The definition of alcoholism is chronic alcohol use to the degree that it interferes with physical or mental health, or with normal social or work behaviour. What this means is that an individual engages in consuming ‘unhealthy’ amounts of alcohol, and this consumption then negatively affects his mental health (as he is unable to think straight), physiological health (as kidneys and other organs of the body suffer), and causes abnormalities in social behaviour (as social interactions are no longer the same, making the individual more uninhibited, more carefree about consequences).
Alcohol is considered a substance and its excessive consumption causes addiction. Addiction simply refers to being enslaved by one activity, forming it into a habit, one you can’t function without. It is an engagement with an activity, because of it being pleasurable.
WHY DO PEOPLE ENGAGE IN IT?
Alcoholics around the world report that this consumption helps them in various ways, which is why the intake increases. It starts with the substance giving them a sense of pleasure, or high, making them feel euphoric. Further it gives them a sense of confidence, in terms of the individual now being more uninhibited, and this feeling of carelessness, is what they confuse with confidence.
People also report alcohol to be a stress releaser, as it makes the consciousness controlling areas of the brain slow down, and hence the line of difference between right/wrong, appropriate/inappropriate becomes blurry. Because of no monitoring or regulation on who buys alcohol, and then facing no negative consequences for its consumption makes the levels of consumption increase.
A very common reason stated by people for engaging in excessive consumption is simply peer pressure; because most people around you do it, it becomes a norm to be followed, and conformity takes over. In university students, alcohol becomes a part of the routine and becomes an everyday ritual, followed by everyone because no one asked them to actually think and analyse the consequences that may follow. More often, most actions or behaviours we engage ourselves in are simply because of their nature of being a habit. No one really thinks about the why and how of it and definitely not about the consequences that will follow.
HOW CONSUMPTION BECOMES ADDICTION
An individual would start consuming it more and more (because of the above mentioned factors), until one day they are suddenly asked to stop. This is when they realize that their life is now somehow incomplete without it; this is how tolerance to a substance develops, leading to dependence.
Tolerance to alcohol is more physiological than mental. When we say your body develops tolerance to it, we mean that the same amount of substance no longer has the same effect on you. With this, the amount of consumption increases; and results in dependence, when they body can’t function without its intake, or when the body has physically adapted to its presence, and hence is dependent on it for healthy, usual functioning. There are times when you physically feel sick and anxious, simply because of its absence in your environment. This dependence consequently leads to addiction, i.e., impulsive, excessive alcohol intake.
WHAT ADDICTION FEELS LIKE?
Everything mentioned above is sufficient to explain addiction and dependence for people who are unaware of it becoming a thing that causes them harm. There are also instances when people are consciously aware of the self-destructing behaviour they are engaging in, however find it unable to stop.
Alcoholics sometimes confuse themselves by calling themselves ‘scientists’, as they experiment with each day in a new, adventurous way. They find new ways to fill the empty void inside them, up till a point when they realise it can’t be filled, and so they themselves become the empty void. Their mind is cunning enough to convince the body that it’s not dying- it’s a thrill art of forgetting that you’re still here.
On a usual day, asking an alcohol addict simple questions like “what do you see?”, can get you answers like “anything you want”. It’s the magic of perception: and the difference between an addict and a person, who’s drowning, is simply that the person who is drowning knows it; the alcoholic will drink the sea till he becomes it.
USUAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The most common signs of developing alcoholism are;
An increasing tolerance to the effects of alcohol. You may have heard the expression that someone can “hold their liquor.” This is not a sign that this person will not have problems with alcohol; in fact, this may be an early sign of alcoholism as a disease.
A growing preoccupation with or interest in drinking.Also drinking alone or drinking before an activity where there will be drinking. It may seem as though one simply enjoys drinking. However, this can be part of the definition of alcoholism.
A person will dispute their drinking is a problem. This symptom, called denial, is almost always present in alcoholism. Individuals have been found to report the common behaviours that they indulged in including hiding alcohol bottles, to prevent others from discovering it; wanting to drink more and for longer periods, seeing drinking alcohol as a ‘solace’ or solution to any stimuli that caused stress responses in the body. They created rituals around alcohol, when they started drinking at particular times, and being agitated when the ritual is disturbed; not finding drinking enough till they passed out, and most importantly, engaging in excessive drinking in spite of the tangible and clear harms that it was causing them.
– Alcoholics can almost never get better without some form of directed alcohol addiction treatment.
– Alcohol abuse treatment and alcoholism treatment programs can take several forms.
– A professional rehabilitation program
– A self-help alcohol addiction treatment
– Alcohol abuse therapy
– No matter which treatment for alcoholism is chosen, support from those around the alcoholic is critical for successful treatment of alcoholism.
– Self help measure that can be taken at individual level to help oneself include:
– Motivation to abstain from drinking
– Coping with the urge to drink
– Problem solving skills to manage thoughts and behaviours
– Lifestyle balance for short-term and long-term pleasures
Alcohol abuse therapy:
Alcohol abuse therapy is often included in alcoholism treatment rehabilitation programs and is sought out by those using self-help alcohol addiction treatments as well. Alcohol abuse therapy may be individual, group, couple or family counselling. Alcohol abuse therapy may be based on a prescribed method such as cognitive behavioural therapy or more unique to the individual such as psychotherapy.
Recovery is hard and painful, and it involves a lot of hard work. An individual in recovery may miss being “sick” simply because they miss the familiarity and the comfort they derived from and it and adapting to newer, healthier lifestyle is new and difficult. People may also consider themselves recovered from it, but will still write about it or talk about it in present tense, as if it’s still a part of their lives. Recovery is not yoga mats, and tea and avocados; it is reminding yourself of the difference between what can and can’t be fixed, and learning to adapt- to new situations, new lifestyles, to change. It’s reminding yourself that you don’t want to die.
Addiction is sometimes like standing at the edge of the bridge, and the only thing preventing them from jumping is a drink. However, there are days when all that stands between an alcoholic and a drink, is death. This fear is like a voice asking them how badly they want this life. What is it that they want to make of it?