Arresting Destruction: Recovery from Alcoholism

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Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others. Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.

Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your wife will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink. Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress.

Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss. Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking. Alcoholism involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, but it also involves another element: physical dependence on alcohol. Do you have to drink a lot more than you used to in order to get buzzed or to feel relaxed?

Can you drink more than other people without getting drunk? These are signs of tolerance, which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism. Tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects. Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag.

In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous, so talk to your doctor if you are a heavy drinker and want to quit. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful. You have given up other activities because of alcohol. Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus.

You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. For example, you recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway. Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalize drinking, even when the consequences are obvious. By keeping you from looking honestly at your behavior and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships. While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of trouble. But you are deceiving yourself if you think that your drinking hurts no one else but you. Alcoholism affects everyone around you—especially the people closest to you.

Your problem is their problem. Fact: Alcoholism is NOT defined by what you drink, when you drink it, or even how much you drink. If your drinking is causing problems in your home or work life, you have a drinking problem—whether you drink daily or only on the weekends, down shots of tequila or stick to wine, drink three bottles of beers a day or three bottles of whiskey. Many alcoholics are able to hold down jobs, get through school, and provide for their families.

Some are even able to excel. Over time, the effects will catch up with you.

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Fact: Alcohol is a drug, and alcoholism is every bit as damaging as drug addiction. Alcohol addiction causes changes in the body and brain , and long-term alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your health, your career, and your relationships. Alcoholics go through physical withdrawal when they stop drinking, just like drug users experience when they quit. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can affect all aspects of your life. Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications, affecting virtually every organ in your body, including your brain. Problem drinking can also damage your emotional stability, finances, career, and your ability to build and sustain satisfying relationships.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can also have an impact on your family, friends and the people you work with. Despite the potentially lethal damage that heavy drinking inflicts on the body—including cancer, heart problems, and liver disease—the social consequences can be just as devastating. Alcoholics and alcohol abusers are much more likely to get divorced, have problems with domestic violence, struggle with unemployment, and live in poverty. Drinking problems put an enormous strain on the people closest to you.

Often, family members and close friends feel obligated to cover for the person with the drinking problem. So they take on the burden of cleaning up your messes, lying for you, or working more to make ends meet. Pretending that nothing is wrong and hiding away all of their fears and resentments can take an enormous toll. Children are especially sensitive and can suffer long-lasting emotional trauma when a parent or caretaker is an alcoholic or heavy drinker. It takes tremendous strength and courage to face alcohol abuse and alcoholism head on.

Reaching out for support is the second step. Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach , support is essential. Recovering from alcohol addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. But you will be in a healthier position to finally address them and seek the help you need.

If someone you love has a drinking problem, you may be struggling with a number of painful emotions, including shame, fear, anger, and self-blame. The problem may be so overwhelming that it seems easier to ignore it and pretend that nothing is wrong. But in the long run denying it will bring more harm to you, other family members, and the person with the drinking problem.

If I looked in the mirror in the morning — something, like mornings themselves, I avoided — a bloodshot bobblehead stared back at me. What finally drove me to AA was a phone call from my ex-girlfriend. After five years together, we had broken up and I moved back across the country to live near my sister until I got on my feet.

I hung up on her and got back in the pool. The day next, sober, we spoke for the last time, and everything became clear. I loved my ex-girlfriend. But none of that would happen now because I was a shithead. What the fuck was wrong with me?

Half the time, I had been so drunk I forgot who I was with. I was either a bad person or I had a drinking problem.

Lipstick & Liquor

The drinking problem seemed easier to solve, so I went with that. Nonetheless, observing a few AA meetings is all the exposure most doctors have to addiction medicine, Glaser said. There are many ways people get better. Some people — Europeans, mostly — get better with Naltrexone.

I Used To Be An Alcoholic. Now I'm A Stoner Who Has A Drink Sometimes.

I tried this approach in an outpatient group for recovering addicts, most of them on probation. We were given worksheets that asked us to name five things we liked about ourselves and seven people we could rely on. You leave the bag in a toilet tank to ferment and, after a week or so, filter with the cleanest socks you have.

I kept drinking the kind that came out of bottles. In addiction stories, the hero's journey always ends with getting clean. She battles her psychic demons and comes out on the other side, no longer needing to get fucked up. She realizes that life is better sober. These stories conveniently ignore the fact that getting altered is fun. I still wanted to get altered to celebrate and bond and mourn and make friends and cope with all the shitty parts of life.

It eases the tension of first meetings and smooths the edges of bad days. Despite everything I ruined while drinking, I still believed one of the best parts of adulthood was getting fucked up. So one night, hanging out with my stoner friend Shannon, I put down the bottle and picked up the pipe. At first, I just smoked with Shannon. A few months later, I was sitting at my neighborhood bar having the same conversation about some dumb band or basketball team, and I realized I would rather be at home smoking pot on my couch.

The reason I went out to bars — the reason I drank — was because I was always afraid that I would miss out on something — that something, anything, would happen.

But the reality is, nothing ever did. Her story is dark. Eve grew up poor and was sexually abused as a kid. Starting at age 14, she drank every night, and for the next 10 years, she blacked out every night. After college, Eve got a job in a research lab and frequently went to work still drunk from the night before. She almost ruined her marriage by acting out while drunk, assaulting her husband and flirting with strangers. When Eve started smoking pot and seeing a therapist, she was finally able to quit drinking. I know how she feels.

Help for Alcoholism

There have been no major American studies comparing the effectiveness of abstinence-only sobriety and marijuana substitution. Another study by Amanda Reiman — the manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance — found methamphetamine users who were medical marijuana patients were able to reduce or eliminate their meth use. I used to crave alcohol, even though I knew the consequences.

I sometimes wake and bake on the weekends, but during the week, I wait until after dinner to take my first hit. It enhances rather than incapacitates. The medical establishment has not jumped to embrace cannabis as a treatment for alcoholism. While it is true that I eat more pizza now than I did when I was drinking, alcohol caused far more problems in my life than weed ever has.

Pablo's life changed after one night of drinking.

Compared with the physical and mental effects of alcohol, marijuana seems benign. If pot's a gateway to anything, it's sweatpants and delivery. And pot is probably a more popular substitution tool than we realize. Kenneth Anderson, the founder of an online support group for alcohol users, says Eve and I are part of a large but mostly silent minority. A quarter of his participants effectively use cannabis to reduce their dependence on alcohol or other drugs, Anderson told me.

Weed is still secreted away with sex toys and porn. Some mental health practitioners are warming up to the therapeutic use of cannabis, however. Then there are private treatment centers and rehab clinics. Pot pays the bills. Which is not to say we should do away with status quo approaches to sobriety like treatment centers and AA.