Alcoholism: Everything You Need to Know
Alcohol addiction can ruin lives, relationships, everything that one has worked hard for. Even after years of high-functioning alcoholism, alcohol always wins in the end if left unchecked. Thankfully, there are resources to help one get clean and stay clean for the rest of their lives.
Quitting cold-turkey is much harder than it might seem at first. Without proper support, it could be an impossible task.
Read on to learn everything you need to know:
- What is alcohol addiction
- Is alcoholism a disease?
- What’s the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism
- Can alcoholism be genetic?
- What are the major causes of alcoholism?
- What are the long-term effects of alcohol addiction
Dive in to get a full understanding of alcohol’s effects and how it can impact your everyday life.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
In short, alcohol addiction is a chronic disease defined by uncontrollable drinking and a consistent preoccupation with alcohol and consuming alcohol. Alcoholism is also defined by the physical dependency on alcohol and the presence of physical effects once withdrawal has started. If untreated, Alcohol addiction can lead to major health problems.
Alcohol addiction is not the same as one night of heavy binge drinking. While neither are explicitly good for your health, one is certainly worse. Alcoholism is not defined by one night, it’s defined by an entire lifestyle, usually leaving the addicted individual completely at the mercy of when he or she will get their next drink.
Alcoholism isn’t self-diagnosed, but signs can still be understood by someone without a degree in this sort of thing.
Signs of alcohol addiction/dependency:
- Multiple instances of excessive alcohol consumption
- Alcohol related stress or regret about drinking
- The inability to stop after having the first drink
- Feeling nauseous, dizzy, or hallucinating after not drinking for a time.
Difference Between Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism, and High-Functioning Alcoholism
Understanding alcoholism is one of the first steps in really overcoming it, for yourself or your loved ones. Defining each of these will make it much easier to understand the place that you or a loved one are in, and consequently make helping them much simpler.
Alcohol abuse is simply excessive alcohol drinking. This might come in the form of one or multiple nights of binge drinking. While this doesn’t necessarily constitute a drinking problem, it doesn’t bode well. Remember that opening a dialogue in these situations is never a bad idea, and if you think there is a problem take the time to speak up in private.
Alcoholism is consistent nights of alcohol abuse all one right after another. Consistent alcohol abuse triggers different physical dependencies that can later coerce one to continue drinking. Withdrawal symptoms will generally follow if one has a dependency on alcohol. Alcoholism is also characterized by the inability to juggle both at once, meaning that relationships with family, friends, work or school will suffer because of it.
High functioning alcoholism is very similar to alcoholism but it might not affect one’s normal, day-to-day life in a significant way immediately. High functioning alcoholics will generally be able to maintain their relationships, jobs and whatever else while still abusing alcohol. While this might not seem like an issue, the long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the body are significantly worse for those who suffer from high-functioning alcoholism.
While all of these are defined differently, all of them center around the abuse of alcohol. Each of them should be treated differently, but with serious care.
Alcohol Addiction Care
So how does one really beat alcohol addiction? Between individuals not being convinced of its true seriousness, being able to function at a high level, and the terrible withdrawal effects, it can be hard to find the motivation to really quit for good.
Understanding how to spot alcohol addiction, what it does to individuals, and how to treat it are the steps in really moving on to a better, healthier world.
Treatment can come in many different forums, from clinical rehabilitation centers, outpatient treatment centers, support groups with family and friends, and sober houses. Each of these solutions fill different roles that will be described more below.
How Individuals Develop an Alcohol Addiction
Addiction is no simple matter. Addiction starts from something small but usually its root is a mix of underlying issues relating to one’s own mental state and biology. Alcohol dependence can start from many different things, here’s a brief list of some of the common ones:
Believe it or not, heredity seems to play a major role in determining if someone will develop an alcohol dependency. Having close relatives that are dependent on alcohol raises your chances of being dependent yourself by 55%.
While this type generally starts from something else, once someone is found physically dependent on alcohol they would, unsurprisingly, be addicted to the substance and will find it hard or impossible to get sober without proper support.
Other simultaneous disorders:
Mental health is a field that is well studied, but there is still much more to learn. Other mental conditions will commonly cause someone to be more susceptible to alcohol addiction.
This can be many things. The refuge that alcohol provides is that of a false harbor. Though it might look safe for the night, your problems are still waiting for you in the morning. Many individuals, through no fault of their own, will become addicted to alcohol because of some trauma that they have faced. The release that alcohol provides might silence the horrors that they’ve experienced, but will leave a new one in its place.
This is not an easy thing to deal with, as the trauma that you have faced might lead to a totally reasonable dependence on alcohol. Be this as it may, alcohol addiction still needs to be dealt with, lest it ruin your life for good.
If you think that you or a loved one may be alcohol dependent, learning the root will help with solving the issue at large.
Common Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Understanding the symptoms of alcohol addiction will help people identify them in themselves or others, and hopefully encourage people to avoid them all together
Alcoholic drinks can cause people to behave differently, and different alcoholic drinks will cause people to behave differently from that. Recognizing that none of these, in isolation, is clear-cut evidence of alcoholism is important, but knowing that many of these symptoms combined might be the first signs of a problem.
