In this blog post, we attempt to answer the question ‘am I an alcoholic’? Unfortunately, there exist many misleading stereotypes when it comes to alcoholism. These stereotypes are not helpful because they do not accurately represent alcoholism in the least. When you think about people who suffer from alcoholism, you probably think about the homeless and about people who cannot function with everyday life. This thinking is based on stereotypes that have built up over decades of media misrepresentation related to alcoholism and addiction in general.
In reality, it is almost impossible to ‘box off’ alcoholism into one neat and tidy stereotype. This is because alcoholism takes many forms. Whilst it is true that many people who are homeless do suffer from alcoholism, it’s equally common to find alcoholism amongst people who can only be described as high functioning individuals. There are literally hundreds of examples of world leaders and captains of industry who have experienced alcoholism at some point or another in their lifetimes.
Notwithstanding this fact, we do attempt to provide some guidance in helping you determine whether or not you suffer from alcoholism. There does exist some tell-tale signs that help to indicate the existence of alcoholism, and we discuss these signs in this blog post.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a severe form of alcohol abuse. When alcoholism arises, your drinking habit will literally spiral out of control. Alcoholism is also known as alcohol use disorder. When you suffer from alcoholism, you will be unable to function correctly until you have drunk alcohol each day. The need to drink alcohol each day eventually has a negative impact on your professional and social matters. Your overall health will also begin to decline.
Am I an alcoholic if I drink every night?
The answer to this question is no. However, many people suffering from alcoholism will drink alcohol each night. If you must drink every night, this is certainly a sign that could be suffering from alcoholism. It’s also true that somebody who drinks every night may not be suffering from alcoholism whilst somebody who does not drink every night could be suffering from alcoholism.
Why do people become dependent on alcohol?
Whilst the reasons why people become addicted to alcohol are probably infinite, there does exist a number of reasons that are undoubtedly more common than others. These reasons usually combine to increase the risk of alcoholism. It is rare for alcoholism to arise when the below reasons exist in isolation from one another.
Below, we list some of the more common reasons that are known to cause people to develop alcoholism:
- To reduce clinical anxiety: alcohol acts as a temporary cure for anxiety. Those who suffer from anxiety are known to ‘self-medicate’ for this reason. However, when the effects of alcohol begin to wear off, anxiety rebounds. These people then continue to drink alcohol to relieve this rebound anxiety
- To feel good: alcohol stimulates a pleasure producing chemical in the brain known as dopamine. When dopamine is released, the drinker will feel good about him or herself. People continue to drink alcohol in order to chase good feelings. In the end, these people are unable to produce enough dopamine to feel pleasure without drinking alcohol
- Stress relief: Alcohol is a depressant. When you consume alcohol, you will seem to forget all of life’s troubles and stressors. In this way, drinking alcohol is positively reinforced. Many people continue to drink alcohol with the aim of relieving stress and worry from their lives
- To cope with bereavement: It’s common for people to turn to alcohol when they have suffered a bereavement or some other traumatic event. Alcohol is a sedative, and thus helps people to forget about the bereavement, at least whilst the effects of alcohol are still active
What are the warning signs of alcoholism?
There exist common signs that serve to indicate the presence of alcoholism. If you recognise these warning signs of alcoholism, you are urged to seek out medical assistance without undue delay.
Below, we list many common warning signs that may signify the fact you are suffering from alcoholism:
- You drink in isolation. You thus drink for effect, and not for social reasons
- You hide the extent of your drinking from loved ones
- You neglect other interests in order to drink alcohol
- You get alcohol cravings when you stop drinking for more than 24 hours
- You experience mood swings and irritability when alcohol is withdrawn
- You have to drink alcohol first thing in the morning, otherwise, you cannot function correctly
- You continue to drink alcohol despite being aware of the social, health financial and professional consequences of continuing to do so
- You are unable to stop drinking even when you have a strong desire to do so
- Your drinking means you commit crimes such as driving whilst under the influence of alcohol
If you identify with the above signs of alcoholism, then know that treatment exists to help you in overcoming your alcoholism. Ocean Recovery Centre rehabilitates thousands of people suffering from alcoholism each year. To enquire about how we can help you, contact our admissions team today.
Physical signs of alcoholism
Alcoholism is a physical addiction. The physical symptoms of alcoholism progressively get worse with time. During the early stages of alcoholism, the physical symptoms are often subtle and difficult to notice.
The alcoholism’s early physical symptoms include:
- You suffer from physical injury because your cognitive processes are impaired by alcohol or because you are recovering from drinking alcohol
- You begin to suffer from illnesses such as stomach cramps
- You experience blackouts and you cannot recall what you did or said whilst you were under the influence of alcohol
Because alcohol is a progressive disorder, the physical signs of alcoholism will become more pronounced over time. These physical signs include:
- You begin to suffer from liver disease e.g. cirrhosis
- You are unsteady when you walk and you frequently fall over
- You suffer from gastritis (sore stomach)
- Your sex drive disappears
- If you are male, your testicles begin to shrink
- You begin to suffer from skin sores
- Your face is always red, particularly your cheeks and your nose
- You begin to notice blood vessels appearing on your skin
- You lose your appetite and you experience weight loss
What are the long term health implications of alcoholism?
