To say that somebody has an alcohol problem can mean different things. There are many individuals who go through a period where they drink excessively, often during their college years, but later settle down to a more healthy relationship with alcohol. These people may end up in difficulties because of their drinking, but it does not mean that they have become alcoholics. There are other people with alcohol problems that have developed a physical and psychological dependence on this substance, and it is highly unlikely that they will ever be able to regain control. This means that for those individuals the best option will be complete abstinence.
There are different types of alcohol problems including:
* Binge drinking is pattern of drinking where the individual consumes an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. This drinking problem is most associated with people of college age.
* Alcohol abuse is where people drink so much that it begins to cause problems in their life.
* Alcohol dependenceis where people have developed a physical or psychological dependence on alcohol.
Those people who have been a binge drinker or who have a history of abusing alcohol may be able to return to social drinker. This is far less likely to be a possibility if they have developed alcohol dependence. This is because changes have occurred in the body and these mean that the individual reacts differently to this substance. If things have gotten so bad in the life of the individual that they have needed to stop drinking alcohol then this is often a sign that they should stay stopped. Those who feel that they will be able to moderate in the future can try, but if this attempt fails then complete abstinence would appear to be the most viable solution. Experts seem to agree that it is only those who have not yet developed a pervasive pattern of alcohol abuse who are likely to regain control.
It is believed that once people have developed the symptoms of alcohol dependence it will be extremely unlikely that they will be able to return to social drinking. The symptoms of alcohol dependence include:
* The individual has developed an increased tolerance for alcohol. This means that they have to consume more to get the same effect.
* When the level of alcohol in their blood stream falls too low they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms sometimes get mistaken for a hangover can include things like shaking, irritability, and nausea.
* The individual may have already tried to control the amount they drink but have failed.
* They are likely to suffer from blackouts – although there are many alcoholics who don’t even remember that they’ve had these losses of memory until it is pointed out to them.
* The person who is psychologically addicted may find it difficult to cope with life unless they drink.
* They may feel uncomfortable about attending any event where alcohol is not going to be available.
* The individual feels the need to hide the extent of their alcohol consumption.
* They have given up activities they once used to enjoy in order to spend more time drinking alcohol.
* They may feel the need to drink in the morning in order to deal with their hangover.
* It feels to them as if their alcohol intake is out of control.
It can be difficult for problems drinkers to accurately judge the extent of their alcohol problem. This is because dependence is usually combined with denial. This means that the individual is likely to:
* Underestimate the amount of alcohol they consume.
* Have plenty of justification in their life for problems caused by alcohol. They will usually blame these negative occurrences on other people or the stresses in their life.
* The individual will likely downplay how badly alcohol is impacting their life. When other people do point out the problems the alcohol abuser will accuse them of exaggeration – they will fully believe this too.
The fact that problem drinkers can be so bad at assessing their own situation means that it is often a good idea to consult an addiction expert when people are having problems with alcohol.
Even if problem drinkers have not yet developed a dependence on alcohol it still might be a good idea to choose abstinence. There are many good reasons for why abstinences is a good solution to problem drinking including:
* If people have reached a stage where alcohol is making their life unhappy it sounds reasonable to stop completely. It does not sound logical that the individual should want to return to something that has already caused them such misery.
* If things got so bad that the individual needed to quit alcohol altogether then there is likely to have been a good reason for this. Those who only abuse alcohol are usually able to moderate their intake without the need to stop.
* Even if the individual has not yet developed a physical or psychological dependence there will be a risk of this occurring if they return to alcohol abuse. By remaining abstinent they remove this risk completely.
* The number of people who return to social drinking after a period of abstinence seem to be in the minority. It therefore appears like too much of a risk for people to even try it.
* Some people who previously had a drink problem do learn to control the amount they consume. The problem is that this can take a great deal of effort on their part, and it would arguably be easier to just stay away from alcohol completely.
Those who have developed a dependence on alcohol can justify continued consumption by lying to themselves. These lies can include:
* The belief that by having success in their career, or other area of their life, this proves that they do not have a real problem.
* The idea that because they are sometimes able to moderate their drinking proves that they are in control.
* The idea that because they are able to hide their alcohol problem from other people means that it is not that big a deal.
* The dangerous view that alcohol addiction is not as serious as drug addiction.
* The belief that beer drinkers cannot be alcoholics
* The belief that an alcohol problem is only harming the individual so it is up to decide if they want to stop. This type of abuse almost always ends up harming other people.
* Those people who never seem to have blackouts may take this as evidence that they don’t really have a problem.
* People who never drink in the morning, or don’t drink every day, can use this as evidence that they are safe to drink.
If those individuals who have become alcohol dependent continue to drink they will be taking a risk. The dangers of associated with this choice include:
* Addiction is said to be a downward spiral. This means that over periods of time the individual will experience a decline in their situation – although this might not be obvious to them.
* Many problem drinkers console themselves with the idea that they will stop if things ever get bad enough. The problem with this type of thinking is that there is no guarantee that they will have the motivation or the ability to stop when things get worse.
* The longer that people remain addicted to alcohol the more they will lose. It makes sense that they should aim to lose as little as possible by giving up right away.
* There is a common misconception that the individual has to hit rock bottom, and lose everything, before they can quit an addiction. The rock bottom is only the place where the individual decides that they have lost enough and some people will need to lose relatively little before they reach this bottom.
* The sober life can be incredibly wonderful with lots of great opportunities for people to find success. There is no benefit to be had from delaying such a life.
* Alcohol is highly toxic on the body and mind. If the individual continues to abuse this substance they could end up doing irreparable damage to their liver or other organs.
* So long as people are dependent on alcohol they will struggle to find much happiness in life. Even high functioning addicts will miss out on many of the most rewarding aspects of life.
* Alcohol abuse not only impacts the individual but also their family and friends. The person with alcohol problems will not only be improving their own life by quitting this behavior.