Drinking alcohol is a socially accepted practice. In fact, alcohol is rarely difficult to find. In addition to being offered at restaurants, bars, and comedy clubs, it’s even sold at grocery stores. Alcohol is freely served at weddings, and at many other social events. Thus, it’s not uncommon for people to have a drink or two at some point in their lives.
But when does drinking alcohol become a problem? It’s easy to assume that all alcoholics have a very stereotypical lifestyle. These individuals might be homeless, have multiple DUIs, or maybe guilty of stealing money to feed their habits. You may think that alcoholics don’t have jobs, families, or other everyday responsibilities that they maintain. In reality, however, alcoholism exists in numerous forms. Social drinking can quickly turn into full-blown addiction, and often without people even realizing it.
Sarah Slinskey, MSW eloborates below:
“Diagnosing alcoholism can be tricky and requires rigorous honestly and self-examination on the part of the drinker. This process can be especially difficult when an individual comes from a family or environment where binge or blackout drinking is seen as an unremarkable part of living or having a good time. The simplest assessment for determining alcoholism is an examination of consequences attributed to one’s drinking. These consequences could be overt like injury, DUIs or divorces but could also be as simple as poor attendance at work or strained relationships with family and friends. Non-problematic drinkers can tell you with certainty they do not have a problem with alcohol, it is those for whom this question elicits pause, that typically find themselves in need of aid or intervention in finding a healthier way of life.”
At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we understand that recognizing the signs of alcoholism can be difficult, especially if you’re the one experiencing them. More often than not, as people near addiction, they’re also dealing with incredible amounts of denial.
Depending upon the source you’re using, the definition of alcoholism can vary greatly. There are, however, several widely recognized signs of alcohol addiction. These are:
- An inability to stop drinking or to limit your alcohol consumption despite wanting to
- Experiencing severe withdrawal effects after abstaining from alcohol for an extended period of time
- Psychological reliance upon alcohol
For most, the path to alcoholism is a progressive one. Many people begin as social drinkers and then gradually start abusing alcohol. They drink more than they mean to, drink at times that aren’t socially acceptable, and experience negative consequences as a result. Although alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are often used interchangeably, alcohol abuse is a step on the path towards addiction, rather than the addiction itself. You may be abusing alcohol if your drinking has caused you to:
- Miss work or other important appointments
- Fail to pay your bills or otherwise cover essential living costs
- Physically or emotionally harm those you care about
- Lie about your whereabouts or actions
- Engage in high-risk sexual activities that you wouldn’t normally engage in while sober
When abusing alcohol, people are in the precarious position of losing total control of their health, their lives, and their relationships. Alcohol abuse becomes an addiction when people develop a psychological and physical dependency upon alcohol that prevents them from stopping.
Recognizing the First Signs of Alcoholism
People who deal with drug and alcohol addiction often have strategies that enable them to successfully mitigate the consequences of their actions for extended periods of time. They may even be surrounded by enabling individuals who help them “cover their tracks”.
As such, it is possible for someone to exist as a functioning alcoholic for years on end, without ever developing the stereotypical symptoms of alcoholism. This person may maintain all outward appearances of health, sobriety, and general well-being, have a job, have a family, and maintain a home. This is known as being a functional alcoholic.
Functional alcoholics tend to have the hardest time recognizing their drinking problems. This, however, doesn’t mean that their alcohol use isn’t dangerous or detrimental to their lives. Functional alcoholics are still at a greater risk of chronic liver and heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and many other health issues. Given that their inhibitions are frequently lowered, they are also at greater risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases, driving while drunk, and getting into violent altercations.
While the general definition of alcoholism can differ from one source to the next, the first signs of alcoholism tend to be quite the same. Alcohol abuse has a progressively negative impact on the lives of those who suffer from it. As a result, people often try to bring their own drinking under control.
If you have tried to stop drinking or limit your alcohol use before, you may have found yourself constantly thinking about alcohol while abstaining. You may develop withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and nausea, or becoming aggressive, violent, anxious, or depressed. This usually lasts until you finally cave and have a drink. These are all indications that your body is physically reliant upon alcohol, and having a hard time functioning without it. Mood swings and increasingly manipulative behaviors are other symptoms of problems or fast-developing problems with alcohol.
As a person who drinks gradually builds greater tolerance, this individual will likely start drinking increasingly more alcohol. Additional alcohol is needed in order to experience the same feelings of confidence, elation, or relaxation that drinking once provided. This often leads to binge drinking or consuming copious amounts of alcohol within very short periods of time.
Binge Drinking and Alcoholism
Binge drinking is one of the most dangerous signs of alcoholism. Binge drinkers are at a very high risk of developing alcohol poisoning and consuming potentially fatal amounts of alcohol. They have no reliable means for stopping themselves once they start drinking. People who binge drink often drink until they pass out or become unconscious.
Others drink until they experience alcohol blackouts. For alcoholics, these are short or extended periods of time for which no memories exist. People who are blacked out can continue making decisions, taking actions, and speaking with or otherwise engaging with others. They can also continue drinking. Alcoholic blackouts occur when the brain\’s ability to process and store memories is hindered by excessive drinking. If you binge drink, or if you’ve had an alcoholic blackout, these are both very likely signs of alcohol addiction.
When people drink in safe, socially acceptable ways, they rarely experience negative consequences as the result of their alcohol use. More importantly, they rarely question whether they are abusing alcohol or whether they’ve got problems with alcohol addiction. If you’ve been questioning the effects that alcohol has on your life, and are finding it increasingly difficult to control your drinking, seeking help is important.
Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease. The sooner that it’s dealt with; the easier it will be to limit the damages that it causes. At Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we’ve got an expansive suite of addiction services for meeting a very broad range of needs. Whether you need medically assisted detox support or want to take part in an inpatient or intensive outpatient program, we can help. Get in touch with us today to find out more about the solutions we provide.