If you're a heavy drinker, it's likely that you have an 'alcohol problem'. So, I'd really like you to have a look at the alcoholism symptoms on this page.
I hope they'll help to take a deep breath just before you decide to have another glass, can or bottle. You just need a few seconds to stop yourself going into that trance state from which you'll wake up regretting you've 'done it again'.
The impact of an alcohol problem can be huge, with implications for your health and your relationships.
One of the most telling signs that you're an alcoholic is that you continue to reach for your next drink despite the severity of your symptoms and your desperate desire to quit.
It will only result in...
You're caught in an unrelenting cycle of distress and inability to give up.
I really don't want that for you! Like everyone else you're here to express your uniqueness in a way that contributes to the greater good and makes you happy. Think about it - there is no one in the world exactly like you - how special are you!
So, here's where you start in increasing your awareness and self-knowledge. I'm right behind you!
Below is a list of the most common symptoms of alcoholism. Have a look through and see how many you recognise...
After a heavy drinking session or drinking binge, there are many effects of alcohol poisoning on your body:
As you can see from this list, all of the systems in your body are in a bad state after a binge. The stark reality is that alcoholics are doing untold damage to their bodies, and could easily cause their own death.
Whilst you may appear to recover (your hangover will disappear eventually) the damage to your body accumulates. There comes a point at which your body no longer has the capacity to heal itself.
Alcoholism can cause:
More dehydrated skin and more prone to acne.
I was still eating on a fairly regular basis but as I wasn’t looking after myself correctly it was rarely nutritious food.
Besides I would often skip meal times in favour of drinking (either alone or in a social setting). During an alcoholic binge I would only eat when I was really hungry.
Alcohol can also destroy some of the amino acids required for growth and repair.
I know alcoholics who gained weight due to the additional calories that drinking brings (these were then lost with the onset of alcoholic recovery). I personally did not experience any weight gain.
I was often convinced that I wasn’t good enough for many things – i.e. talking to girls (I’ve often heard alcoholics say that they needed drink to do this. However I found that even drunk I rarely had the courage to do so).
This transferred into other areas of my personal relationships such as thinking I was a bad boyfriend and that I was a bad lover in bed.
When drinking got bad I often used to look for answers as to why I drank heavily. So if a daytime TV show had an alcohol special I would make sure I watched it. Or if Men’s Health had an article on alcohol I’d turn straight to it.
This alcoholism symptom I recognise in ‘hindsight’. Looking back I can see I was looking for answers.
A long time member of AA once told me that he didn’t believe that the human brain was supposed to be unhappy – I believe him.
Drinking brought me to low self esteem, under achievement, loneliness and a general feeling of worthlessness. When this state of mind existed for long enough in me the inevitable result was depression. Sadness and self pity became a habit.
I then entered a cycle – I drank because I was depressed and I was depressed because I drank (see: Alcoholism and Depression).
If you’re currently experiencing this alcoholism symptom it’s probably time to get help.
Alongside depression I found this symptom the hardest to bear. It didn’t matter if I was on my own or surrounded by people I was always lonely. I later found out that this was because the loneliness was in my head.
Everyone else seemed to be more comfortable than me, be having a better time than me and manage life better than I did.
I would always be looking forward to the next drink when not drinking. If out with my friends I was always at my most comfortable once a drink was in my hands or when I knew a drink would be coming soon. “Let’s start lunch early at that pub over there.”
When drinking already I would either think about how I was going to stop – “It’ll start on Monday” - or I’d be planning how I would continue for that night/weekend.
After a failed attempt at sobriety I found myself relapsing in a pub. Not only was I deeply ashamed and depressed, I was also convinced that everyone else in the pub was looking at me and instinctively knew that I was a relapsing alcoholic. They didn’t know that, they’d never met me before; but that was my state of mind at the time.
I didn’t want to admit I was alcoholic – at first I wasn’t even sure I was one. Besides, alcoholic was a dirty word and once I’d admitted I was one there would be no going back.
Then I reached a point where I was willing to admit that I had ‘some sort of problem….’
I still had a long way to go.
I regularly didn’t show up for work (not necessarily a warning sign of alcoholism of course). Either because I was too hung over, couldn’t face being around people or just wanted to carry on drinking.
I faced several disciplinaries (verbal and written warnings) and eventually had to leave one job before they could sack me.
This is perhaps one of the most common and expressed symptoms of alcoholism.
I didn’t usually lie about the fact that I had been drinking, but I would sometimes lie about the amount. More often though I wouldn’t lie at all because ‘only an alcoholic would do that’ and I desperately didn’t want to be one of those.
Activities that I formerly took part in and vouchsafed that I enjoyed were pushed aside in favour of drinking.
I would often start a romantic relationship in a fairly confident way and the girl in question would seem content. I wasn’t an abusive boyfriend, either verbally or physically (drunk or sober), but with my chronically low self-esteem I would gradually deteriorate my own mental image of myself until I felt that I wasn’t good enough for my girlfriend – insecurity.
Eventually she would invariably tire of my insecure nature (lets face it, it’s not attractive is it?) and the relationship would end. It would never even have occurred to me to get any relationship advice!
I’ve heard it said that one’s physical reality is a reflection of one’s mental state. This was certainly true and self evident when I was drinking. My flat was messy – washing up rarely done, floor dirty, bed left unchanged. Like my mental state – messy, dirty and unchanged.
This can also be reflected in your appearance too. My clothes should have been washed more often, sometimes I smelt.
I found it hard to meet even the most basic of rent agreements. I was always in overdraft (often unauthorized overdraft). My money didn’t usually last until the end of the month.
The greater part of my money went on drink.
When I was desperate I would search high and low all over my flat looking for change so that I could scrape together enough for a drink. I’ve even resorted to taking money that wasn’t mine.
The partner of an alcoholic often carries the burden of the financial responsibility. He or she may go without - food, clothes, opportunities, hobbies etc. - in order to safeguard the children's needs at the very least.
The drinking partner consumes the majority, if not all, of the spare cash - if there is any 'spare' at all.
I liked to think of myself as a reliable person (flying in the face of all evidence). However one time I remember baby sitting my niece and nephew. I needed a drink. So I went to the off-license leaving them asleep in bed telling myself that I’d only be gone a few minutes. Indeed I was only gone a few minutes, but that hardly makes it acceptable behaviour.
If anyone had asked I would have said that of course I loved my niece and nephew more than alcohol – but if that’s true, how could I have been so irresponsible?
This is one of the worst symptoms of alcoholism - and one of the hardest to come to terms with. When we put alcohol before those we love, it’s an attack on everything that as human beings we know, instinctively, to be true.
Again it's often left to a partner to compensate for the difficulties created by the drinking partner. When I first trained there was lots of talk about collusion and co-dependency. However, the thinking around how partners contribute to the maintenance of the problem - or not - is now far more sophisticated.
From my perspective, so many factors all play a role in how a partner behaves and reacts to the excessive drinking of the other, including:
A really helpful way of tackling an alcohol problem or addiction is to use hypnosis - it's a painless, easy and comfortable treatment. With a hypnosis download, you don't need to visit anyone, or join any kind of group.
You can start to help yourself in the privacy of your own home, at your own pace. I've interviewed the CEO of HypnosisDownloads, and I'd love you to consider this as a way to help you start tackling your problems.
For more information, have a look at my Hypnosis Online FAQs.
The Wall Street Journal/Health Journal - In search of alcoholism genes
Download this PDF: Rethinking Drinking if you are in the US - useful workbook and helplines and organisations
Download this PDF: Alcohol and mental health if you are in the UK - helpful organisations
Image courtesy of: Aisis35