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Can Alcohol Change Someones Way of Thinking Forever?

by cwb

Well ... I am living with an active alcoholic. We have been married for 23 years. Two of our children are in college and one is a junior in high school.

My husband and I came from completely different upbringings. His was strict and rigid. His father was an alcoholic and no one in the family had a voice. What went on in home never was told. Still don't exactly know?

I came from large loving family and thought love would fix everything. It did in my family or so I thought ...

Now after about 5 years of him not being responsible and getting in trouble with the law and his health is not good. I have tried everything possible ... I have gone back to school so I could work to make more money ... and spent all my inheritance ... always believing because each time something happens he promises he will do better.

Well he has started saying things like he cannot talk to me, and that he doesn't like the way our daughter responds to him (he ignores her and tries to intimidate) so she avoids him.

We don't want to go home because we never know what kind of mood he will be in. He gets things in his head that are not true??? If we do not answer his questions with the correct answer he gets mad. I wonder if he is insane and can ever come out of this. What do you suggest?


Alcohol can change your brain chemistry and for alcoholics who drink heavily, their way of thinking is inevitably altered.

And severe cases of alcoholism can cause serious and persistent changes in the brain that can cause an alcoholic to develop severe brain disorders like Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS).


Here's what the NIAAA website says about it:

"WKS is a disease that consists of two separate syndromes, a short–lived and severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long–lasting and debilitating condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes (i.e., oculomotor disturbances), and difficulty with muscle coordination. For example, patients with Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be too confused to find their way out of a room or may not even be able to walk.

Many Wernicke’s encephalopathy patients, however, do not exhibit all three of these signs and symptoms, and clinicians working with alcoholics must be aware that this disorder may be present even if the patient shows only one or two of them. In fact, studies performed after death indicate that many cases of thiamine deficiency–related encephalopathy may not be diagnosed in life because not all the “classic” signs and symptoms were present or recognized.

Approximately 80 to 90 percent of alcoholics with Wernicke’s encephalopathy also develop Korsakoff’s psychosis, a chronic and debilitating syndrome characterized by persistent learning and memory problems. Patients with Korsakoff’s psychosis are forgetful and quickly frustrated and have difficulty with walking and coordination. Although these patients have problems remembering old information (i.e., retrograde amnesia), it is their difficulty in “laying down” new information (i.e., anterograde amnesia) that is the most striking. For example, these patients can discuss in detail an event in their lives, but an hour later might not remember ever having the conversation.

Here's the link if you want to read the entire article about alcohol's damaging effects on the brain

Now whether this is something that applies to your husband is almost impossible to say, and is something a doctor would have to check out.

The insanity of an addiction like alcoholism lies in the fact that all rational thinking and behaviour flies out the window so your husband's erratic behaviour, mood swings and forgetfulness are the result.

Unless your husband's alcoholism is so bad that it has caused irreversible brain damage, then most of these symptoms will disappear should he achieve sobriety and embark on a program of recovery.

So your husband needs to get treated for his addiction. And if he's not willing to do that voluntarily, you should consider doing a family intervention for his alcoholism - which can be a very powerful method to get him to agree to the treatment he needs.

Apart from the intervention, there isn't a lot you as a family can do to change his behavior unfortunately. The only way an alcoholic will ultimately change is by taking responsibility for his addiction, and then doing what is necessary to overcome it.

That's why some in a relationship to an addict eventually decide to leave - because they reach the point where they've simply had enough.

What can be very helpful for someone in your position is to consider going to Al Anon meetings - which is for family members of alcoholics. There you will meet a lot of people in exactly the position you are, and you'll be able to find out what they're doing to deal with similar situations.

So I wish there was more I could tell you, but there isn't much you can do for an addict I'm afraid. The key is to re-establish a relationship with yourself and rediscover what's important to you, and that way you can still find meaning and happiness in your life, irrespective of what your husband ultimately does. Not always easy I know, but something you must try and work at nevertheless.

Take care of yourself and I wish you all the best.

God Bless

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Sep 17, 2009
Alcohol can cause irreparable damage
by: C-P

Alcohol can cause irreparable damage to a person's brain and thereby way of thinking. It also depends to a large degree how long someone has abused alcohol and to what extent. I think it's critical to try get your husband some help and professional treatment. I'm sure a lot of his behavior would change were he sober and in recovery. But whether that's something he's ready for and prepared to work towards is an entirely different matter. A professional intervention may certainly help then. Good Luck.

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