Are You an Alcoholic?

Distinguishing Between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction

When it comes to alcohol, the lines between recreational drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction can quickly become blurred. Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs, and is, in many circles, a socially acceptable way to have fun, relax and socialize.

While there are many subtle distinctions between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction, the important question to ask yourself is: Is drinking causing problems in your life? If so, you have a drinking problem.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Some of the signs of alcohol abuse include

  • Underperforming at work or school or consistently failing to fulfill obligations at home
  • Putting your safety or the safety of others in danger because of your drinking (for example, drunk driving or mixing drugs)
  • Being arrested or having other legal problems as a result of your drinking
  • Relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking alcohol

Many people who abuse alcohol will become alcoholics over time. The process may unfold after months or years of heavy drinking, or could happen suddenly, usually in response to a stressful life event like a death, divorce or a major job change.

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Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Some of the signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Needing more alcohol to feel drunk or intoxicated (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit drinking (such as shakiness, depression, anxiety, headaches and irritability)
  • Not being able to control when, where or how much you drink
  • Trying to quit drinking without success
  • Giving up time with friends or other activities or hobbies you used to enjoy so that you can drink
  • Your thoughts are consumed with finding and drinking more alcohol
  • Continuing to drink despite these negative consequences

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Still not sure if you have a drinking problem? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people criticized or expressed concern about your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

Any "yes" answers suggest a possible drinking problem. Alcoholism is a disease, not a sign of moral failing or a character flaw. And once alcohol addiction has set in, you have lost control. To regain control of your life – and your freedom – consult an alcohol rehab program or health care provider.

The effects of alcohol abuse can be extremely serious, even fatal, both to you and to others.

Causes of Alcoholism

People develop a problem with alcoholism for many different reasons. Some of the most common causes of alcoholism include:

  • Genetics
  • Upbringing (particularly growing up around parents or other adults who drink excessively)
  • Having close friends who drink heavily
  • Ethnicity (studies suggest that American Indians and Native Alaskans may be at increased risk of developing alcohol addiction)
  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Having a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, which leads some people to self-medicate with alcohol

After Alcohol Rehab, Will I Be Cured?

Alcohol rehab will help you get sober and teach you the skills you need to stay sober. But alcoholism isn't a disease that can be "cured." Even if an alcoholic has been sober for many, the threat of relapse is still very real. "Cutting down" on drinking doesn't work for alcoholics, and your recovery will need to be attended to and nurtured long-term.

For many alcoholics, relapse is part of the process of recovery. If you have relapsed in the past, this does not mean that you have failed or cannot recover from alcoholism. Every day sober is a victory for both the alcoholic and their family, and every lesson learned from relapse gets you that much closer to long-term sobriety.

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction

The process of alcohol recovery begins long before you step foot into an alcohol rehab program or counseling center. Addiction recovery really begins when you accept the fact that you need help to overcome your alcohol addiction. The sooner you come to this realization, the your chances for a successful long-term recovery.

Even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed of your alcohol addiction, health care providers and alcohol rehab centers know that alcoholism is a disease. You will be treated with respect and compassion, just like people suffering from other chronic health conditions. Your decision to make a change will be commended and celebrated and you will receive all of the support you need to recover from alcohol addiction.

Help for Alcohol Abuse

In some ways, distinguishing between alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction isn't the most significant issue, as both drinking problems require intervention. The question is how intensive the alcohol treatment program should be. Call 866-323-5612 to speak with a counselor –free of charge – who can help you decide what type of addiction treatment is best for you.

Don't let alcoholism or alcohol abuse sneak up on you! Be an active participant in your life and take action if you or someone you know has lost control of their drinking.

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