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Problem Drinking

Pre-Alcoholism and Alcoholism

“Problem drinking.” It’s one of those euphemisms that cover an infinite array of misery and misfortune. From the first steps into substance abuse through the forming of an addiction, all the way through to rehabilitation or death, drinking presents not one problem but thousands. To deal with problem drinking you must be determined to learn, and to take firm steps towards recovery.

What defines the “problem?”

  • Alcohol abuse: an easily adopted behavior.
  • Alcohol addiction: hard to escape.
  • The road to recovery.

The Smooth Road to Despair

In our culture, there are few more simple things than to pick up a drink, and enjoy it. In the old days, there used to be common rules of thumb to prevent alcohol abuse. “Never drink till after 5:00 pm,” “Never drink alone,” “Never mix liquors,” “Only drink one drink per hour,” and quicker, useful proverbs were all aimed at providing rules of thumb to prevent problem drinking. Trying to set a sensible limit on times for drinking, situations, and amounts isn’t a bad start. However, it’s important to realize that the “rules” aren’t uniform for everyone, nor is abusive drinking always a matter of high daily intake.

A person whose method of dealing with public speaking events, sudden stress, or the strain of functioning in a large party is to drink is abusing liquor: rather than enjoying a drink briefly for its own sake, the user is self-medicating, and creating a psychological link between stress and drinking. That link can then lead to more and more serious abuse during stressful times. A binge drinker who “celebrates” by drinking to the point of complete inebriation is similarly abusing drink, using it specifically for the extreme drug-like aspects. The habit-drinker, who limits intake but who has conditioned him or herself to expect a drink at a specific time or place, is also abusing drink. All these behaviors can easily slip from abuse to addiction with very little additional pressure.

Alcoholism: Problem Drinking at its Worst

Once a habit of use has shifted into addiction, problem drinking can spiral out of control. “Celebrations” can come more and more often over less and less exceptional events. “Happy hour” can become “Happy evening,” and eventually “Not-very-happy-lost-weekend.” The single shot before giving a speech can end up being a bottle. The physical changes that define addiction set in, subjecting the victim to an unending cycle of urge, drink, withdrawal, and back to urge. In the meantime, the addiction begins to restructure every level of an addict’s life: work, relationships, play, and health. All are caught up in the racing rapids of the habit.

The depth of change that alcohol inflicts on the body and the degree to which it alters every aspect of life are easily underestimated, even by addicts. People adapt, and come to think of their adaptation as “the new normal.” However, alcoholism isn’t normal, and it can destroy lives.

Escaping from Addiction

To escape from the round of addiction requires courage – and often help. While a very few can quit alone and never relapse, those few are unusual. To get the most consistent results, it’s advisable to find a reliable, respected program for treating alcohol addiction, and to make sure that counseling and post-recovery 12-step follow-up programs are readily available as part of the program or as a coordinated program.

Finding programs like this can be done through various referral resources. A call to a hospital, clinic, or professional referral service can often provide you with choices for further exploration.


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