Not everyone who drinks alcohol will have a problem with it. In fact, the majority of people in the UK can enjoy alcohol sensibly and will only ever drink in moderation. However, there are still millions of British people for whom alcohol is a very real problem. Unfortunately, many do not even realise that they have crossed the line from habitual drinker to an alcoholic. For them, the symptoms of alcoholism are not so easy to recognise.
Denial forms a large part of addiction, and those with alcoholism are often unable to see the seriousness of the situation they are in. These persons may be aware that they drink more than they should, but they just cannot see themselves as being classed an ‘alcoholic’. The reason for this may be because they have a personal idea of what it actually means.
Negative stereotyping of individuals with addiction often means that people cannot recognise the symptoms of alcoholism in themselves. They believe that alcoholics are those who drink as soon as they wake up and continue drinking until they pass out. They may also be of the opinion that alcoholics live on the streets, are estranged from their families, and drink cheap cider or wine.
Denial prevents people from recognising the symptoms of alcoholism, and it also stops them from getting the help they need. Those who are in denial will rationalise their drinking habits and often underestimate the amount of alcohol they drink. They will lie to themselves and others and will find it easier to practice denial than to face up to the truth. They may choose to look past problems with finances, loved ones and colleagues because facing up to reality may mean they have to stop drinking.
Some alcoholics will downplay any negative consequences caused by their drinking and will often say that concerned loved ones are exaggerating. This means they will continue to drink and put their health at risk.
It is important to realise that anyone can be affected by alcoholism. This is not an illness that affects a specific type of person. Those with alcoholism often have loving families, nice homes, good jobs and, to the outside world, show no signs of the problems they are struggling with. They are known as high-functioning alcoholics, and because they can continue to go to work and provide for their family, they are in danger of never getting the help they need.
The problem with alcoholism is that it is a progressive illness, and it’s hard to spot the warning signs. Nevertheless, early intervention is often the key to successful recovery. There are some symptoms that can signal the beginning of an alcohol problem, such as drinking more often than before or drinking larger amounts than before. If you notice that you need to drink more than you used to in order to achieve the desired effect, it could be that your body has become tolerant to alcohol. If you continue in this vein, you could be heading for trouble.
You may be adamant that you do not have an alcohol problem, but loved ones have expressed concerns. Because you do not fit the profile of an alcoholic, you may be assuming that you could not possibly be addicted. However, remember that alcoholism can affect anyone. There is no blood test to diagnose the problem; the only way to know for sure is to look at your drinking habits. One of the simplest ways to confirm whether you are physically dependent on alcohol is to stop drinking. If you notice that you experience withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, nausea, vomiting and headaches when you go without a drink for a period of time, you most likely have a problem. Ask yourself the following questions to be sure:
If you have answered yes to two of more of the above questions, then you may have an alcohol problem. If you also feel ashamed or guilty about your drinking and lie to family members about how much you drink, then you almost certainly need help.
Many people do not recognise the symptoms of alcoholism because they have never tried to quit. They are the people who started off having a glass of wine at the weekend before moving on to a glass with dinner every evening. Without even realising, they have progressed to two glasses and then a bottle. The more they drink, the more they become tolerant to the effects of the alcohol. They do not even realise that the bottle of wine they drink every night now, has the same effect that the one glass of wine once did.
Their bodies have become accustomed to the bottle of wine every night, and they do not feel ‘drunk’. However, they are developing a physical dependence on alcohol and are damaging their body with every drink they take.
It is only when they stop drinking for whatever reason, that they realise they no longer have control over their alcohol intake. They experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking and quickly realise that the only way to make these symptoms subside is with alcohol. And so, the cycle of alcoholism begins.