Treatment for alcoholism
Many people with alcohol use disorder fear they will not enjoy life if they give up alcohol, but above all they dread the possibility that they will suffer painful withdrawals when they stop. They are deeply suspicious of assurances that the detox process can be done painlessly, even though modern techniques and medications, applied by an experienced physician, can achieve this.
During years of drinking, these individuals prepare an array of ready-made arguments to resist demands to go for treatment. They have many excuses and some seem very convincing, but they have all been thoroughly researched and very few are valid. Without going into a long debate, if you or someone you know has an alcohol problem, the best solution is to have a personal talk with a trained, experienced addiction therapist.
If you are struggling with alcohol, here is some sound advice:
When you are in a hole, stop digging. Apologise, accept the help and get back to life. With the latest techniques, your life can be changed and you can be happy without crutches.
Overview of alcoholism and related expressions
In the scientific, legal, religious, philosophical and health professions all things related to alcohol are continuously being researched, debated and expanded, often with different objectives in mind. As a result, many different, complex definitions emerge. However, in normal conversation, we need to simplify it. For that reason, only popular expressions and the meanings attached to them by society, in general, are explored here. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are often interchanged but are not the only terms involved, so for more clarity, other expressions are also mentioned.
“Alcohol problem” is a bland phrase that only tells us there is an unspecified issue that has something to do with alcohol. It is often used as a ploy in place of words like abuse or addiction to avoid upsetting someone or to deflect full disclosure. It may even be a biased opinion or hearsay. Try to get facts, rather than making assumptions, when you hear this type of rhetoric.
“Harmful drinking” means alcohol consumption that harms you fairly seriously. Obviously, any form of intoxication has the potential to result in extreme harm, even if it happens only once in a while, but we usually exclude reasonably low levels of harm when we talk about harmful drinking, because most of us do not expect everybody to stay completely sober all of the time.
“Alcohol abuse” means any instance of excessive alcohol consumption. It does not distinguish between a once-off incident and diverse ongoing patterns. Although it is often used in place of “addiction” and “alcoholism”, it does not mean that every abuser has an alcohol use disorder. However, frequent abuse does suggest that the user is receptive to addiction or exposed to circumstances that can cause addiction.
“Binge drinking” is when a person indulges in extreme or marathon drinking sessions every now and then, with relatively long sober periods between the events. A single binge session may last for an hour or it can last for days, weeks or months. After a binge, they freely stop for a while, but they repeat the process at a later date.
“Alcohol dependence” is the cross-over stage to addiction. The user may still be able to carry on with normal responsibilities and go without a drink for days, but they start relying on it as a way to suppress worries, inhibition, and so on, whenever such things occur. They replace coping skills with the temporary relief that alcohol provides and become dependent on using it whenever they feel under pressure.
“Alcohol tolerance” means alcohol and our bodies develop a sinister symbiotic relationship – Your brain and body develop a tolerance for the volume of alcohol that you drink. This creates a need to take more alcohol in subsequent sessions to achieve the same euphoric effect that you felt previously. It creates a snowballing effect that eventually spirals into outright addiction.
“Alcohol addiction” is when alcohol becomes the most intense focal point of drinkers. All other aspects of their lives are less important. Their entire bodies have adapted to the constant supply of alcohol and they must regularly top it up it to avoid withdrawal anguish. They suffer terrible social and health problems. They are aware of the worsening consequences but are unable to stop by themselves and so they carry on drinking.
“Alcohol use disorder” – In real life, the lines between the different stages are blurred and it is difficult to identify a drinker’s exact status, especially if you are not a trained addiction therapist. To simplify matters, the term “alcohol use disorder” was introduced to cover all the syndromes from abuse to addiction. The term is not yet commonly used by the average person.
“Alcoholism” is a controversial word. In street parlance, it is often confused with alcohol abuse. Whilst abuse refers to excess, alcoholism is more commonly used to point out addiction, a more advanced stage than abuse. However, there are diverse opinions about what alcoholism really is.
Some opinions state that alcoholism is more extensive than addiction, as it also spans things like childhood traumas, other disorders that the addict may be struggling with, the effect that addicts have on the people around them and the overall effect that it has on society in general.
Some believe it is a birth defect that predisposes people to addiction. Others proclaim it as a vulnerability that continues to exist, even after an addict had stopped drinking, while some reject the latter view as outdated and unproven.
Still, others see it as a purely self-inflicted condition that sprouts from willful abuse. Although people certainly have a degree of freedom of choice, and can, therefore, choose to abstain, there are valid arguments that a person’s choices can be swayed by culture, custom, peer pressure, ignorance and other influences, and that this can result in unintended addiction, rather than willfulness.
Scientific studies have shown that some people are indeed more susceptible to alcohol addiction because of genetic inheritance, personality anomalies, mental or physical trauma, and environments that impose unhappiness.
