While many illegal drugs can lead to addictions after just a single dose, the effects of alcohol addiction are more likely to creep up unawares. Over time it is all too easy to move from thinking that you’re just enjoying a drink to realizing that you may have developed a dependency.
But how do you know? As it turns out there are five key factors that you should consider if you wonder whether you have an alcohol addiction. Too many people visualize the dirty, scruffy unemployed guy. However it’s just as likely that you’re a “functional alcoholic” – you manage to hold down a job and a relationship so clearly you can’t be addicted to alcohol. And if you are, who cares?
The fact is though that alcohol addiction, whether it allows you to function in everyday life or not, is still a terrible affliction. For one it can cost a lot of money to keep on buying that alcohol; and the more you drink, the more of a resistance you build up, so the more it costs to get that same high.
It’s dangerous too. Alcohol is a key driver of all manner of unpleasant diseases. For one it’s now reckoned on being the second most important risk factor for contracting cancer.
The long and short of it is that it’s essential to retain control over your drinking. It’s vital that you don’t develop an addiction – and that if you do you quickly undergo treatment as soon as possible to rid yourself of your dependence.
But what signs should you be looking for in your alcohol consumption, to tell whether you may be developing an addiction for it?
Drinking To Feel “Normal”
People without an alcohol dependence will generally drink for pleasure alone. What can set alcoholics apart is this reason for drinking; many alcoholics will feel the need to drink “just because”. They develop withdrawal symptoms without and feel the need to drink just to feel “normal” again.
Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms
Individuals with more advanced levels of alcohol addiction may be unfortunate enough to experience physical withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol. Such symptoms may include shaking, sweating or dizziness, yet will usually subside after alcohol consumption. In this alcohol can start to form a very real “crutch” – helping the alcohol dependent to still function in a normal way.
Hiding Your Drinking
If you find yourself drinking excessively on a regular basis, it will likely only be a matter of time until friends or family members start to discuss the situation with you. They may well be concerned over your level of alcohol consumption and over time this can lead to family rifts and relationship problems – even if you’re still functioning fine.
In these cases, many alcoholics will start to hide their drinking. Perhaps you drink alone from time to time or brush your teeth after consuming alcohol. Maybe you dispose of empty bottles or cans in public bins – or at least in black bags – to prevent family members or neighbours from seeing how much alcohol you’re really consuming.
Many alcoholics start to develop a routine of alcohol consumption, partaking in it at specific times of the day. A “swift pint” at lunchtime or straight after work can be common examples. However a key symptom of a developing alcohol problem can be a feeling of irritability – even anger – in cases where this routine is interrupted. A lunchtime meeting, or an off license selling out of your drink of choice, are minor annoyances to many people yet can quickly frustrate an alcoholic.
Knowing Your Limits
Another sign of a developing alcohol dependency is the inability to stop drinking when you’ve reached your limit. Most non-alcoholics would have no problem stopping drinking when they’ve reached their limit. However an alcoholic may feel they have such a need for alcohol that they continue to drink well past this point, perhaps passing out from alcohol consumption.
Drinking in Risky Situations
While many people will enjoy a drink on a Friday night, over the weekend or at a wedding, most people limit their drinking to times which won’t have a negative impact on their everyday life. Many of us can happily visit a pub or bar during a work day and consume nothing but soft drinks.
A worrying sign of alcohol dependence can be an increased tendency or likelihood to drink at inappropriate times. Examples of this might be when you are looking after someone else’s children or shortly before driving a car. Most non-alcoholics would avoid consuming alcohol in these situations but those with an alcohol dependency may feel they still “need” or “deserve” a drink in these situations and may truly believe there is no problem with it.
Worrying About Running Out
One final point that might indicate a developing problem with alcohol is a genuine worry about running out of alcohol. As dependence deepens, so the thought of coping with everyday situations without alcohol in your system can become unpleasant. Consequently running out of alcohol can be enough to cause panic to many alcoholics, who will feel obliged to go out and find more no matter what the time of day.
If you experience any of the symptoms outlined above you may be developing some form of alcohol addiction. Is is consequently important, if any of these points sound familiar, that you consider getting help to ensure that you beat your addiction before it has a long lasting negative impact on your life.