Part 1, Part 2
If it’s you, you may be ‘secretly’ searching what the signs of alcohol addiction are. You’re suspecting that you’ve got a problem. You’re wondering if you’re suffering from a miserable condition that has probably already affected your mental and physical well-being. Perhaps your relationship, your friendships and your ability to work have suffered too. You’re discovering that alcohol abuse causes a great deal of unhappiness all round.
I’m going to assume that you are indeed a problem drinker. I want you to know right away, though, that there’s no judgment on my part. Imagine you’re sitting across from me at my kitchen table, opening up - finally getting it all off your chest.
Can you tell me: what stage are you at?
Have you tried to stop drinking without much success?
Or have you succumbed completely - no longer being able to function without some alcohol in your blood?
How long have you walked around wondering: “Am I an alcoholic?”
I’m going to help you answer that question. Read on to discover what’s happening to you. This article is one in a series:
I’m going to cover this from three different perspectives.
First, from your perspective (though your personal experience may differ of course).
Then, I’ll reveal how the professionals translate the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse into different stages.
Lastly I’ll go on to let a recovering alcoholic tell you what it has really been like for him.
But first, do watch this video - you may recognise the thoughts...
First of all, you’re unlikely to have been aware at all that you were developing an addiction (Pre-contemplation).
Over time you might have started becoming aware that you might have a problem, but convinced yourself that you’ve got it ‘under control’, and yet... You do wonder sometimes if you perhaps do need some help (Contemplation).
You're now no longer contemplating whether or not you need help. You're determined to get some sort of therapy or treatment and beat that addiction (Determination).
You're focused on your recovery and take whatever action necessary to overcome your addiction (Action).
After initial treatment, including a detox if you’re a late-stage alcoholic, you’re slowly arriving at what is called the maintenance (or sometimes: recovery) phase.
You now have to stay determined and focused on your recovery, however hard that struggle may be (Maintenance).
You may, during any of these stages, relapse if you’re no longer actively using all the help, tools and support you’ve been given.
Professionals differentiate between different stages of alcoholism like so:
You’ll know how to down a pint or two, or three or four, or a bottle of wine, in a short space of time. And you can tolerate it. You’re becoming more alert to ‘opportunities’ to drink without looking like a ‘problem drinker’. You reach for the bottle to deal with the stresses and disappointments of everyday life. You still manage to function well enough though.
Your body now needs the alcohol. You can feel it, and your friends and partner know it. If you don’t drink, you feel irritable, miserable, sick and suffer from mood swings. You’re increasingly difficult to live with. Your dependency has led to relationship problems and a possible breakup.
You’re breaking down - physically, emotionally and mentally. Your relationship too has definitely broken down, even if your partner is still with you. You’re in the process of developing life-threatening diseases.
This can take various forms, which I cover in a different article.
Relapse is always discussed in a supportive manner. It’s part and parcel of any treatment. You’ll want to be prepared for where and how to access help if your addiction catches up with you again. This increases the chance that you’ll seek help in a timely manner, rather than flounder on your own out of shame and guilt.
Do watch the following video if you think you’re becoming addicted to alcohol, or indeed any other substance. You'll be able to identify what's waiting for you. That is... unless you take decisive and effective action.
You can also connect with a professional, licensed therapist. It's now very easy to set up an online session, regardless of the device you're using. For further information, see my page on online mental health counselling.
Continue on to Part 2 to read about one man's personal experience of the stages of alcoholism.
Part 1, Part 2