For some, the liquor store no longer represents the beginning of a good time. Instead, it stands as a prison, a place you no longer visit to get some beers for the big game, but rather a place you need to visit to get your daily fix. If you feel you just can’t go a day without a drink, it’s time to consider the possibility you have an alcohol problem.
Much of what is considered common knowledge about alcohol and alcoholism is actually misinformation and half-truths. While misinformation in itself is not harmful, it often causes people who are unsure about a loved one’s addiction or even their own to believe that there is no problem. When people do not recognize the behaviors and compulsions that alcoholism causes, they may never know that they need help. Common myths about alcoholism need to be addressed and debunked so that people can become more aware of what defines addiction to alcohol and what can be done to treat it.
Alcoholics Look or Act in Certain Ways that are Easily Identifiable
The caricature of the old, poor, dirty homeless alcoholic has lingered in the popular imagination for decades. Many people think that alcoholics must be constantly drunk. Although some alcoholics do drink so heavily that they lose their jobs, homes and families as a result, most do a better job of hiding their drinking problems from friends, co-workers and bosses. 20% of people with alcoholism are well-educated and have high-paying, challenging jobs and nice homes. Others are able to hold down their jobs or are able to find another job if they are fired or have to quit. In fact, job-related stress is one of the most common triggers for drinking, and continued job stress makes recovery and sobriety difficult.
Alcoholism is also much more common in young adults than in older people. Young adulthood is when most people drink heavily. During this time in a person’s life, there are fewer consequences for alcoholism. For instance, people are less likely than older people to own a home or to have a family that might be affected by their drinking, which may partially contribute to reckless drinking behaviors such as binge drinking that can eventually lead to alcoholism.
Alcohol Causes Addiction
Although a person obviously cannot become an alcoholic unless they drink heavily and frequently, alcoholism is often a symptom of another problem. There are many different potential causes, which usually vary from person to person and are not always under the alcoholic’s control. This should not be interpreted to mean that a person is entirely free of responsibility for their alcoholism but only to mean that some people are more likely to become alcoholics than others.
Some factors that contribute to alcoholism are:
- Heredity: About half of alcoholics have a family history of alcoholism or other addictions. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely than people without alcoholic parents to develop a dependence on alcohol.
- Age of first drink: Alcoholics often started drinking when they were young, usually before 16 years of age. People who begin drinking at young ages develop alcoholism much more frequently than people who do not start drinking until they turn 21.
- Mental health: Depression and alcoholism often go hand in hand, with many people becoming depressed before they develop a drinking problem. Drinking helps numb the feelings of sadness that come with depression. Many people with social anxiety may also come to depend on alcohol to help them relax in social situations. In both of these circumstances, the person begins to associate drunkenness with feeling better about themselves or with fun and relaxation.
Alcoholics Could Stop Drinking if They Exercised Greater Control and Willpower
Almost every alcoholic has heard at one point or another that they could get sober if they really tried to stop drinking. However, most addictions cause mental and physical changes that cause the addiction to get worse and worse as time goes on. Although some alcoholics are able to get sober on their own, many people need alcohol addiction treatment in order to quit drinking. The kind of statements that imply that the person with a drinking problem should just try harder to get sober are not helpful, especially if the person needs support after a relapse. Relapses usually make the person feel like they will never recover, and reminders of their failure and weakness will often compel them to drink more.
90% of alcoholics experience at least one relapse during their recovery and the four years that follow their treatment. Many other drug dependencies have a similar rate of relapse, demonstrating that recovering from an addiction is more than just an exercise in putting mind over matter.
No One is Ever Really Cured of their Alcoholism. A Recovered Alcoholic is an Alcoholic for Life
Alcoholism is a condition that most addicts will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. A lot of people misinterpret this to mean that alcoholics in recovery are constantly teetering on the brim of a relapse, but this is not true. Although sometimes a person in recovery may have cravings for alcohol, especially in times of stress or when other people around them are drinking, most treatment programs teach coping skills that help people in the program to control their urges.
During recovery, it is also common for alcoholics to identify the aspects of their lives that trigger them and try to eliminate those triggers. For instance, a person with a job that causes them so much stress that they always feel the need to drink may decide to find another job so that they can eliminate this stressor. Similarly, an alcoholic whose friends are mostly drinking buddies may cut ties with these negative influences who may tempt them to continue drinking.
