No addiction is simple; no addiction comes without shackles, or a feeling of safety and freedom. Even in the brightest moments, when the addict is in their bliss before they spiral downward, they know it’s only a matter of time before they become chained to their vice.
Addiction is addiction, though the symptoms and difficulties are unique to each classification, and within those classifications, what type of the classified vice being used by the addict. When it comes to alcohol, anything will do for an addict.
They’ll consume any alcoholic beverage for the sake of it being alcoholic. If you’re a casual drinker and have certain memories of being drunk, or fun stories from a night where you were a bit tipsy, you’re not chained to the bottle.
Alcoholics reach a stage where they can’t function without it. Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, which can minorly or greatly impair cognitive function, depending on the severity of the BAC (Blood Alcohol Level.) Your brain actually slows down, causing lapses in judgment, coordination issues, and a complete loss of inhibitions.
If you can remember a time where you did something whilst drunk that you wouldn’t normally do, you had lowered inhibitions. For an alcoholic, they can enter a constant state of lowered inhibitions.
What Are The Symptoms of Alcoholism?
If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one being heavily dependent on alcohol, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans struggle with alcoholism every single day. Much like addiction to drugs and other narcotic substances, you don’t simply stop being an alcoholic once toxicity has been cleared from your body. It’s a constant struggle.
If you believe you or a loved one may be at risk for alcoholism, consider asking these tough questions:
Have you intentionally stated or thought, “I need to cut back on how often/much I drink,” when you feel it’s affecting your daily life?
Have you wondered how long it would take to get through your current hangover, only to compare it to a previous time, or wish it to be over only so you can start drinking again?
Do you have an intense urge to drink alcohol when nobody is around, or at multiple times throughout your average day?
Is drinking alcohol interfering with your ability to care for your family, or even just yourself?
It’s not an easy bunch to ask, but it’s crucial to understand your impact on yourself, and your loved ones. Those who become completely dependent on alcohol to get through their day are either on the path to alcoholism, or are already treading down that lonely road.
Why Do Some Depend On Alcohol?
Reasons vary, but for some, it’s the first thing they go to when mourning or if they’ve had a bad day. Part of life is getting through the struggle of negative sections of your life, whether it’s on a daily basis or not. We all have bad days, and they usually come grouped together.
When this happens, reaching for a bottle or can every single night can quickly build a dependence on alcohol. When you think, “I can’t wait to get home and have a drink,” you may be at risk.
Alcohol does have a place in the world. It can be recreational, it can be consumed in safe quantities, and it can be used to unwind after a long workday or rough time when dealing with loss. It’s only when it becomes a staple in your life or the life of someone you love that it becomes a serious threat.
Most people will experience alcohol at least one time during their lives, even if it is to simply decide that they just don’t like it, or what it does to them. There are genetic predispositions that make you far more vulnerable to addictive qualities in just about anything.
You may have heard this in the past as being called an “addictive personality,” or something of the same sort. Little bits woven into your DNA can make you much more susceptible to clutching onto alcohol as a comforting mechanism to deal with hardships.
There are two specific types of dependency:
Psychological Dependency: If you consistently think about drinking numerous times per day, awaiting that moment when you actually do get to drink, or if this is the driving force to get you from A to Z.
Physical Dependency: Alcohol affects the brain. Your brain can essentially be rebooted with alcohol as the first thing on the forefront of your mind. You will experience actual withdrawal symptoms when you cut out alcohol altogether.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Like we talked about before, your inhibitions lower dramatically when under the influence of excessive levels of alcohol. As a result, the feeling of “your limit” can go right out the window. It can be a completely foreign concept that won’t even cross your mind when you’ve had too much, or when you would normally know that one more shot or one more bottle will push you over the edge.
Alcohol poisoning kill over 2,000 individuals in the United States each year. When you have consumed so much alcohol that you’ve not only flooded your bloodstream, but you begin drowning your brain’s vital functions, including breathing, internal temperature, and your heartrate. Enough alcohol can confuse and contort your mind into stopping these necessary functions.
What Is A Functioning Alcoholic?
This is a term that’s widely used when describing someone that’s been an alcoholic for so long, that nobody is even trying to help them anymore. These “high-functioning alcoholics” are at the point where their lives come in two parts: drinking, and everything else.
On the outside, they may maintain a proper job, make decent money, and financially provide for their family, or maintain their lifestyle. Over enough time, they may be approached by one or two unsuspecting people, and the term functioning alcoholic may be thrown around.
In most cases, the alcoholic will deny this due to their ability to maintain themselves both in composure and financial responsibility. Either way, if you’re depending on alcohol to get you through your day, you are an alcoholic.
