Lately I’ve found myself increasingly using alcohol day to day. It’s starting to affect my work and relationships to the point that I think I may have an addiction problem. How do I stop?
In today’s modern world the pressures and demands society place on us, as well as those we place on ourselves, continues to rise. As this stress increases so does our need for escape, either physically, emotionally, or mentally. A common source of relaxation for many people is alcohol.
Alcohol is considered a socially acceptable way for us to unwind with friends and family. But what happens when this form of escapism becomes detrimental to our health, relationships, and career? Addiction is a very real problem that many people struggle with, be it with alcohol or drugs. Or both. This article will focus on the former, but as a general rule, most of what is outlined below can also be applied to drug addiction.
How to tell if you or someone you care about has become dependent on alcohol.
There are certain diagnostic criteria that can determine this.
Alcohol dependence involves a pattern of drinking that leads to significant distress, when at least three of the following criteria are met within a 12 month period:
-A need for an increased amount of alcohol to reach intoxication.
-Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking or drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
-Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended. I.e. Going out for one drink with friends, but staying out all night drinking.
-Unsuccessful attempts at quitting or cutting back alcohol consumption.
-Loss of interest in socialising, work, or leisure activities because of drinking.
-Much time spent recovering from the effects of excessive drinking.
-Continued drinking despite knowing the negative impact it is having.
Often the need for alcohol overrides all judgment. People find themselves justifying their behaviour or even denying that there is a problem in the first place. Their behaviour over time may become uncharacteristic, they may start drinking alone or lying about their alcohol consumption. There can be brief moments of shame and guilt that usually accompany substance abuse. These are short lived however as the vicious cycle of craving relief from withdrawal results in further drinking.
Things to keep in mind when dealing with addiction.
-In the beginning, drinking is normalised as short-term stress relief. It works, and this reinforces the belief that it’s acceptable.
-The temporary positive feelings mean we are not finding alternative and healthier means of dealing with stress.
-Alcohol is a mind altering and physically powerful substance that creates a chemical change within us. Not only does dependency develop, but also tolerance, which means we need more of it, and need it more often, to obtain the desired effect.
-Withdrawal is a major deterrent in stopping drinking.
Seeking help, The Wheel Of Change, and beating addiction.
It’s important to be mindful that overcoming an addiction is an almighty battle, setbacks and relapses are normal, and the desire for change must come from within. You cannot make someone give up something they don’t want to.
BUT WITH DETERMINATION AND THE COURAGE AND WILL TO CHANGE, IT IS ABSOLUTELY BEATABLE!!
The cycle that every addict on the way to sobriety goes through is known as The Wheel Of Change, and it helps explain what happens emotionally and cognitively on this journey.
1. Pre-contemplative stage: the addict is in denial that there is even a problem.
2. Contemplative stage: addict acknowledges that there IS a problem but justifies it and says they can’t stop.
3. Preparation: addict takes the first steps in seeking help.
4. Action: addict implements change.
5. Maintenance: addict maintains sobriety and may attend meetings or see a counsellor.
Recognising where you are on The Wheel Of Change is the first step towards being out of the woods, in the clear, and on the road to recovery.