[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”ALCOHOLISM” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]That line between heavy drinking and drinking alcoholically, or being dependant, can certainly sneak up on you. If your drinking has escalated to the point where you reach for a drink when faced with difficulties or to avoid feelings, you may be facing some big red flags. Being conscious of the various warning signs that lead to alcohol dependence is critical and truly understanding the issue is the first step.
UNDERSTANDING ALCOHOLISM AND ABUSE
Alcohol dependence is also called alcoholism. What is the definition of an alcoholic? The general consensus seems to agree that an alcoholic is someone who has lost the ability to control his or her drinking. An alcoholic is someone who mentally and/or physically craves alcohol and honestly believes he or she needs it to cope with life.
If someone is abusing alcohol they have unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits. This can differ from alcoholism in that the behaviours of the person abusing alcohol may not be linked to a mental and/or physical craving.
Many factors can be linked to someone’s predisposition towards alcohol abuse and/or dependence. Genetics (Nature) has been proven to be a factor in the mix, as well as one’s upbringing (Nurture). Certain racial groups are more at risk than others, and people with a family history of alcoholism are more at risk. Those who suffer from mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder are often predisposed to abuse and dependence, as they tend to self-medicate with alcohol.
COULD YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL?
These characteristics could be red flags
- Feelings of guilt or shame associated with your drinking.
- Making excuses or lying about your drinking habits.
- Hiding your drinks or bottles.
- Having friends or family members who are concerned about your drinking.
- Needing to drink in order to relax or feel better.
- “Blacking out” or forgetting what you did when you were drunk.
- Regularly drink more than you planned to.
As drinking is often common and socially acceptable, it isn’t always easy to see where the line between social drinking, heaving drinking and problem drinking lies. The reality is that you, and only you, must admit to your inner-most self that alcohol is a problem in your life.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ABUSE
As mentioned, experts differentiate between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.
Common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school due to drinking (i.e. poor work performance, failing exams and classes, neglecting or ignoring family members, and not showing up for commitments)
- Putting yourself and/or others in dangerous situations while under the influence of alcohol, such as driving, operating machinery and mixing alcohol with medication.
- Repeatedly finding yourself involved in legal problems on account of your drinking (i.e. drunk driving and disorderly conduct arrests).
- Continuing to drink despite the problems alcohol is causing in your relationships, such as arguing with family members, going out when your spouse has raised concerns about your condition, or blatantly ignoring the pleas of family and friends.
- Drinking to cope with situations. Many drinking problems begin when someone uses alcohol in an attempt to relieve stress or better handle a given situation. Getting drunk before or after a stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with someone.
CROSSING FROM ALCOHOL ABUSE TO ALCOHOLISM
Not all alcohol abusers become alcoholics, but most experts agree there is a huge risk of it. At times, alcoholism develops quite quickly in response to a stressful situation, such as a death in the family, a breakup, retirement, or some other huge change. In other situations, the move into alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, seems to happen slowly as a tolerance for alcohol develops. Whether you are a binge drinker or you drink every day, problems associated with alcohol can manifest into full blown dependence before you know it.