiction. It is well known in the psychology, counseling, and medical profession that the recent quarantine caused by Covid 19 created the perfect atmosphere for potential alcoholics to become true alcoholics. I am not a counselor and have no training in diagnosis of alcoholics.  More importantly, I have a difficult time confronting patients who show evidence of being an alcoholic, even when it is blatantly obvious that the patient sitting in front of me has been drinking. My nurse practitioners have also asked me how to address this problem when it is obvious that our patients, those who are coming in to have a consult with me to receive hormone pellets to get healthier are negating their own treatment with their addiction to alcohol.  I wasn’t taught how to discuss this subject when I was in medical school, so I asked an excellent psychologist with more pages to his CV than mine, to help me and my viewers understand how to help themselves or their loved ones who have a problem with alcohol. My guest is Michael Mahon, Psy.D., who has a weekly podcast called Psych with Mike, and a website of the same name.

Michael Mahon is a Doctor of Psychology, from California Southern University, Irvine, 2011, who spent 20 plus years as a licensed counselor in private practice, and who has years of teaching other counselors at Webster University and two other universities.


Questions to Dr. Mahon:

  • Would you please Define Alcoholism and help us understand the difference between alcoholism and Social Drinking?
    • Alcoholism is defined as an addiction to alcohol that causes tolerance to alcohol and withdrawal symptoms when an alcoholic is not drinking.
    • Alcoholism is now viewed as on a continuum with Alcoholism at one end and excessive intake of alcohol without tolerance or withdrawal symptoms.


  • What are the known symptoms and signs displayed by an alcoholic?
    • An alcoholic has the primary symptoms of irritability, a mood change.
    • When alcoholics are drinking, they may not be so uptight and are more social and more cheerful. The opposite is true when they are not drinking.


  • What kinds of social issues do alcoholics have that may be a clue to their problem?
    • Irritability and being in denial can cause quite a bit of friction within a couple’s relationship. Being confronted by a spouse put an alcoholic in more denial than ever.
    • They tend to have cover stories to hide their drinking
    • They black out and must cover their tracks which leads to lying and distrust in the relationship.


  • Why are alcoholics in such denial about their condition?
    • Alcohol provides a modicum of medical therapy for social anxiety and other psychological problems which makes the alcoholic want and need to continue.
    • The problem comes in when an alcoholic can’t stop drinking at the point when their social anxiety is improved…they always think that more is better and that is the problem, it isn’t!


  • How do people act at home to hide their drinking problem?
    • They closet drink, take meds to cover up the tremors that occur when they are withdrawing.
    • This leads to evasive discussions within the family. Everyone feels out of control.
    • Remember you can’t change another person’s behavior, just your own.
    • Any ultimatums must be something that you can follow through with.


  • Alcoholism Is like other addictions, how should it be discussed with a loved one who is obviously an alcoholic?
    • Confrontation or asking an alcoholic to stop is not ever going to work until they have already decided to stop drinking. Then it is time to help the alcoholic get into counseling.


  • What is the best way to get an alcoholic into treatment, counseling?
    • The alcoholic must be ready to stop, and family members must be ready to stop being a codependent.
    • Counseling is for alcoholics who are trying to decide if they want to quit drinking or after they have gone through rehab to help him or her through withdrawal. No alcoholic who drinks daily should go cold turkey.  It could be deadly, so being admitted for medical withdrawal is the only safe method.


  • Could you please discuss what rehabilitation centers do for the alcoholic?


  • Rehab centers provide a safe place to withdraw from alcohol. They are also there to arrange outpatient follow up for counselling to help the alcoholic get through the first several months.
  • This process is called “Stages of Change”. It has been very successful.

Thank you to Dr. Mike for educating us on Alcoholism and the symptoms as well as the steps to recovery.  Next week we will talk about Achieving a Lasting Solution to Alcoholism.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author.  (314) 993-0963

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