SoberRecovery Glossary of Recovery Terms
Alcoholism is the compulsive need an individual has to drink
alcoholic beverages to excess, over and over again. Alcoholism
is both physical (physiological) and mental (psychological).
Individuals addicted to alcohol are known as alcoholics, although
sometimes the terms alcohol abuser and alcohol dependence are
also used. Alcoholics driven by both physical and mental need
to continue using the addictive substance, regardless of the consequences.
It’s impossible to tell in advance if any particular individual
will become addicted to alcohol. There is some evidence of a genetic
component in alcoholism and statistics certainly indicate children
of alcoholics are more apt to become problem or alcoholic drinkers.
On the other hand, not all children of alcoholics become alcoholic
and not every alcoholic has a parent who is also alcoholic. There
is also some evidence that people can drink themselves into alcoholism—that
is, at least some who drink to excess over time will become alcoholic.
Given the uncertainties, the only certain way to avoid alcoholism
is to avoid alcohol altogether.
The only solution for the alcoholic is to quit using alcohol
in any form entirely. This is most often successfully accomplished
through some sort of treatment program. The best-known and most
successful treatment program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA
members practice the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These Steps
most often learned and practiced through AA meetings. AA meetings
can be found all over the world.
There are also programs that eschew the 12 Step approach and
provide other methods, largely based on psychology and/or self-control.
Alcoholics may benefit from residential treatment centers, which
generally require stays of up to 30 days or longer. Stays in these
centers are most often paid for by the family of the alcoholic
and are not cheap. The goal of these centers is to put the alcoholic
in a supportive environment while new habits of behavior are learned.
Most centers also use the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as
part of their program.