Drinking alcohol is a progressive disease. Over time, an alcoholic’s drinking becomes more and more out of control. Whether they know it or not, their drinking eventually begins to take over their lives. Alcoholics may think they “have it under control” or that they can control the disease, but in fact, it’s the other way around—the disease of alcoholism and addiction controls the person.
It’s possible for an alcoholic to stay at the same level of drinking for a long time. Eventually, however, more and more of it is needed to feed their disease, to dull stressful thoughts and pain. The habit continues to work itself into every aspect of the alcoholic’s life.
This progressive nature of drinking is why many alcoholics find themselves in rehab or going to meetings. They may have hit rock bottom, experienced blackouts, gotten in trouble with the law, diagnosed with a disease, or ruined their relationships, career and financial life—just to name a few.
Perpetuating the Cycle
It's widely thought that many people are genetically predisposed to alcoholism, making it harder for them to battle the disease. However, alcoholism is unique in the sense that the person’s chance for a full recovery can be heavily influenced by adjusting one’s environment and personal choices, unlike with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cancer.
Family, social or work life stress are some of the top reasons alcoholics tend to up their drinking. Many alcoholics say they drink to “wash away” problems, quell their anxieties, nervous thoughts or depression. Basically, when things get tough, drinking accelerates.
Alcohol provides many alcoholics a high that they continue to seek time and time again. But the vicious cycle is only further perpetuated as the depressant nature of alcohol causes them to feel more depressed, bringing them back to drink again.
The Stages of Alcoholism
Many alcoholics have been through the same stages of alcoholism. The beginning stage may start with the alcoholic sneaking drinks, having a preoccupation with drinking, lying to others about their drinking and building a tolerance to alcohol.
Over time, though, the drinking becomes more insistent. The alcoholic starts to need the drink. They may begin trying to quit, going back and forth between drinking and not drinking. They may start to get morning shakes, and their relationships and jobs may begin to suffer. Depression, binging and anxiety may get worse.
Finally, once drinking has become full swing, the alcoholic may begin to notice their health failing. They may begin to weaken physically as well as emotionally, and a vague cloud of anxiety, fear, and depression looms. Thus, they may be no longer able to take care of relatives or children, or work.
Breaking the Cycle
To break the pattern of addiction, you have to deliberately change existing patterns of living and thinking. To achieve this, you must first admit that you’re trapped in a cycle and have the willingness to stop it. Remember, alcoholism gets worse and, without exerting any effort to stop, does not get better with time.
Alone, however, pulling oneself out of the alcoholic cycle is a difficult feat. When the disease becomes unbearable, those who seek help can increase their chances of recovering their life.
For many, help comes in the form of support groups. For others, it may require hospitalization or a particular type of treatment. The important thing is to learn about all the recovery options available and find what’s best for you.