Alcoholism – STAGES (#2a)

PREVIOUS: Alcoholism INTRO #1b

SITE: “What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease that usually develops over time. Whether or not initial alcohol use is likely to lead to addiction is often a matter of individual circumstances. Mayo Clinic describes a number of risk factors:
• A family history of substance abuse or other mental health disorder
• Childhood abuse &/or neglect / • A Chaotic living environment
• Peer group or family that is permissive about substance use
• Depression, social issues, loneliness…..

Not all drug dependence is addiction. EXP: an asthmatic will depend on a daily dose of medication to breathe properly. This is not addiction. In this case, the body was not working properly before the drug was introduced – which is the correct solution to the physical problem – & did not cause the original dysfunction.

1. DENIAL (Adaptive) – early stage symptoms
• Occasional drinks taken to relieve stress or other problems – used as a crutch to cope with or escape reality. Alcohol becomes a way to take the edge off after a long day, & blur sharp outlines of life

• Gradual increase in drinking frequency & tolerance – rely more & more on alcohol to get through difficult times, so it’s less enjoyable & more of a habit. Now drinking either stays moderate – or progresses to the next stage. Tolerance is an indication that the brain has changed in response to the drug

• Thoughts become more focused on the next drink : “If I can just make it through these last 2 hours of work, I can head straight to the bar for some relief”

• Rationalizing alcohol over-use / abuse – telling oneself I’m just having a rough few days, drinking isn’t that big a deal, or I’m not going out getting wasted every night, so I’m fine

• The (now) addicted person is likely still unaware that alcohol is gradually becoming a controlling force, & others have not yet seen that the person’s drinking habits are getting increasingly more dangerous

2. DEPENDENCE  – Loss of control
Desire to drink is more intense – the body has become used to larger amounts with little or no effect. As it gains a tolerance, it expects the alcohol at a certain time, so drinking will start earlier in the day to compensate for the frustration that settles in during the afternoon. The drinker can still function, but becomes more & more focused on getting that next drink

• Loss of control over drinking habits – still easy to find excuses for needing a drink throughout the day in regular society, which makes it somewhat acceptable.
Consumption is more than the average person’s, but it can be explained away: “If you had the stresses I did, you would drink too. / Everyone has a beer at lunch when we go out. There’s nothing wrong with it…. ”

• Alcohol-induced blackouts are common – the drinker can lose a lot of time (several hours, an entire day or longer….). They won’t remember where they went, what they did or who they were with, with obvious harmful physical, mental & financial consequences

• Withdrawal symptoms get more severe – when the effects of the alcohol wear off, 6 – 24 hrs after the last drink –  dry mouth, painful headache, morning shakes, nausea, sweats & trouble sleeping. Hangovers are a regular event, but still seem manageable.

• The drinker finally starts to realize there’s something abnormal about their drinking & others begin to recognize it too. They hide it from others – spiking coffee or soda, stashing full bottles throughout the home & ones in the garbage away from home. Lying about where they were when out drinking…..

• Relationship problems & social isolation increases – late nights, drunken fights at home, falling down, car accidents…. May begin missing work or social obligations because of dat-time drinking or painful hangovers. Drink at inappropriate times, such as when caring for their children, when driving with family in car, & at work

✴︎ They may make several attempts to stop drinking, even attend support groups. However, many are not ready to face the rigors of Recovery, & resort to old habits.

NEXT: Alcoholism – STAGES (#2b)

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