Some signs of alcohol addiction:
- Drinking more alcohol over time (becoming a “heavy weight”)
- Drinking alcohol on more occasions
- Not experiencing hangover symptoms
- Not wanting to be in a situation where one can’t access alcohol
- Increased sadness, guilt, anger or anxiety
- Major changes in social life, excess conflicts between individuals
- Shame because of drinking
- Avoiding social situations to drink alone
- Being unable to carry out work duties reliably
None of these conditions are guaranteed, and again, no one defines an alcoholic. The combination of these can point to a problem, and as time goes on, symptoms always get worse.
The Long Term Effects of Alcohol Dependence
Without treatment, alcohol addiction can create permanent damage to your life. Along with the well known liver failure, alcohol can decrease your quality of life in many different ways
Just a few of these ways can include:
- Inability to perform sexually
- Frequently sick as immune system weakens
- Increased fatigue, nausea, or external swelling due to liver damage
Some external consequences can include:
- Drunk driving deaths
- Organ failure
You don’t need to battle this alone. Alcoholism is a disease and many cannot defeat it on their own. Learn how your body reacts to these things and take the steps that you need to help yourself get better. Pride can often play a part in many of these decisions to get better, but these self-isolating methods of self help are rarely effective. Help yourself and keep those around you safe by getting treatment.
The struggle against alcohol addiction is one that cannot be fought alone. Most people’s journey to recovery starts with the gentle hand or words of a friend or family member that deeply cares about their health and overall wellbeing. Nobody wants to leave their family and friends behind in an early grave because of something that can be treated. While this is no easy task and is extremely hard to imagine for yourself, it’s one that must be done in the journey to health.
Learning when to intervene is key to the recovery process. Of course, the earlier the better. If you feel that yourself or a loved one is going down this path, there is no better time than now to start talking about it. The longer one waits, the more dependent the person will become, and those critical months of waiting could have been better spent getting better.
This is not to discourage – but to encourage. The first best time to start was yesterday, the second best time is now. Do it now.
Treatments for Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol dependency often will never be beaten alone. Thankfully, there are many resources at one’s disposal if they want to take the steps to getting better.
Drug detox treatments
These help the detox by making many of the withdrawal symptoms much more manageable, and in some cases, much less lethal. Used in many rehab centers, these help with the detox process.
Also used in most rehab centers, therapy is a great way to understand the extent of your abuse and get to the root cause that might have put you in that original situation.
These offer accountability to those who want it, it usually consists of many individuals at varying points in their own journey to sobriety.
These halfway houses are usually used after rehab centers. They are maintained and sometimes part of the cost of the rehab center, allowing for individuals easy reintegration into society.
Sober houses are similar to transitional living, but are more communities of people that are properly managed. They help individuals who have already completed the detoxification process reintegrate into society by introducing them to a world that is free from alcohol or substance.
Generally only used in serious cases, when things start to get really bad
While these are different and not always as proven, they have varying levels of success. The important part is that it works, you know yourself the best, and if you think this can work for you give it a shot.
These services aren’t usually used in a vacuum, but in harmony with each other. Learning what can be best for you or a loved one is key in achieving true, lifelong sobriety.
Before Starting Alcohol Addiction Care
Committing to recovery is one thing, but many people have serious hang-ups before they commit themselves. Dispelling of any untrue notions can help people confidently start their journey to sobriety.
These places are not interested in shaming you or making you out to be some kind of devil. They understand the struggles of addiction and are here to help. Your information will be kept in confidence.
Recovery is a lifelong choice
Those who really want to get better, need to make the decision that lasts. There will be easy times, there will be hard times, realizing that this is not an easy one-and-done kind of thing is important for lasting recovery.
Rehab is not a cure
Rehab is treatment, not a cure. Rehab helps with the detox and will often set your course in a good direction to help truly get better. Rehab is a difficult part of recovery, but it is not the end. Taking your first steps outside of the rehab facility is where the tests really begin.
Alcoholism in a Nutshell
Alcoholism is not as easy as one might think. It’s a terrible beast that will not be defeated by one brave hero, it takes a strong community, a strong support system, and is a lifelong struggle.
Alcoholism is not one night of binge drinking, it’s a lifestyle that infects every part of one’s waking day.
Alcoholism is the physical dependency on alcohol, and the accompanying withdrawal symptoms should recovery start.
Alcoholism can be caused by many things, often outside of the control of the person addicted. While these situations are very unfortunate, it doesn’t change the fact that alcoholism still needs to be dealt with.
Alcoholism can cause major health problems in the present and further down the line. Recognize these symptoms to help protect yourself and others.
It’s never too early nor too late to start treatment for alcohol dependence. If you or a loved one feels that they are in trouble of becoming addicted, seek help immediately.
There are many different types of treatment for alcoholism. While it will never be an easy process, learn what kind of things that are available to you so that you can make your transition as easy as possible.
Alcoholism is a terrible beast. It takes lives, imprisons others. Learn the symptoms and cures so you can spot it early and help you or those you love get healthy.