We’ve put together this ultimate guide to alcoholism and rehabilitation to arm anyone with a drinking problem everything they need to know.
We’ll talk you through how to spot signs of addiction, highlight some of the issues you will face as an alcoholic, suggest how to get help for your dependency, and a lot more besides. Let’s get started with the basics.
Symptoms of alcohol addiction can vary wildly as the condition progresses, and as you keep drinking more, they can show in a multitude of different ways.
Alcoholism can reveal itself in an inability to control the amount you are drinking, and also cause you to be inattentive to family and professional responsibilities.
It can also lead to an increased tolerance – the more you drink, the more you have to drink to get the same effects. You’ll feel tired all the time, too, and go through bouts of irritability.
Because alcoholics drink a lot, you will appear more intoxicated on a more regular basis, and you will find it very difficult to turn down a drink. Alcoholics can also become a lot more secretive and dishonest over time, in an attempt to hide or gloss over their addiction.
Mental health problems are common, too – although many alcoholics have underlying psychological issues, their drinking can exacerbate these. There are physical symptoms to watch out for, too: alcohol can make you unwell in a multitude of different ways and can damage your body.
While sensible and safe drinking won’t cause you any problems, drinking too much can be devastating to your body and mental wellbeing.
Long-term abuse can have serious ramifications on the state and function of your liver, nervous system, heart and stomach. And alcohol can also impact the way your brain works, which can cause all kinds of psychological issues.
If you drink too much alcohol, you will also find yourself more likely to experience serious health issues like cancer, high blood pressure and stomach problems. Women especially can develop osteoporosis, and both sexes can go on to develop sexual problems.
There are life issues to deal with too. If you are found drunk or hungover at work, you might end up losing your job. Relationships with friends, family and your loved ones can disintegrate. And there is the financial fallout to consider, too, and alcoholism has left many households with serious money problems.
It’s important to remember that alcohol abuse can often result in a broad range of domestic issues. Violence, marital conflict and legal problems arising from the causes of alcoholism are more common than you might think.
If you believe you have are a problem drinker, it’s vital that you get help sooner rather than later.
If you want to deal with a problem, it’s important to understand what it actually is.
In short, alcohol abuse describes the process of someone drinking to excess. Binge-drinking, using alcohol for pleasure-seeking or being unable to control yourself after a drink or two are all forms of alcohol abuse.
The NHS recommends that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol in a week, where a single unit is the equivalent of a half-pint of normal-strength lager or a single measure of spirits.
You should also be aware that a small glass of wine contains around 1.5 units of alcohol, and that the average bottle of wine contains around 10 units – which is almost all of your weekly ‘allowance.’
The NHS also recommend that you spend several days a week without drinking any alcohol at all and that you spread your drinking across the week – not take it all in one go. You shouldn’t save your units from weeknights and ‘spend’ them all at the weekend, which is just binge drinking.
A lot of people drink more than the recommended amounts, and are able to function perfectly well. However, anyone who drinks alcohol has to bear in mind that there could be serious repercussions to deal with in later life.
If you are worried about dependency, you should watch out for withdrawal symptoms, too – when you feel like you need a drink, or, indeed, when you need a drink to function.
Withdrawal symptoms include issues like tremors, convulsions, and shaking, profuse sweating and extreme anxiety or agitation, and can also result in feeling queasy and being sick.
Some alcoholics also suffer from seizures and hallucinations when they can’t drink, and these types of withdrawal symptoms are precisely what makes it so difficult for people to quit their bad habit.
The reality is that alcohol withdrawal can actually be fatal. The withdrawal process is a lot more aggressive and poses a far greater risk to your health than the vast majority of other drugs.
For example, sudden discontinuation of drinking alcohol can result in alcoholics developing a condition known as delirium tremens – more commonly known as ‘the DTs’ – which can be incredibly dangerous and result in death, without the appropriate treatment.
As you can see, alcohol withdrawal can be an uncomfortable – and possibly deadly – experience.
For this reason, it is vital that once you have acknowledged your alcoholism, you proceed with treatment and rehabilitation in a structured way, supervised by experienced medical professionals.
The main thing to remember is that family and friends can play a huge role in helping an alcoholic change their life around.
There are a huge array of things you can do to help your loved one get through this difficult period. First and foremost, it’s important to be as
supportive as possible.
Try to avoid being negative or hurtful, and always try and stay calm – no matter what the reaction of the other party.
Offer your support, and it’s also important to remember that you can’t force someone to go into treatment. All you can do is offer to help, and hopefully, they will decide to take you up on it. And if they do go for rehabilitation, be there for them while they are on their journey.
Never drink around a recovering alcoholic, especially in the early days of their rehab. Avoid giving them financial support, too, unless that money is going directly to their treatment. And also avoid taking on their responsibilities.
It can be incredibly difficult to know what to do if someone you know is experiencing alcohol addiction. You will feel worried, frustrated, and possibly even frightened – not just of the situation, but of the actual person in question.
However, this is all completely normal, and it’s important to remember that there is help available out there if you need it.
Recovering from alcohol addiction can be incredibly difficult, and your chances of success can be greatly improved by taking on counselling for your problem.
There is a lot of help available to you, from free, local charitable groups through to private sessions with an experienced alcohol counsellor.
It’s important to understand that cutting down or stopping drinking altogether is only a small part of the process.
The vast majority of people out there with alcohol issues will need more long-term help to assist them in achieving their new lifestyle goals.
Another thing to remember is that alcoholism often arises from other problems. And unless you deal with these core issues, there is always a threat you will seek solace from them in having a drink.
The right support can be critical in turning your life around, and maintaining control of your own future, and many people will fail if they only rely on family and friends.
Recovering from any addiction can be a long and winding road – with many bumps in the way of your progress.
And when the addiction is with something as available and integral to the society you live in as alcohol, it can seem impossible.
However, no matter how powerless you feel right now, it is possible to get through the other side, and the earlier you start, the better.
The reality of recovering from alcohol addiction is that you can’t just change things overnight. Alcohol recovery is a gradual process, that begins with admitting you have a problem and doing something about it, through to getting counselling help in the long-term.
It’s also important to remember that there is no silver bullet when it comes to defeating your addiction. Everyone has different needs, and your treatment should reflect that. You are more likely to recover if you are able to address more than your alcohol abuse, too.
Working with a multidisciplinary team, therefore – from doctors through to counsellors – is more likely to give you the successful treatment pathway you need.