Alcohol is a toxin that will inflict damage upon your body in many different ways. Some of the health implications from drinking alcohol may be severe and even life-threatening. The long term health implications of alcohol include:
- Alcohol induced dementia (known as Wermicke-Korsakoff syndrome)
- Liver disease
- Heart failure
- Malnutrition and bone loss
Signs of an alcoholic personality
It is likely you have come across the concept of an ‘addictive personality’. Generally, we feel those who suffer from alcoholism are likely to exhibit traits of an ‘addictive personality’. For an addiction to arise, it’s common for these traits linked to addiction to combine. It’s rare for an addiction to arise when these personality traits exist in isolation from one another.
It is also worth pointing out that alcoholism arises due to other factors not linked to these common addictive personality traits. It’s known for alcoholism to arise when none of the below traits is present. However, these personality traits are sufficiently common amongst people suffering from alcoholism to warrant their inclusion in this blog post.
Here are the personality traits often associated with alcoholism and addiction in general:
- Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex
- Perfectionism and feelings of failure when perfection not attained
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of shame
- Impulsiveness – act without thinking and without delay
- Easily frustrated
- Not considerate of the feelings of others
- Unable to recognise or appreciate consequences of actions
- Risk taker
Can I drink if I am an alcoholic?
At Ocean Recovery Centre, we follow the abstinence model of recovery. This means we do not recommend those who suffered from alcoholism in the past should ever consider going back to drinking alcohol. This includes the exclusion of social drinking.
When you have attained your sobriety goals, it’s easy to deceive yourself that you can have ‘just one drink’. It is exactly this sort of thinking that’s well known for causing a full-blown relapse. The central problem with the ‘just one drink’ concept is that it is rare you will stop at one drink. One drink suddenly turns into two drinks, and two drinks evolve into a relapse. For this reason, we do not advocate moderate drinking for people who identify as ‘recovering alcoholics’. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery agree with our stance.
When you are addicted to alcohol, long term changes take place in the brain. These changes affect dopamine pathways located throughout the brain. These brain alterations fade over time. However, these altered dopamine pathways never quite fade away. When you drink ‘just one drink’, the brain suddenly begins to strength these faded dopamine pathways meaning it is difficult to resist a full-blown relapse scenario. This means that for many people who are recovering alcoholics, the only real option is abstinence.
How can I stop drinking?
If you suffer from alcoholism, probably the worst action you could take is to suddenly stop drinking without medical assistance. This is because you will begin to suffer from potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms if you decide to abruptly stop drinking alcohol. The safest way to detox from alcohol is to undergo a medically assisted alcohol detox programme from the comfort of an inpatient rehab clinic.
When you attend a residential rehab clinic such as Ocean Recovery Centre, you will be given medication to help to reduce or even eliminate these withdrawal symptoms. You will also benefit from therapy sessions. These therapy sessions treat the mental aspects of alcoholism. You will engage in support groups, workshops and counselling sessions during a full rehabilitation programme.
The first stage of rehab is to undergo a detox programme. Whilst you detox, you will benefit from 24/7 medical attention. Medical professionals will assess the health risks you face, and provide an appropriate level of care to ensure these risks are mitigated. Withdrawal symptoms will be closely monitored and treated as necessary.
Am I an alcoholic or just a heavy drinker?
The vast majority of people reading this post will at least identify as being a heavy drinker. What worries you is if your heavy drinking is now turning into full blown alcoholism. The term ‘heavy drinking’ is not a medical term. In fact, the term is largely unhelpful due to its vagueness.
We feel it is true to say that all alcoholics are heavy drinkers. However, we feel it is incorrect to say that all heavy drinkers are alcoholics. For instance, those of you engaging in binge drinking are unlikely to suffer from alcoholism. To determine whether or not you suffer from alcoholism, read the text above headed ‘the signs of alcoholism’. These signs include tolerance, physical dependence, cravings for alcohol and compulsive drinking.
Get help for alcoholism and alcohol addiction
Once you’ve read this blog post, you may conclude that you do indeed suffer from alcoholism. If this is the case, you really should consider undergoing a detox at a residential rehab clinic. Ocean Recovery Centre offers a full alcohol rehab and detox service. We maintain clinics across the United Kingdom. Get in touch with our admissions team today on 0125 353 0553.
Alcohol rehab centre
0125 353 0553
Alcoholics Anonymous UK
0800 9177 650
Al-Anon (for family and friends of alcoholics)
020 7403 0888