Alcohol in the media, whether it’s movies, shows, or ads, is often associated with happiness and togetherness. In reality, however, it’s often the opposite. Alcoholism is a disease that can take a devastating toll on the people addicted to it and their loved ones. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism, remember that everyone has their struggle. Alcoholism is NOT a moral failing or a character flaw, it’s actually a complex and chronic medical condition. Recovery is possible, and with the right support and resources, those struggling with alcoholism can stop drinking and regain control of their lives.
This article will explore the causes of alcoholism and the steps one can take to recover. It will also provide a compassionate and non-judgmental perspective on the topic, recognizing that alcoholism is a disease and that recovery is a journey.
Understanding the Causes of Alcoholism
There is no definitive answer as to why some people become alcoholics. The development of alcoholism is influenced by a complex interaction of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. However, some contributing factors are:
- Genetic Factors: Research has shown that alcoholism tends to run in families. This may suggest a genetic component to the disease. But it’s unclear how much genes are responsible as opposed to parents passing down destructive behaviors and trauma from generation to generation. Studies have also identified certain genes that may increase the risk of developing alcoholism.
- Psychological Factors: Psychological factors, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can also contribute to the development of alcoholism. People who are struggling with mental health issues may turn to alcohol as a way to cope, which can make trying to stop drinking emotionally painful. The pain may steer them back to alcohol for comfort and coping which can lead to addiction.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to alcohol at a young age, as well as social and cultural norms that encourage heavy drinking, can increase the likelihood of developing alcoholism.
The Stages of Alcoholism
Many people fall into the trap of thinking they don’t need to stop drinking because they have it under control and are not addicted. However, alcoholism is not a one-time event. Rather, it occurs in stages, where the person goes from being a social drinker to a problem drinker to an alcohol abuser and then to an alcoholic.
- Social Drinking: Social drinking is the first stage of alcoholism. This happens when a person drinks alcohol in social situations but can stop drinking before it becomes a problem.
- Problem Drinking: Problem drinking is the second stage of alcoholism. The person begins to experience negative consequences from their drinking, such as problems at work or in relationships. At this stage, the additional stress coming from those problems can drive the person into drinking more to cope. This can cause a downward spiral where more drinking causes more problems which leads to more drinking, and so on.
- Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol abuse is the third stage of alcoholism. This is when a person begins to drink more and more frequently, despite the negative consequences. They may also begin to experience physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. At this stage, people often cope with denial using statements like “I can stop whenever I want” to feel like they’re still in control.
- Alcoholism: Alcoholism is the final stage of the disorder. At this stage, the person is unable to stop drinking and is completely dependent on alcohol. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit alcohol.
How To Stop Drinking
We’ve covered some of the factors playing into alcoholism and how it can gradually take hold of our lives. The good news is that alcoholism is a treatable condition. There are several different paths to healing, and while all have their pros and cons, some have proven effective for many recovered alcoholics. Here are two of the most powerful.
Changing Your Environment
Many people make the brave decision to stop drinking in an effort to improve their lives. However, breaking a habit is always difficult. When that habit happens to be a substance addiction, however, it gets exponentially harder to refuse. So why make it harder on ourselves?
Surrounding ourselves with opportunities to exercise our discipline can make recovery incredibly difficult. Things like happy hours, going to bars with friends, and keeping alcohol in the house can tempt us back into drinking. Instead, focus on removing opportunities to say yes to alcohol. It’s much easier to say no to alcohol if you have to go out and get it, so leave it out of your home to remove the temptation. Instead of going to happy hour and resisting the urge to drink, ask who in the office would rather check out a new smoothie place.
Recovery is a difficult road no matter how you slice it. Having a strong emotional support network can help you stay on track and get back on the horse if you relapse. While your family is already likely your support network in many ways, intense subjects like this may be difficult to bring up. Especially if your drinking has already strained your relationships. Try talking to them and telling them your honest intentions to stop drinking and improve your life both for yourself and for them. Chances are, they’ll support you, help remove you from tempting situations and help you stay strong.
Other support networks could be group therapy settings with others struggling through the same problems as you. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your struggles from suffering from it themselves can be a validating and healing experience. A support group like substance abuse group therapy or AA meetings can also be a healthy outlet to let out your feelings on the subject. This format works so well because the fear of judgment falls apart when your group shares your struggle.
Making The Decision To Stop Drinking? Don’t Do It Alone
Alcoholism is a serious condition that is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. The strong craving for alcohol, the inability to control one’s drinking, and the development of physical and psychological dependence on alcohol may leave you feeling hopeless about your addiction. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome alcoholism and achieve long-term recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, don’t go through it alone. Having a support network and controlling your environment can make it easier to stop drinking. However, there are often underlying issues that aggravate if not kickstart this illness. I’m Jessica Harrison LCSW, and I’ve been helping people struggling with addiction for over 24 years. In individual therapy, I provide you with the judgment-free safe space you need to process your condition. After having the space and comfort to talk through alcoholism, you’ll learn the skills you need to achieve recovery. It doesn’t end there though. Once you’ve reached a sober state, we’ll focus on your other struggles, helping you reach stability to thrive post-recovery.
Are you in Florida, ready to stop drinking, and ready to live your best life sober and free? Then contact me, and let’s beat alcohol together!