You might be wondering whether you should stop drinking for many reasons. There may have been instances where you fought with friends, wrecked your car, or made bad decisions that would have been otherwise avoided had it not been for your alcohol addiction. Like last spring, where you missed your flight for a conference when you celebrated too hard the night before the trip. Or maybe it’s as simple as feeling tired at work after one or two drinks the previous day.
Your health could be suffering physically even from casual drinking. Alcohol can shrink the frontal lobes of the brain, dehydrate the body, and cause diarrhea and sexual dysfunctions. The subtle consequences of alcohol abuse include mood swings, memory loss, headaches, and hangovers, which tend to get worse and last longer as you age.
What Should I Know About Alcohol Addiction?
More than 88,000 deaths are attributed annually to alcohol-related issues in the United States. Alcohol ranks as the third highest lifestyle-related cause of death. About 40 percent of U.S. hospital beds are taken by people suffering from alcohol-related health conditions.
Alcohol addiction can cause social problems, psychiatric problems, financial problems and gastrointestinal problems such as pancreatitis and gastritis. Dementia, neuropathy and stroke often result from alcohol abuse. Other problems caused or exacerbated by alcohol include inflammatory damage, liver and performance issues.
Alcohol dependence or addiction often generates more severe symptoms and consequences. People build up a tolerance to alcohol over time, and a person can find that one or two drinks feel like “nothing.” However, the body still experiences alcohol-related problems such as slurred speech, mood swings, slower reaction times and faulty judgment.
Signs of alcohol abuse include:
- You drink to relieve stress.
- Everything you do socially involves alcohol.
- Hangovers slow you down in the morning.
- You can’t stick to the limits you set.
- Alcohol-related issues cause problems at work.
- You’ve begun to sneak alcohol or hide your drinking.
- Your physical appearance has deteriorated.
Alcohol addiction isn’t hard to define. If alcohol is causing problems in your life, you’re heading toward dependence and addiction. You don’t need to hit rock bottom before getting help.
Treating Alcohol Dependence
There is never a quick-fix for treating alcohol dependence: addictions are aggravated by multiple problems including mental disorders, work problems, family issues, the list goes on. Treating the root cause of alcohol dependence is just as important as treating the addiction itself.
There are many long-term benefits for stopping or reducing your drinking. Your health will recuperate, and your attitude and mood will improve to be more like your normal, sunny self. Other benefits of quitting drinking include:
- Saving more money because you’re not spending hundreds a week on booze.
- Getting restful sleep.
- Engaging with people socially in meaningful ways instead of meeting people in bars.
- Generating more time to work on hobbies, projects or time with family and kids.
Alcohol recovery is a process that usually involves setbacks and “falling off the wagon,” a term coined specifically for alcoholics. Some people get discouraged when they relapse, but you can recommit to sobriety each time you fail. If you slip up, it shouldn’t discontinue your efforts of remaining alcohol-free.
What if a Loved One Has a Problem With Alcohol?
Ultimately, each person must recognize and treat their own alcohol problems. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help others seek sobriety. If a loved one is suffering, you can speak up and encourage them to find treatment. Try including them in activities that don’t involve drinking. Other actions you can take to encourage a loved one to treat alcoholism include:
- Talk to a healthcare professional.
- Learn about alcoholism and its symptoms.
- Talk to your loved one with honesty and empathy.
- Offer support for quitting, but refuse to enable the addiction.
- Intervene in extreme cases where life and death are immediate issues.
Supporting a loved one is critical for long-term success because success usually takes multiple attempts and a long-term strategy. You can’t convince someone to get help and assume it will be an easy fix from there. Monitor your loved one’s progress, and offer to go to meetings with him or her. Avoid drinking around this person, even in social situations where others are drinking.
Should I Get Help to Stop Drinking?
When you decide to get help or want to encourage a loved one to do so, it’s usually a gradual process and not a spur of the moment decision. Only you can decide when you’re ready to admit that drinking interferes with your life and is costing you in many ways. Maybe you can no longer recover from your hangovers as you did when you were younger. Perhaps you were ahead of the curve at work and went out to celebrate only to find yourself behind schedule a couple of days later.
If you’ve become dependent on alcohol, you might detect these physical symptoms when you stop drinking:
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Difficulty sleeping
- Shaking and sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Trouble concentrating
These are the different levels of alcohol addiction. Maybe you only succumb to alcohol-related peer pressure occasionally, but even occasional social drinking can result in DUIs, accidents and reduced performance at work. If you’re struggling with alcohol, it’s recommended that you quit.
The first step is admitting the problem. Comparisons don’t help: what does it matter if you drink less than your neighbor if it’s affecting your work? You might be able to join a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but if your symptoms are extreme, consider finding a treatment program. Alcohol kills more than 240 people each day, and it’s a very dangerous addiction.
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