Are you worried that a loved one may be suffering from alcohol addiction? When you approach that person are you challenged with a denial? If you answered ‘yes’ to both of these questions, you are not completely powerless to act. There are tell-tale signs to watch out for that would indicate your loved one is an alcoholic.
In the event your loved one is suffering from alcoholism, please understand that it is a condition that could eventually kill. Offering support and encouragement to this person, based on the understanding that you will also be seeking out treatment and other forms of help, could be just the thing that motivates the individual to take the kind of action that will save his or her life.
Here is a partial list of the most common signs and symptoms of alcoholism:
- Finding empty bottles or cans hidden around the house
- Your loved one smelling of alcohol during the day
- Your loved avoiding eye contact with you
- Unexplained bloating in the face and abdomen
- General evasiveness and increasing isolation
- Missed appointments or poor performance at work/school
- Neglect of personal appearance and diet
- Binge drinking; drinking to unconsciousness
- Personality changes when drinking
- Drinking first thing in the morning and the last thing at night
- Taking alcohol to bed
- Disappearing/remaining out of contact for long periods of time
- Being defensive or excessively reassuring about drinking habits
- Gradual increases in the volume of alcohol consumed.
This list is by no means an exhaustive one. Furthermore, the fact that a person exhibits one or two of these signs or symptoms does not guarantee an alcoholic condition exists. If two or more are present, there is a strong possibility the person is either an alcoholic or on the way to becoming one; treatment should be sought immediately.
Admitting the Condition of Alcoholism
The signs and symptoms listed above are primarily for people who are concerned about a friend or loved one. They don’t do much for the alcoholic him/herself because most people who suffer from alcoholism refuse to admit it. Between the shame, guilt and fear they face, alcoholics typically find they cannot deal with the consequences of admitting they have a drinking problem. It is easier just to ignore and deny.
What the average alcoholic does not know is that his/her drinking is killing him/her from the inside out. It is robbing him/her of the ability to think clearly; it is causing permanent tissue damage; it is increasing his/her risk of liver disease, heart disease, cancer and so many of the conditions. Left untreated, alcoholism is likely to take the person’s life far too early.
Another thing to consider is that alcohol affects thought patterns. In most cases, the alcoholic believes he or she cannot live without drinking. The alcoholic is convinced that drinking is a solution to problems rather than the cause of them, so life without alcohol seems virtually impossible. This sort of thinking is completely irrational to the non-drinker but reasonable to the drinker.
All of these reasons combined dictate that admitting the condition of alcoholism is the hardest step in recovery. If we can get the alcoholic to acknowledge a problem, then it is much easier to convince that person to get professional treatment. As long as the drinker refuses to admit he or she is an alcoholic, the likelihood of ever attending treatment is very slim.
From Alcohol Misuse to Alcoholism
Any person concerned that a family member or friend is suffering from alcoholism should pay close attention to the signs and symptoms listed above. Why? Because alcoholism is not something that develops overnight. Becoming an alcoholic is a long-term proposition that takes at least a few weeks, at a minimum, or as long as a few months or years for some people. A lot of it depends on the individual’s tolerance for alcohol.
Someone who misuses alcohol but is not yet an alcoholic may still be someone who drinks first thing in the morning and as the last activity before bed. This is essentially a warning sign that tells both the drinker and those around him/her that some sort of intervention is necessary. Failing to intervene at the first sign allows the drinker to keep doing what he/she’s doing with impunity.
The habit of drinking once in the morning and again in the evening can further develop into binge drinking on the weekends. From binge drinking, the drinker can transition into having two or three drinks after work every day. Combine all of those drinks with weekend binge drinking is easy to see you have a problem on your hands. With very little effort, a person can go from alcohol misuse to alcohol abuse to alcoholism.
Reach Out for Help
So, what is a person to do if he or she recognises some of the signs and symptoms of alcoholism in the life of a loved one? The first thing is to call an organisation like ours and ask for help. By asking some very targeted questions and listening to your answers, we can help you get a better idea of what you are dealing with. We can then offer you advice as to how best to proceed.
As just one example, let us assume that our initial consultation suggests your loved one is indeed an alcoholic. One of the options you have is to conduct an intervention. Professional therapists use interventions as a means of motivating alcoholics to get treatment before they ‘hit rock bottom’. We can give you tips on intervention or recommend you to a therapist who can help you do it.
Contacting us also gives you access to information about all of the treatment options available in your local area. This information is invaluable for such time as your loved one agrees to treatment. Keep in mind that an individual’s consent may be short-lived. It’s important to have all of the information at hand so you are prepared.