Those suffering from alcoholism, suffer from a disease. Friends and family will tell you that the person they once knew is no longer the same person. Oftentimes, loved ones don’t even recognize the person sitting in front of them anymore because alcohol changes people. It can make some people angry and argumentative – even violent. Others fall into a stupor and don’t care about anything or anyone around them. Many get depressed and don’t know how to get out from under the cycle of abuse.
Countless people seek alcohol as a coping mechanism because they are stressed out or depressed. Alcohol can have a calming effect that helps these individuals deal with the pressures and stress of everyday life. It provides an escape from reality, and without it, they don’t know how to cope. Interestingly enough, over time, the alcohol that once gave them relief from depression and stress suddenly becomes the source of these problems.
There are four stages of alcoholism. Even those in the first stage should seek help as deterioration and progression through the cycles can occur quite rapidly. Knowing the different stages can help determine how best to treat the alcoholic based on how serious the addiction has become.
In the first stage, the alcoholic is in denial. He doesn’t admit that he has a problem and believes that he can successfully quit drinking at anytime he chooses. His tolerance for alcohol is higher and higher as he needs more in order to give him the initial buzz he once got from less amounts of the drug. He likely drinks everyday, and drinking has become part of the daily routine – even starting in the early morning. Drinking is no longer just a social activity that occurs from time to time.
The second stage consists of even heavier intake. At this point, the person has become dependent. They often start drinking in the morning and persist throughout the day and night. They no longer drink to just feel calm, they are truly addicted.
In the third stage of alcoholism, alcohol begins to take over the person’s life. They may lose the ability to function on a basic level and their addiction starts interfering with daily life. At this point, it is difficult to maintain a job or sustain social relationships with others. They may lose interest in life in general and this is evidenced by reclusion, lack of personal hygiene, and the replacement of daily food needs with alcohol.
The fourth or final stage of the disease is characterized by binges that can last for weeks. Periods of sobriety are rare. Withdrawal symptoms set in when the individual is without a drink for a short period of time. Withdrawals are very uncomfortable and can include shakiness, anxiety, cold sweats, poor sleep, and irritability. Lack of the drug can also manifest itself in the form of headaches, nausea, vomiting, and rapid heartbeat. Some people even experience more serious side effects such as hallucinations or seizures.
It’s never too late to regain control of your life, no matter what stage of alcoholism you may find yourself. Inbound treatment facilities, sober living programs, and fellowship groups like AA have helped numerous people get their lives back on track. As a family member or friend, it is hard to see your loved one suffer from this disease. Knowing the stages can help promote early recovery before it gets too late.