Managing alcoholism is hard enough on its own, especially when compounded with other life struggles and difficult emotions. Unfortunately, that’s the reality for so many people struggling with alcohol addiction who start out using alcohol to self-medicate.
Individuals everywhere – from all walks of life – turn to alcohol to cope with difficult emotions or situations. Before they know it, they can get caught in a vicious cycle, finding it difficult to break from its grip.
This article will explore what alcohol addiction is, the causes and signs, and how you can overcome it.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a chronic disease that affects the brain. It’s characterized by compulsive and uncontrolled drinking due to the emotional and physical dependence on alcohol.
People with alcohol addiction have an intense urge or need to use alcohol, and they often lose control over how much they drink. They may continue drinking even when it causes problems in their relationships, at work, or with the law. One key indicator of alcoholism is the continuation of drinking despite these negative consequences.
The Causes of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction has a complex range of causes that are not fully understood. However, it’s believed to be influenced by genetic, psychological, behavioral, and environmental factors. Some people may have inherited sensitivity to alcohol and therefore struggle more than others to control their drinking.
Other risk factors include:
- Exposure to alcohol in childhood or adolescence
- Mental health problems like anxiety and depression
- Social and environmental factors, such as peer pressure, stress, or easy access to alcohol
The Signs of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is a common part of society and life for many people everywhere, as it’s so widely accepted and available in many cultures. For some people, alcohol becomes central to their lives. But this can be hard for addicts or others to recognize, partly due to alcohol being at the center of most social situations.
That said, it’s not always easy to distinguish whether a person has a problem or frequently enjoys drinking. Furthermore, alcohol addiction can look different from person to person. While one person may drink most of the day heavily, another may drink heavily for some time and then stay sober before drinking again.
If a person cannot stay sober for an extended period, regardless of their drinking habits, that’s a key sign of alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction can also be difficult to spot because it often occurs alongside other mental health conditions. The most common comorbid conditions with alcoholism include anxiety disorder, major depression, and bipolar disorder.
Common signs of alcohol addiction include:
- High tolerance for alcohol (lack of hangover symptoms)
- Increased amount and frequency of drinking
- Avoiding social situations where there is no alcohol – only wanting to be where it is present
- Drinking at inappropriate places and times, such as work or early in the morning
- Hiding alcohol/drinking
- Avoiding contact with close friends and family members
- Dependence on alcohol to get through daily life; feeling the need to drink every day, or several times a day
- Problems at work or with the law (job loss, DUIs, arrests)
- Problems with your health that are related to alcohol and drinking despite them
- Lack of motivation and energy
- Emotional issues such as depression
- Friendship changes – wanting to spend time with friends who drink heavily or more than others
Health-Related Risks and Complications of Alcoholism
Alcoholism can lead to many health-related risks and complications, both short and long-term. These include:
- Liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver failure
- Heart disease and stroke
- Congenital disabilities
- Brain damage
- Diabetes complications
- Bone loss
- Vision problems
- Sexual problems
- Increased risk of cancer – including throat, mouth, esophagus, liver, breast, and colon cancer
- Weakened immune function
- Increased risk of accidental injury or death due to alcohol poisoning or accidents
- Increased risk of suicide
A person with alcohol addiction puts themselves at risk and others. For example, according to the CDC and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving kills 28 people every day in the United States. Drinking is also linked to an increased incidence of homicide.
When to Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
Catching symptoms early and identifying alcohol addiction is makes a significant difference in getting help and avoiding the above consequences associated with alcoholism.
If you’re concerned that someone you know has alcohol addiction, you must support them in their journey to sobriety. Here are a few ways to help:
-Be supportive and understanding. The goal of helping someone is to encourage them to get help rather than making them more resistant to it. Don’t shame or attack them or make them feel guilty.
-Encourage them to get help, whether that’s rehab, treatment centers (like Ethan Crossing), self-help groups, or outpatient care.
-Provide positive reinforcement when they make progress.
-Help them create and stick to a sobriety plan.
-Avoid enabling their addiction by providing them with alcohol or making excuses for their behavior.
-Be there for them during tough times, and celebrate their accomplishments.
How to Overcome Alcohol Addiction
If you are concerned that you have an alcohol addiction, there are a few treatment options to explore – but only if you’re ready. It’s important to note that you or anyone with this disease must desire to get sober first, as success depends on that.
Treatment for alcohol addiction can be complicated and challenging. For one, alcoholism recovery is a lifetime commitment that requires daily efforts.
While there is no quick fix or cure for alcoholism, this addiction can be overcome in several ways:
Rehabilitation, or rehab, is one of the most common and effective ways for those seeking help to overcome alcohol addiction. Rehab involves supervised treatment from medical professionals in a rehab facility setting, where they address both mental health issues and physical problems associated with heavy drinking. During rehab, medical professionals can also monitor if there will be signs your liver is healing from the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Rehab programs provide comprehensive care that includes medications if necessary, therapeutic activities, psychological counseling, peer support groups, and more.
Many inpatient and outpatient treatment centers across the country specialize in alcohol addiction. Treatment at a center generally includes detox, therapy, and aftercare planning.
Another option for overcoming alcohol addiction is to attend self-help group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). At AA meetings, people share their experiences with alcohol addiction and provide peer support.
Outpatient Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction is also an option. This can be in the form of individual therapy or group counseling sessions but often involves a combination of both.
Ongoing Support After Rehabilitation
Battling a disease like alcoholism doesn’t just stop after rehab. Ongoing support is critical for ongoing recovery, and there are many ways to continue care:
Sober Living Communities
Once you have completed your inpatient treatment program, finding a sober living community may be the next step in maintaining sobriety. Sober living homes offer a drug- and alcohol-free environment with peer support, job placement assistance, and more.
Continuing Care Programs
Many rehabilitation centers also offer continuing care programs that provide ongoing therapeutic support after completing rehab. This can be in the form of outpatient treatment, 12-step meetings, or other group counseling sessions.
In addition to group therapy, ongoing individual counseling is a common route for people after rehabilitation. Counseling sessions can help the recovering addict learn new coping skills to prevent relapse and effectively manage stress.
Addiction recovery counseling services can also help people to work through problems that might have led them to get addicted in the first place. It’s something that all recovering addicts can benefit from.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol may be an ongoing battle, but it can be won. You can overcome alcohol addiction with the help of loved ones, rehabilitation, and ongoing support.