No doubt there are also abusers who have no cause to seek relief. They abuse alcohol simply because they enjoy it and want to have fun. Some of them take very long before they become addicts, whilst others succumb fairly quickly. This is a real danger, as nobody knows at which point of abuse they will cross that line.
Whatever your perception of alcoholism may be, or whichever term you may choose for your condition, ultimately a persistent abuser indeed becomes medically ill, due to the toxic, or poisonous, effects of alcohol. Most doctors use the word alcoholism as a medical description for the poor health condition of patients during the heavy drinking and detoxification stages.
When these people resume sobriety, they are called “in recovery”. This convention serves a practical purpose. Once you have succumbed to alcoholism, you remain vulnerable after detoxing and may be more tempted to relapse, because you have done it before and you tend to remember only the good feeling alcohol gave you in the beginning. The mind blocks out the bad memories (it just works that way). So, the “in recovery” terminology is used to easily identify patients who have been treated before. It is also a practical title for people to describe themselves when a situation calls for it.
The best solution to prevent a relapse after detoxing is to go for treatment in a rehab facility. Physical detoxing removes the poison from your system, but it does not prepare you for the mental pitfalls that you will face in your new life. Being mentally empowered to actually enjoy the rest of your life without alcohol is of the utmost importance to maintain sobriety after treatment.
A summary of what alcoholism is
Alcoholism is still the reigning global term used by the man in the street for the bundling of abuse, dependency and addiction. Some of the common and more severe aspects of alcoholism are:
Origins: Alcoholism results from a long-term pattern of abuse, originally set off by incidents like peer pressure, ignorance, experimentation, trauma and escapism. Abusers discover the temporary relief that alcohol offers and develop a compelling craving for it that overrides any concerns about the negative side-effects.
No respite: People with alcohol use issues are very exposed to humiliation, bias, slander, lack of empathy, financial ruin, accidents, arrest, imprisonment, illness, death. No matter how hard a these individuals try to win favour, this is the natural and inevitable fate of a persistent alcohol use disorder in any society.
Event mining: Some abusers take advantage of festive events, and even arrange events, to create periodic opportunities or excuses for over-indulging. This progresses to alcoholism when they openly start abusing alcohol when there is no social occasion to justify it.
No control: Alcohol use disorder can include the inability to stop after the first drink. They lack the normal mental control to limit the number of drinks they take. A popular slogan is: “One drink is too many and ten are not enough”.
Tolerance increase: A natural interaction between alcohol and your body forces you to drink more during subsequent sessions to reach the same level of intoxication. Abusers often boast about their ability to drink more than others. They mistakenly think it proves they can control alcohol better, but in reality, it proves the opposite.
Toxic poisoning: Alcohol is a chemical that dehydrates you, drains you of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, distorts the brain and damages your organs. The cumulative results of toxic poisoning become progressively worse as alcoholism settles in.
Withdrawal anguish: People with alcohol use disorder entire bodies become used to – and relies on – or tolerant to a continuous supply of alcohol to function. If the supply is reduced, the body cannot readjust fast enough and becomes mentally and physically sick. People with alcohol use issues fear these withdrawals and anxiously maintain their alcohol intake.
Kick starting: To allay the withdrawals, these individuals usually have a drink immediately after waking up to replenish the alcohol that the body had flushed out of their systems while they were sleeping. It is also known as the “morning-after fix”.
Failed resolutions: Abusers often promise to change their ways, but attempts to cut down on their own rarely succeed. It takes more than willpower or determination to prevent a relapse. Physical detoxing is possible, but it does not remove the mental triggers that led to abuse in the first place.
Inventory control: People with alcohol use disorder build up reserve supplies and to establish sources where they can obtain emergency supplies of the drug. They constantly check the level in a bottle or the number of unopened bottles that are left and they watch the clock to ensure supplies are replenished timeously.
Hide and seek: people with substance use addictions often hide their alcohol to keep it safe, for fear that someone might want to remove it. Sometimes they panic if they forget the hiding place and can not find the bottle. Some furtively sneak extra drinks from a bottle or flask when they think others will not see them.
Obsessive focus: Obtaining, thinking about and using alcohol occupies most of the persons awake time. All other activities and considerations are planned or brushed aside to fit their drinking agenda.
Employment problems: The tribulations resulting from alcohol lead to poor productivity, absenteeism from work, lies and cover-ups, poor reputation, conflicts with colleagues and loss of employment or income.
Social isolation: The social network of people struggling with addiction often find that their families support collapses. Friends avoid them and are not invited. Some people prefer to drink alone, rather than sharing, while some discard old friendships and form new associations with other heavy drinkers.
Relationship woes: Most marriages and partnerships where alcoholism is a factor, end in separation. Children resent parental alcoholism and suffer lifelong emotional trauma. Broken promises and bad behaviour cause a general attitude of distrust and animosity from most people.
Perseverance: Despite awareness of the overwhelming harm it causes, people with alcohol use disorder rarely stop drinking on their own. They also resist offers of help. They may persuade family members, partners and colleagues to protect them for a long time, but it only contributes more to the suffering.