There is a lot of confusion amongst the general public regarding the issue of alcoholism. Most people assume that an alcoholic is simply one who over-indulges in a substance which every other drinker can handle responsibly and in moderation.
Others automatically presume an alcoholic to be of weak moral character and strength, lazy and self-indulgent with nothing to contribute to society. They are known to lie, cheat, steal in order to get what they want and are even known to be sexually aggressive or obsessive.
But what about the working man who comes back home after a hard day at the office and downs three drinks before dinner every night and drinks socially over the weekend as well? Are they not alcoholics too?
How is it that some social or even daily drinkers can live normal, healthy personal, social and professional lives while others become raging alcoholics?
Simply put: alcoholism is a disease where one develops a dependence on alcohol.
Consider this. If alcoholism is nothing more than a self-induced state of being, why is it then that most doctors and even the World Health Organisation regard alcoholism to be a serious life-threatening disease that needs medical intervention, which may even require admission into a rehabilitation facility.
The easiest ways to diagnose alcoholism is cravings; physical, mental and emotional. But while the physical withdrawals and mental urges can initially be treated or controlled with medicines, the emotional cravings have no pharmaceutical solution.
While the debate continues over its causes (such as genetics), there are certain symptoms or personality traits in some individuals which make them more prone to alcoholism or other addictions.
The most prominent of these as identified by Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) are known as R.I.D.:
People who experience these three feelings are generally more likely to turn to alcohol as a crutch to numb these sensations. While initially, it may take just a drink or two to gain some sense of relief, as the tolerance levels for alcohol in their brain increases, they require more and more to achieve that same degree of satisfaction. This is what leads to dependence.
Alcoholism, like any other form of substance abuse, means reliance on or excessive use of alcohol despite being aware of the negative consequences; physical, social and emotional.
Ask yourself these 4 simple questions:
1. Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking – telling you what to do? YES/NO
2. Have you had problems related with drinking in the past year? YES/NO
3. Do you feel that you can stop drinking at any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don’t mean to? YES/NO
4. Has your drinking caused trouble at home? YES/NO
If you answered YES to these 4 questions, then you have a problem with alcohol.
Alcoholics tend to believe, despite repeated failed attempts to abstain, that they are in control over alcohol when in actuality, it is the reverse which is true.
Over time, alcoholics actually become allergic to alcohol. The physical aspects of these allergies too can be life threatening; such as liver damage and other ailments such as diabetes.
Like diabetes or high blood pressure, alcoholism is also a chronic disease which requires life-long attention. Sadly, unlike many other such diseases, medical science is yet to come up with a regiment of treatment or drug which can completely treat or manage alcoholism.
Unfortunately, due to either lack of support, knowledge, financial problems, or the social stigma attached with it, less than one in a hundred people afflicted with alcoholism receive treatment for it. Worse still, it is a sad fact that six out of ten who do obtain treatment are likely to relapse sooner or later. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the treatment has failed or that the person is doomed.
There are many inspirational cases of those who, with the right kind of therapy and guidance, go back to living happy, sober and healthy lives. The answer lies in a change of lifestyle, and emotional and spiritual growth through psychological counselling.
But these are topics for later discussion.
An alcoholic, or addicts to any other illicit substances, unless they choose to dive into recovery, will eventually be abandoned or have no one to depend on. From there, the only three roads available to them lead either to jail, mental institutions, or an ugly death.
So, if you or someone close to you has alcohol-related issues, admit to or identify the problem and if you wish for a change for the better, take the first step and approach a de-addiction specialist doctor/therapist who will help you assess, identify the disease and point you in the right direction.
by Anshuman Chowdhary