Alcoholism is a Vice that People Can Easily Overcome on their Own
Without professional help, many alcoholics cannot stop drinking. The reason that alcoholics have so much trouble coping with their addiction is because alcohol has changed their brains so much that it actually needs alcohol for the person to be able to get through the day. Alcoholism, like other addictions, is a disease, not a simple vice. Some people who have been addicted to alcohol for years can actually cause serious harm to their bodies if they try to quit drinking cold turkey.
Myths about alcoholism sometimes keep people from getting help, either because they feel they do not fit the profile for alcoholism or because they feel so hopeless that they are sure they can never get sober. Greater awareness of the truth about alcoholism helps people with drinking problems seek help and helps friends and loved ones of alcoholics identify a drinking problem and encourage the people they care about to get help. When more people have accurate information about alcoholism, people with problems are more likely to seek help.
According to a recent survey on National Drug Use and Health, more than 139 million people conduct recreational alcohol usage. More than 22 million people are dependent upon alcohol and drugs. According to those statistics, many people who use alcohol and drugs in a recreational manner develop severe habits that require years of treatment to resolve. A fine line exists between recreation and dependence, but many people cross the line before they realize that they have slipped. The following contains some information about such slips.
Recreational Drinking vs. Dependence
The term ‘recreational’ is used to describe something that is enjoyable or occasional. A person may use the term to describe something that he or she does when not working, as well. Recreational drinkers may drink only when they are around friends on the weekends. They may have a beer after work to help them wind down. Recreational drinkers may drink only during special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, holidays and various other celebrations. A recreational drinker usually has no habit or routine by which he or she drinks or uses drugs. The person usually shows indifference toward drugs and alcohol, and he or she can live either with them or without them.
Dependence can rear its ugly head before an affected person realizes it. It may begin with recreational usage, but it usually ends with changes that can destroy lives. Dependence is another word for “need.” The dependent person feels as though he or she needs to take drugs or drink alcohol to handle uncomfortable feelings or circumstances. Some of the feelings and circumstances that a dependent person might try to avoid are:
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Peer Pressure
- Routine changes
- Relationship problems
- Problems at work, home, or school
A person can usually tell when he or she is transitioning from recreational drinking to a dependence by certain withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms may seem mild at first, but they will usually grow in severity as the person’s tolerance grows deeper and deeper. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms are as follows:
- Muscle Cramps
- Trembling and Shakes
If a dependent person leaves the condition untreated, he or she will develop severe dependency or addiction. The repercussions of addiction are devastating. A person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol often loses his or her life for decades. The following are some devastating circumstances that may come about due to alcohol or drug dependence:
- Lost jobs
- Ruined relationships
- Illness and health complications
- Jail time
Many people neglect their most important obligations when they develop strong drug and alcohol addiction. Some of them end up losing their jobs because of frequent call-outs and lateness. The termination may creep into the person’s life by causing him or her to lose a home. Many marriages and other relationships suffer because of infidelity, abuse and outright neglect. Persons with severe addictions often decline in their hygiene efforts, as well. Such can result in poor dental health as well as malnutrition, rashes and other issues. In severe cases, addicted persons perform criminal acts so that they can obtain drugs and alcohol. Inpatient services are often the only elements that can save an addicted person from himself or herself.
The Benefits of Inpatient Care
An inpatient drug or alcohol rehabilitation program has many benefits to it. The first benefit is isolation. One of the first steps in true addiction recovery involves changing one’s circle of friends and environmental influences. An inpatient recovery center provides an addicted person with a fresh new environment. The person can begin to create new memories and habits there.
An inpatient care center is staffed with professionals that have the addicted person’s care in mind. Such staff members are available to answer questions and concerns. They can offer moral support and advice, as well. Another benefit to an inpatient care center is that people at the center can often provide direction to some helpful resources. The person will have access to counseling, therapy and some alternative therapies.
Contacting a Rehabilitation Center
Help is just a phone call away. An affected person, friend or family member can contact a facility to schedule a meeting with a specialist. The specialist can arrange an initial meeting so that the addicted person can see if the facility is the right fit. Drinking and drug dependence does not have to remain a threat to a person’s life and health forever.