Alcohol can have a seriously detrimental impact on your mental and physical health as well as causing severe consequences in your social, family and work life. If you’ve been drinking to excess while knowing that it’s causing problems in the rest of your life, but you can’t seem to stop, the chances are you’re suffering from an alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism affects more than one in 10 people in the United States, so the first thing to realize is that you are not alone.
It’s also vital to understand that facing up to the fact that you need to slow down your intake of alcohol and seek help are the first steps of recovery. Addiction clouds your judgment and makes it incredibly difficult to admit to yourself that something is wrong, but it is possible. With professional guidance, therapy and a support network that understands what you’re going through, you can make the changes necessary to get back on track to a happy, healthy life.
Is Alcoholism a Disease?
There is an outdated view of addiction as a moral choice that the sufferer is intentionally making. Modern science has helped us to understand how the brain works and led us to the understanding of alcoholism as a medical condition. Doctors consider it to be a progressive chronic disease that stems from a disordered mental state. The disorder leads to a compulsive need to drink in spite of negative consequences.
Stages of Alcoholism
There is a point before alcoholism where a pattern of drinking is starting to become evident. This is usually typified by the use of alcohol to perform a specific function within a person’s life. You may drink to relieve stress after a hard day, to feel comfortable in social situations or to suppress feelings of sadness or worry. Those who are not alcoholics can take or leave alcohol in any situation. If you find you require alcohol to perform a function, you may be on the brink of alcoholism.
During this phase, deception is probably starting to creep into your daily life concerning drinking. The frequency of your alcohol consumption will begin to increase steadily. Rather than having a glass of wine with your meal, you’ll be drinking to feel good. It’s likely at this point that you couldn’t imagine a night out without a drink. Your dependence and tolerance will be starting to grow.
Where you were previously abusing alcohol regularly, your drinking style can now be defined as problematic. Consequences in your life will be starting to appear, such as concerned friends or family members, problems at work, depression, legal issues and erratic behavior.
If you’ve managed to hide your habit from people up to this point, it will start becoming apparent during the middle stage. You’ll need much more alcohol to get drunk and experience withdrawal and cravings when not drinking.
By the late stage, you are no longer drinking just for pleasure. Your body and mind will require alcohol to feel normal. By this point, your primary focus in life will be getting drunk. Job loss will likely have occurred by this stage, or you’ll be functioning by secretly consuming alcohol at work. Personal relationships will be strained and your liver, heart, kidneys and brain will be impacted by sustained heavy drinking.
Is Alcoholism Genetic?
No single factor causes alcoholism; instead, it occurs as the result of the interaction of a range of factors that combine with an individual’s genetics. There are over 50 genes related to alcoholism, but it’s still not possible to predict who will develop an alcohol use disorder.
Numerous psychological, social, and environmental risk factors also affect your chances. The more elements that have been present in your life, the more likely you are to develop a problematic relationship with alcohol. The most common causes include:
If you start drinking, smoking or using drugs while your brain is growing, you’re much more likely to display addictive behavior throughout your life. Using substances from a young age is the most common risk factor in developing alcoholism or any addiction.
Stressful jobs, family problems or situational changes can be catalysts for the development of an alcohol use disorder. Not everyone who experiences these types of events goes on to become an alcoholic. Stress, in combination with poor coping skills and genetics, can be a leading cause of the condition.
Bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression significantly increase your likelihood of becoming an alcoholic, especially if they’re left untreated. Alcohol can be a temporary solution for the negative feelings brought up by these conditions, but in the long term, they only make it worse.
The term peer pressure can be misleading. Often, it’s not actual pressure from friends or acquaintances to drink. Instead, it’s spending time around people who drink heavily and gradually following suit. Often you look up to the person or people whose behavior you start to take on or consider them to be cool. In your desire to be accepted socially and feel cool yourself, you may end up misguidedly mimicking unhealthy conduct under the guise of living up to an image.
Signs of Alcoholism
- Poor personal hygiene
- A blotchy red face or a red nose
- Weight loss due to alcohol being favored over eating
- The persistent smell of alcohol on the breath
- Brittle hair and dry skin from dehydration
- Shaking or sweating at inappropriate times
- An excessive amount of alcohol bottles or cans in the trash
Symptoms of Alcoholism
- Drinking more or for longer than you intended
- Needing higher amounts of alcohol to get drunk
- Craving alcohol constantly and spending the majority of your time drunk
- Continuing to drink in spite of negative consequences
- Losing interest in healthy pursuits
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Having trouble in personal relationships, at work or at school
- Trying to cut back or stop and not being able to
When drinking isn’t fun anymore and is causing problems in your life, it’s time to seek help. If you or a loved one need an alcoholism treatment program in Egg Harbor Township New Jersey call Greenbranch Recovery at 833-272-6246 to speak to an expert about your situation.