There are those who drink constantly for ten or more years, and after a certain point, it does catch up to them. In terms of non-medical risks, they may have unprotected sexual intercourse on a regular basis due to lowered inhibitions, and will run a higher risk of drunk driving. To them, it’s just driving.
Medical risks include brain damage, memory loss, pancreatitis, liver disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and a declining mental state, which may push some to the brink of suicide. In these ways, you can absolutely see why a “high-functioning alcoholic” is a band-aid term for those who have been putting themselves at risk for so long, that they can’t live without their vice.
Ways To Seek Treatment
In an ideal world, the most beneficial way for someone to seek help when suffering from alcoholism is simply admitting their problem, and allowing their loved ones to help them. However, these cases are few and far between.
In most cases it takes an intervention or intense withdrawal to the point of a medical emergency to push alcoholics into detox, and eventually, rehabilitation.
In some cases, it may take until the stages of withdrawal and the physical effects for a alcoholic to see just how much they have let this substance interfere with their lives. As with any addiction the withdrawal stages can be extremely difficult, and unpleasant for the addict; seeking treatment on their own may not be the most simple task to achieve.
It comes with the step of admitting their folly and allowing someone in.
How Alcohol Withdrawal Works
As with any substance, the body is riddles with a certain level of toxicity. It can take as little as twenty-four hours to go through withdrawal, and as much as a few weeks depending on the severity. The mind and body both undergo a thorough trial. There are the traditional three stages of alcohol withdrawal, each a bit more severe from the last.
Psychological Into Physical (Mild)
This is where the patient begins feeling extreme spikes of anxiety and insomnia; the addict can also feel deep valleys of depression. Abdominal pain and nausea also begin to strike, accompanying heart palpitations, loss of appetite, mood swings and a hazy thought process.
Physical Into Crippling (Moderate)
At this level of withdrawal, the addict will experience extreme mental confusion, a more unstable and compromised mood, intense sweating, heightened body temperature, and an increase in blood pressure. This is when things start getting pretty serious.
Crippling Into Life-Threatening (Severe)
The most dangerous severity of alcohol addiction recovery. The addict will experience terrible seizures, tremors, hallucinations, extreme anger, all to the point of delirium.
The Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism
After the stages od detox and rehabilitation, the body doesn’t forgive the patient. Newly out into the world with an updated lease on life, the patient can expect certain things to still affect them.
These are symptoms that have been slightly dormant during alcoholism, that arise when the patient’s body is free of intense alcohol quantities or alcohol poisoning. They’re always there, just unable to be spotted until the alcohol exits the patients body.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It becomes enlarged, or changes shape to become rigid. Your heart loses the ability to pump blood in a natural rhythm as it becomes weaker overall.
These put you at a heightened risk for congestive heart failure, and carve the path to irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmias. Heart valve problems can also occur.
Alcoholism can also greatly damage one’s immune system, which is why in rehabilitation they will be given vitamin supplements as well as a cleaner, healthier diet to help combat these problems.
A lowered immune system puts the addict at risk for auto-immune diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. Your body becomes compromised when facing alcohol detox as well malnourishment.
Sobriety and Preventing Relapses
In this stage, when one has gone through the trials and tribulations of detox and rehab, staying sober becomes a lifelong battle and a challenge. The issues that alcoholics face revolve around society’s acceptance and promotion of alcohol as a whole, where it’s readily available in gas stations, convenience stores, supermarkets, package stores, and just about everywhere you look.
Commercials advertise it, your friends may drink it, and it may be readily available at most social gatherings with family.
While no two struggles are the same, and no two substances affect the body the same, alcoholics do face the struggle of alcohol’s public acceptance. Much like with any other vice, “one more time,” or in this case, one more drop, can push someone right over the edge into their old habits. It’s a difficult road ahead.
Sobriety comes with education; detox and rehab professionals teach addicts in recovery how to avoid triggers, what to and who to stay away from to continue their sobriety, and in some cases, a sober companion will be a viable option.
This companion will help drive you to and from your meetings, fill up your time to prevent moments of loneliness and doubt. It takes on bad night of breaking yourself down to make a near-permanent and dangerous decision.
There are steps to follow, methods to practice, and in most cases, therapy to benefit from in order to fortify your mental walls and prevent relapsing. Continued care, as well as maintaining sobriety are crucial elements in keeping an alcoholic from the point of relapse.
This includes a journey not just on emotional and psychological support, but medically, as well. Any long-term effects incurred from prolonged alcohol need to be treated to the best of your ability, and monitored for any increases in symptoms.
Alcoholism isn’t an easy road to recover from. If you’re helping a loved one make their way to detox and rehabilitation, just know that it’s not as simplistic as when you stop drinking at a party, or make it through a hangover and come out with a temporary aversion to alcohol. It’s a deep-rooted issue that requires diligent care.