Getting help for Alcohol Addiction
Alcoholism (often referred to as alcohol use disorder, AUD) afflicts millions of Americans. It can be hard to realize when alcohol consumption has become a problem. Alcohol addiction can be insidious since drinking is a socially accepted activity. Alcoholism is often sensationalized on TV or in movies, but alcohol use disorder can be much more subtle in real life. Some people are called ‘functional’ or ‘high-functioning’ alcoholics. In this instance, although the person has a drinking problem, they can have a good job and family life. This can make it much easier for someone to deny or not realize that they have a problem. An alcohol use disorder is much easier to handle if caught early and dealt with swiftly. The first step is to realize that the problem exists.
When is Alcohol Use a Problem?
Lack of Control
This could be an uncontrollable urge to drink or a person’s inability to stop thinking about drinking. A person may have tried to stop drinking and failed. It can also manifest in an inability to limit the quantity of alcohol one drinks. If someone says they will only have one drink but often end up drinking a lot more, it can be a sign of a problem.
When one’s drinking becomes dangerous, this can be a sign that it needs to be addressed. For example, if someone drinks in risky situations, including when someone is driving or has to drive after, or when a woman is pregnant or caring for young children. Another risky situation is mixing the medication with alcohol, no matter the reason. A red flag for this kind of behavior is when a person’s drinking gets them into legal trouble.
When a person needs alcohol to perform certain activities, it can indicate an alcohol use disorder. Some people start needing alcohol to relax or fall asleep at night. Inversely, some people need a drink in the morning to get going and have a good day. Others might need alcohol to be social or feel confident when meeting other people. And when a person does not drink, they can start having negative thoughts or feelings and will use alcohol to escape those.
Tolerance & Withdrawal
These physical aspects could mean a person has an alcohol addiction. If a person develops a tolerance, they will need to drink more to feel the intended effects of alcohol. And this tolerance compounds the withdrawal problem. When a person stops drinking alcohol, they will start getting withdrawal symptoms, which can be very hard for them and make them drink again.
A common aspect of denying an alcohol problem is lying. If someone close to them asks them how much they drink, they lie to make it seem like less of a problem. They can also deny drinking altogether. This can also manifest in hiding alcohol in different places, so people won’t find it. Another sign of this can be making excuses for drinking and even causing their loved ones to make those excuses.
When drinking becomes a problem in one’s life, it indicates a problem exists. It is even more apparent when the person continues drinking despite those problems. Here are some examples of the problems drinking can create:
- It interferes with things the person used to enjoy doing
- Dropping important activities or doing them less often because of their drinking
- Lessening of responsibilities or dropping responsibilities
- Losing friendships or having other related issues because of their drinking
- Becoming angry and hurting people when drinking
Alcohol Detox and Rehab
When an individual has been using alcohol for a long time or in large amounts, an alcohol detox is necessary. A person should not stop alcohol abruptly without medical supervision because withdrawal from alcohol can lead to many complications and can be life-threatening. Therefore, alcohol treatment should always begin with a medically supervised detox. Once this is complete, an individual can begin their alcohol rehab without the threat posed by alcohol withdrawal.
Due to the availability of alcohol and its prevalence in many social activities, it is recommended that an individual attend a program that lasts at least at 4 to 6 weeks. This will ensure that the person suffering from alcohol use disorder can address the issues that lead to the onset of their unhealthy drinking habits. It also gives the individual enough time to learn the proper tools and coping mechanisms to remain alcohol-free.
Helping Someone with an Alcohol Use Problem
When someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, it is vital to take the necessary steps to help them. It can cause a lot of strain in a relationship, and specific patterns of behaviors come up, and they should be identified so that you can successfully help the person. One of the first things to realize is that it is not your fault, even if the alcohol says so. Their actions are their own, and blaming themselves or taking things personally focuses on the actual problem, their drinking.
Enable the person
- Enabling refers to behavior making it easier for the person to keep drinking and for their addiction to worsen. Your intentions might be good, and you might be trying to help the person, but it keeps them from facing the real problem and realizing the severity of it. Enabling can take on many forms, but some classic enabling behaviors include the following: Ignoring the person’s alcohol-related behavior. Acting like nothing is wrong and not saying anything is a form of enabling. Things such as missing work and unexplained absences when you know alcohol is at play should not be ignored. Although it may seem like confronting the problem head-on will make it worse, not addressing it will just let it develop.
- An addict will often blame situations or other people for their drinking. Going along with that is not helping them in any way. It gives them a pass to keep doing it. Another point is that blaming their general behavior on things other than their drinking covers up the problem. For example, if a person has become more aggressive or violent now that they drink, blaming their stressful work life or even yourself for this behavior is not helping the alcoholic. Aggression and violence are never okay and should never be accepted or excused.
- Making up excuses or lying about your loved one’s drinking or actions is never the solution. Sometimes pride or fear of consequences for your loved one can cause you to lie about what is happening to them. This behavior again gives them free rein to keep drinking and behaving as they do. It keeps the person away from the consequences of their action and the pain caused by their drinking.
- People can sometimes put off getting alcohol professional help, thinking they can get the person into an alcohol detox to stop drinking. The truth of the matter is that professional help is needed. You can try to stop the person from drinking by all means, but controlling the alcoholic does not handle their alcoholism. Seeking treatment is the best option to handle their substance use issue.