It's New Year's Eve and many people are making resolutions. For a lot of us our resolutions are all about becoming healthier: exercising more, eating better and once and for all giving up smoking or drinking too much.
Yesterday's post defined what tips a social drinker over into the realm of problem drinking.
...the line between social drinking and problem drinking can be very thin.
The line between problem drinking and alcoholism is thinner still.
As you've probably heard before, no one starts out drinking or smoking to become addicted. We all have this incredible ability to deny the reality: That it can happen to us.
Alcohol abuse, or problem drinking, is basically unhealthy or dangerous drinking, such as drinking every day or drinking too much at a time. Problem drinking can destroy your relationships, cause you to miss work, risk getting fired and lead to legal problems like getting pulled over by the cops for a DUI. When you abuse alcohol, you continue to drink even though you know it's causing problems.
If you continue to abuse alcohol, it can, and very likely will, lead to alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence is alcoholism. You are physically and/or mentally addicted to the alcohol. Your body needs it to function. You experience this by having a strong need to drink. You feel like you must drink just to get by.
According to the experts, you are dependent on alcohol if you have three or more of the following problems:
1) You cannot quit drinking or control how much you drink.
2) You need to drink more to get the same effect.
3) You spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from drinking, or you have given up other activities so you can drink.
4) You have tried to quit drinking or to cut back the amount you drink but haven't been able to.
5) You continue to drink even though it harms your relationships and causes you to develop physical problems.
6) Your life revolves around drinking: planning the next drink, acquiring it, manipulating people, places and things to support it.
7) You keep alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in the car
8) You become intoxicated intentionally to feel good or drink to feel "normal."
9) You become irritable when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn't available.
10) You have withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These include feeling sick to your stomach, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
Alcoholism is a long-term, chronic disease. It is not a weakness or a lack of willpower. Like many other diseases, it has a course that can be predicted, has known symptoms, and is influenced by your genes, biochemistry and environment. If allowed to progress untreated, alcoholism can result in death by trauma (e.g. car accidents), medical illness (e.g. cirrhosis, certain types of cancer) or suicide (depression).
For now, today, you have a choice. Don't believe the old myth that you have to hit rock bottom (whatever that is) to begin recovery. You can get help now, find treatment and bring your life back under control.
One caveat: If you want to quit drinking, and your drinking has been severe for some time, do not detox suddenly by yourself before you consult with a medical doctor. Your withdrawal from alcohol may need medical supervision. But please, don't let that keep you from deciding taking that first step.
Photo courtesy of korafotomorgana via Flickr