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Some people can drink socially without ever having to worry about what their drinking is doing to their lives, but for others, a few drinks socially with friends can quickly spiral out of control. It’s not always easy to recognize when your social alcohol use has crossed the line into a situation of alcohol abuse, or worse yet alcoholism, but for those who suffer from this disease, the reality of the consequences involved could be more real.
Understanding Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is the resulting dependence that comes from social or friendly alcohol use that goes wrong. For some, alcoholism is never a problem but for others, the use of alcohol can quickly turn into a full blown addiction plagued by consequences, heart ache and a number of potentially serious problems along the way.
What makes some people become addicted while others never suffer the penalties of alcohol addiction? Why is it that some people can have a few drinks and be fine, while others cannot stop once they get started? Why is it that alcohol addiction only affects some people and yet doesn’t even threaten the lives of others?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “research shows that people who drink moderately may be less likely to experience an alcohol use disorder,” than those who drink heavily or who take part in binge drinking in which BAC levels reach .08 in 2 hours or less. People who suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety or depression are also at an increased risk of becoming alcoholics than those who do not suffer from similar conditions. Alcohol addiction can be the result of family history, mental health status, or any number of possible causes in life along the way—but no matter why it affects you, the consequences and the tribulations that arise as a result are much the same no matter who you are.
Do I Have a Drinking Problem?
According to Rethinking Drinking, “a few mild symptoms – which you might not see as trouble signs – can signal the start of a drinking problem.” If you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself during the past 12 months then you might have a drinking problem:
- You have had problems drinking the lesser amount that you plan on (you say you’ll drink only one or two and end up drinking 4 or 6)
- You want to cut back on your alcohol use but for some reason you never seem to do so.
- You have been in situations in which you have been in danger as a result of your intoxication such as you’ve been drinking and driving, swimming or otherwise taking part in risky behaviors while drinking.
- You drink even though it makes you feel sad or anxious.
- You drink even though you have blacked out and forgot what happened while you were drinking.
- You drink even though it is causing problems with your friends or family.
- You drink even when you have been arrested as a result of your drinking.
- You have felt symptoms of withdrawal such as nausea, vomiting, sweating or shaking but you still drink.
- You don’t take part in activities that you usually enjoy because they don’t involve drinking.
- You spend time drinking instead of doing other fun or enjoyable activities.
- You have to drink more and more to get the effects that you’re looking for.
- You feel sick as a result of drinking but you drink anyway.
If you have felt or suffered from any of these situations then you should consider seeking professional help as you may be suffering from an alcohol use disorder.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse & Addiction
Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are not the exact same thing, although alcohol abuse can and often does lead to alcohol addiction for some. Alcohol abusers are able to set limits on their alcohol consumption, can quit without feeling withdrawal and are not fully succumbed to the physical dependence caused by alcohol. Alcoholics are stuck in a rut in which their lives are controlled by their alcohol use.
The most common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Neglecting responsibilities at home or work while drinking or because of drinking.
- Using alcohol in dangerous situations.
- Getting in trouble as a result of your drinking.
- Drinking even though you know it is causing problems in your relationships.
- Drinking to relax or reduce stress.
The most common signs of alcohol addiction include:
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol.
- Feeling symptoms of withdrawal when they are not drinking.
- Losing control over alcohol.
- Having a desire to quit but an inability to do so on your own.
- Alcohol use takes control and takes up most of your time.
- Drinking despite the known continued problems with health, relationships or in other areas of your life.
According to Medline Plus, “alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms that may occur when a person who has been drinking too much alcohol ever day suddenly stops drinking alcohol.” These symptoms generally start about 8 hours after the drinker has had his or her last drink and they can last for weeks in some cases.
Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Night sweats
- Foggy thoughts
- Clammy skin
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
In some cases, when an individual has been drinking for a very long time and is heavily addicted, delirium tremens can cause severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Extreme agitation
Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction
If you think you have a drinking problem and you’re ready to get help, know that you are not alone. There are many different treatment options available to assist those who are addicted to alcohol. Support will be an essential part of your recovery as will your continued participation in counseling and therapy. It will be very important for you to seek professional help that will include detox, counseling, therapy , supportive guidance and follow-up care.
Painful emotions can mask what’s important here which is finding the right help for yourself or for someone you love. Dealing with an alcohol addiction can be an emotional rollercoaster plagued by many uphill battles and then spiraling out of control when you least expect it. It’s important to talk to a professional in order to ensure that you have adequate support and help along the way.
While support and treatment for alcohol addiction was once very limited in scope, today people have an array of opportunities and treatment options available to assist them with recovery from alcoholism. According to NIAAA, “in addition to mutual support groups (such as AA), AUDs [alcohol use disorders] can be treated with medications and behavioral therapies, as well as combinations of treatments.” Researchers continue to focus on advances in alcohol addiction treatment and recovery to help those in need.
Support groups such as AA are essential to alcohol addiction recovery. “Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere,” according to AA.org. This support group, which was founded by a recovering alcoholic in 1935, has helped millions of people around the world to overcome alcoholism and to receive the supportive care that they need to remain abstinent from alcohol abuse.
Support groups such as AA provide a foundation for recovery from alcohol addiction to those in need. They are often utilized in treatment programs both residential and outpatient alike. Many people find that long after they have received treatment for their alcohol addiction, they continue to enjoy and appreciate the support that they receive in AA and similar 12 step groups.
Alcohol Addiction Recovery
Ultimately, alcohol addiction recovery will be up to you and your commitment. With the right support, the right treatment and your continued commitment, you can overcome the perils of alcohol addiction and live alcohol free. Admitting that you have a drinking problem is the first step, seeking help the second, living sober—that’s a challenge that you’ll face for the rest of your life—are you up to the challenge?