History is full of stories about people who imbibe too much. These figures are sometimes depicted as partying all the time – such as with the Greek deity Bacchus – and are sometimes depicted as destitute and homeless. The reality is that many people who struggle with alcohol addiction fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are staying home all day. This lack of regular routine, scarcity of access to recreational activity, and lack of need to drive anywhere create prime conditions for people to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. What starts out as a daily glass of wine in between Zoom meetings or a shot before tackling a project from the home computer can slowly develop into alcohol addiction.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction refers to the inability to function normally in day-to-day life without satisfying the craving for a drink. Terms to describe this behavior have historically included calling people an alcoholic or a drunkard. During our modern times, these degrading terms have been replaced with an acknowledgment that alcohol addiction is an illness that needs treatment. It is not the person who is the problem. It is the behavior of drinking too much.
Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction doesn’t occur suddenly. It is the result of a pattern of excessive drinking which is sustained over time. The mind, body, and emotions come to depend on alcohol as a means of daily functioning. If you notice the following signs in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to consider that there is a problem with alcohol.
One of the major signs of alcohol addiction is the tendency to drink too much, and too often. A person with alcohol addiction may not become drunk while consuming these large amounts, due to a condition known as tolerance. A body which is exposed to alcohol for a sustained period of time will gradually come to learn that the substance is a part of everyday functioning, and will work to balance out the intoxicating effects.
While it may be socially acceptable to have the occasional Bloody Mary with breakfast or a glass of wine at lunch with friends, it is generally a cause for concern when a person regularly consumes alcohol during any hours of the day. Such a person may be doing so due to not feeling as though events of the day are able to be faced without being under the influence. An inability to feel normal without having a drink is a sign of alcohol dependence.
Regular consumption of alcohol may start out as a fun or relaxing choice. Over time, these good feelings tend to fade, and are replaced with cravings and withdrawals which can negatively impact a person’s overall mood. A person who is addicted to alcohol may frequently feel irritated or depressed, particularly during the times in between having a drink. He or she may also become extremely defensive or angry when confronted with the use of alcohol. These negative feelings can become the primary excuse for needing a drink.
Consequences of Alcohol Addiction
One of the first areas that alcohol addiction strikes is in relationships. Quality interactions with partners, friends, and children may decrease in favor of withdrawing to drink. Even more concerning is when being intoxicated results in behaving in ways toward your loved ones which results in hurt feelings, fear, and other forms of damage to the sanctity of your relationships
There can also be threats to basic security which arise as a result of alcohol addiction. Drinking too much at inopportune times can create conditions for neglecting responsibilities related to work, and can lead to making bad decisions when it comes to legal issues. A person who is dependent on alcohol may end up jobless, homeless, or even incarcerated.
As if these consequences aren’t alarming enough, there is also the issue of physical health. Long-term drinking has been shown to contribute to chronic health conditions such as liver disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Excessive drinking also weakens the immune system, making it easier to catch common colds and viruses. This latter aspect is particularly worrisome during our current pandemic.
How Alcohol Addiction Treatment Helps
The first step in any treatment is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Perhaps you have noticed that your own drinking habits have recently accelerated, or maybe you are able to recognize your own life in the description of addiction signs or consequences related to alcohol. Once you are aware that alcohol use has become a negative aspect of your life, you are in a good spot to find help.
Depending on your own situation, your treatment options may include entering a full-time residential treatment facility, visiting an outpatient clinic, or scheduling sessions with a therapist who is knowledgeable about the treatment of substance use disorders.
Entering a live-in treatment facility is the most intensive form of treatment. This form of treatment may be particularly valuable to those who are suffering from an alcohol addiction which has progressed to the point of physical dependence. Many in-patient facilities include a
medical component, which provides access to medications that can ease the body’s transition to living without alcohol. Some people will also find a benefit in removing themselves from the drinking environment, and replacing the daily scenery with something new.
Outpatient treatment services are a convenient and adaptable way to receive help toward ceasing addictive behaviors. They are usually staffed with counselors who are specifically trained in substance abuse treatment methods, and the staff members will often have the first-hand experience when it comes to the struggle of addiction. Participation often includes visiting the facility multiple times a week and being accountable to a mentor.
When it comes to treating the issues which lie behind the drinking behavior, individual therapy can help. Often, people develop a drinking habit as an attempt to solve a different, underlying issue. If you find yourself drinking to relieve mental health symptoms such as depression or anxiety, a therapist can help you to find more effective – and more healthy – ways of coping.
Backtrack – https://www.bactrack.com/pages/coronavirus-covid-19-causing-dramatic-shift-alcohol-drinking-habits-americans-lockdown
HarmReduction.org – https://harmreduction.org/issues/overdose-prevention/overview/overdose-basics/opioid-od-risks-prevention/tolerance/
Frink Aware – https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-dependence
Very Well Mind – https://www.verywellmind.com/substance-medication-induced-depressive-disorder-21931