Alcoholism – STAGES (#2a)

PREVIOUS: Alcoholism INTRO #1b

SITE: “What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease that slowly develops over time. Whether or not initial 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 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

• Addict is likely still unaware that alcohol is gradually becoming a controlling force, and others haven seen yet 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. It’s 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 it still seems manageable.

• The drinker finally starts to realize there’s something abnormal about their drinking & others begin to recognize it too. 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 drinking or 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.


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