How to Deal With Alcoholic Ex-Pats in Thailand

It can be hard for people to know how to react when one of their friends starts to go off the rails because of booze. This is something that can happen a lot in Thailand and many ex-pats do develop a problem with alcohol. I don’t mean to sound judgmental here, and I’m not claiming that all heavy drinkers are alcoholics. I only use the ‘A’ word because I can’t think of a better way to describe the situation. There seems to be two types of heavy drinker; those who drink a lot but manage to live an otherwise normal life and then there is the heavy drinker that just doesn’t seem to know when to stop. It is this second sort that I am talking about here – I’m quite the expert as I once belonged to their ranks. I talk about my own misadventures with the grog in my book Dead Drunk.

I often hear stories from other ex-pats about how one of their friends has completely lost the plot and now seem to on a mission to drink themselves to death. Most ex-pat bars in Thailand will have at least a few of these people as regulars; quite and shaky in the morning and out of control by the afternoon. It can be hard for those who have to watch this individual self-destruct. The life of a drunk is far from glamorous even if they do happen to live in Thailand. This might be the nicest bloke in the world when sober but just add alcohol and you have an unbearable asshole. When this individual gets really drunk he will likely become a bit melancholy and describe how he has made such a mess of his life. The more patient drinking buddy will hear him out and offer advice; there will be promises to ease up a bit in future. It is all for nothing though because the next day the conversation will be all forgotten about; if piss-head does remember he will be embarrassed about his confession. I’m saying ‘he’ here all the time, but it could just as easily be a woman. Most drunks in Thailand though do tend to be men.

So How Do You Deal with Alcoholic Ex-Pats in Thailand?

It’s not easy to deal with somebody who seems determined to drink themselves into the grave. If the risk of death and losing loved ones doesn’t deter them then what chance do a few friendly words of advice have? Most people will just give up in despair and try to avoid this individual altogether – judging him a hopeless case. This is a perfectly reasonable path to take and few would blame the friend for turning his back on this lost drink buddy. Some drinking mates might try to ignore the problem because saying that their friend is a drunk will be putting the spotlight on their own drinking habits.

Until an alcoholic ex-pat is ready for change there is not much that can be done. We all hit our low points and it is at these times that there is hope – sometimes just the tiniest push can be enough. Just offering advice when the person is ready to hear it; this really is all you can do but it can mean a lot. The motivation to change only rarely appears and if action is not taken quickly then the chance is lost.

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7 thoughts on “How to Deal With Alcoholic Ex-Pats in Thailand

  1. Hi paul,
    Your post deals with a very serious problem so i hope you don’t think that the following comment detracts from this in any way.
    I had a friend who came to live in pattaya. He had plenty of money and of course lots of time on his hands. Through lack of nothing else to do he would be drifting into bars no later than mid morning every day. After 6 months he was still behaving like he was on holiday and it was beginning to take its toll. I advised him that he should try to take an interest in something to better use his spare time. Join a club,take up a new hobby. He came into our local eaterie a few days later an proudly announced that he had taken my advice…..and joined a pool team!!
    He is still drinking heavily. He doesn’t recognize this as a problem but everyone else does. Nearly 6 years later he’s still “on holiday”.

  2. Thanks Tom Yam, you describe the insanity of a drunk perfectly. This is why onlookers can get so frustrated when trying to help. The mind is great for protecting us from what we don’t want to hear. We can twist what other people are saying so much that it might seem that they are agreeing with our choices.

  3. I lost a dear husband due to alcohol so I know what you mean. One of the main problems was his buddies who were busy protecting him. To them, he was a total hoot to have around.

    But I was left with the dregs. Not fun.

    Just like his father, he didn’t make it to old age. There was nothing anyone could do to help, and a lot of people tried (just not his drinking buddies). He was in and out of expensive clinics, but nothing made a difference to him.

    He didn’t live to see his son graduate from Harvard Medical. He didn’t live to see his grandkids. And he didn’t live to see a whole lot more.

  4. Hi Cat, I think it is usual for drunks to gravitate towards like minded souls; it is like they have some type of in-built radar. I remember on my first day at university I automatically sat beside the biggest drinkers; this was in a lecture hall of over a hundred people. The benefit of being with other big drinkers is that it makes our behaviour seem normal – we feel accepted. Most heavy drinkers will be unwilling to admit that one of their friends had gone off the rails with the drink. It would be like admitting that there could be something wrong with their own behaviour. Ultimately these friendships can be very hollow and unrewarding – at least that is my view.

    I don’t know really know why some addicts manage to escape and others don’t. It is sad and can be so frustrating. I know that life in recovery can be more wonderful than anything that is gone before. I also know that every addict deserves this. I think all that can be done is let people know what is possible; some will develop the willingness to get this from themselves but others just won’t make it.

  5. Paul, I do believe you are right. Often conversations on the subject of people to hang around with would be peppered with, ‘but they don’t drink’… and anyone that didn’t was pressured. Missed opportunities…

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