Alcohol abuse may start innocently enough. Letting off steam on the weekends, sporting events where you tie on a few too many, grabbing a buddy to hit the bar scene after a break-up. No one intentionally sets out to engage in alcohol abuse or set the stage for alcoholism, but all too often that's exactly what happens.
There's a lot of misconceptions swirling around about the notion of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. While alcohol abuse is often a precursor to alcoholism, this is not always the case. Someone can abuse alcohol and not be an alcoholic. The difference lies in the genetic make-up of each individual. People predisposed to alcoholism have a genetic predisposition that results in processing alcohol differently than others. This makes it difficult for them to stop drinking once they start. This phenomenon is known as craving. Craving for alcohol occurs on a mental and physical level, and can be so intense in alcoholics that everything else goes out the window. Work, school, relationships, responsibilities - all have been known to fall by the wayside in order to satisfy the craving for alcohol.
This is a considerable difference from someone who may begin drinking heavily after the loss of a loved one. Major life trauma or transitions can lead an individual to abuse alcohol in order to cope with grief and stress. While this is not the healthiest behavior, neither does it mean someone is an alcoholic. The best indicator is life management. If someone drinks, even heavily, but maintains significant responsibilities such as family, work, school and health, then counseling may be a more appropriate course of action than alcohol rehab. However, if after a period of time alcohol abuse continues instead of abates, then professional help to determine whether alcohol rehab is necessary should be sought.
Where alcohol abuse generally occurs in response to life situations, alcoholism is a set of behavioral and personality problems that lends itself to drinking regardless of the circumstances. In any event, if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism it's a good idea to seek professional help. A counselor, therapist or intake coordinator at an alcohol rehab can help evaluate your alcohol use and determine whether you need the structured environment of alcohol rehab to overcome it.