Craving beer after a hard day at work isn’t a sign of addiction. The occasional desire for a glass of wine with a good book poses no problems for the average person. When does that change? Do you need something to take the edge off a bad day every day? Do you use euphemisms for drink like cold one, bubbly, or glass of “something?” You could have a problem.
There are two types of alcoholics. The drunk doesn’t just drink one beer but a six-pack followed by several glasses of liquor. This is the binge drinker who loses whole days to blackouts and hangovers. Drinking can start any time of day and he doesn’t bother making excuses.
The second type of alcoholic is more socially acceptable. He only consumes beer or wine. Usually, he has just a few each night, perhaps a six-pack; maybe two or three glasses of wine. His habits don’t draw the attention of others because he waits for “happy” hour, even at home, and only drinks spirits at weekends. This alcoholic needs a drink every night.
Situation 2 is harder to recognize because this person doesn’t usually stagger in public, fall asleep at the bar, or drink until he’s sick. His hangovers are mild and he functions, but in each case above addiction is signified by reliance on a substance not simply to get past a stressful day but to handle life in general.
How Alcohol Changes People
Behaviors often alter when one drinks. Sometimes it starts with insomnia and turns into a person’s sleeping drug. Not being able to drink wine before bed causes anxiety over how to get to sleep without it. People become less inhibited or more violent.
With an inflated sense of good judgement, they make poor decisions which hurt others and themselves. Co-dependents (family and close friends of an alcoholic) might also make excuses for this person and become withdrawn from society.
Sometimes they enable the alcoholic by trying to ignore the behavior, being too forgiving about regular bruises, or making ultimatums but never following through. They leave but return and fail to bring help with them.
It’s the fortunate alcoholic whose family stands beside him and tries to get help. An intervention specialist is someone who consults with the families of addicts before confronting a substance abuser.
Intervention starts with team meetings that don’t involve the alcoholic; meetings during which participants learn about what’s happening to a loved one, their choices, his choices, and what an intervention will look like. They make agreements and decide to follow a certain path together.
The result of their meetings is a kind of pact to gently confront the person with his problem together, lay out the evidence, and tell him what his options are. Together, co-dependents usually make an “If…then” statement: “If you stop drinking, then we will stay and get you help; if you continue to drink, you must leave or I will go and I’m taking the kids with me.”
In an ideal world the alcoholic’s denials turn into tearful admission and he accepts help. The interventionist knows what to do in this case.
Substance abusers with a long-time habit of excessive drinking need medical support immediately. Another binge could lead to alcohol poisoning and detox is necessary. Private and public centers adopt different approaches, but usually this individual is given IV fluids and pain killers as needed for the symptoms of withdrawal that are sure to follow.
These symptoms include shaking, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and severe depression. Having avoided drink only during a blackout, an alcoholic’s body relies on the substance to function and learning to do without is painful. Withdrawal for the second type of alcoholic isn’t as extreme, but he requires support too.
After detox, both the binge drinker and social addict will meet in a gender-specific rehab setting. They attend counseling one-on-one and support groups. The heaviest drinkers sometimes segue back into the real world by staying at a halfway house first. Here, they co-operate with a household of others in recovery where social workers help them find work and transition back home.
In the long-term, it’s a good idea to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a means of support to deny cravings that resurface and threaten to undo the good of rehab.