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Monday, December 6, 2010

No Denial Here

                  Alcoholism continued, definition and physical effects  

There are types of alcoholism, stages of alcoholism, in addition to the effects of alcoholism, on the alcoholic's personal life and physical health.  As promised, here is my definition of the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic as well as a listing of some of the effects of overuse of alcohol on the body.

The bottom line with a social drinker is that they can take it or leave it; if someone said to a social drinker that alcohol would never be available to them for the rest of their life, they would just shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well."  Or, "Oh, that's too bad."  But, it would not be seen as a disaster.  They may have a glass of wine with a dinner out at a restaurant but it is thought of and selected, as a part of the meal.  Social drinkers don't drink alone.  They have champagne at celebrations and enjoy the act of toasting; they may enjoy, occasionally, going out with friends for cocktails.  Alcohol can be enjoyed but is not a central focus.  They may have a nice bar set-up in their home, but the purpose is for entertaining.  If long periods of time go on which don't include alcohol, they don't think about it, they don't miss it.  Alcohol is simply not an issue in their lives.

~Conversely, an alcoholic's life revolves around alcohol:  They find reasons to drink.  They plan for or arrange to, be able to drink.  They pay attention to maintaining the supply of alcohol in their house.  Alcoholics who have progressed further-mostly those who have been challenged about their drinking patterns by others in their life-will begin hiding alcohol.  Drinking will be lied about.
 I once knew a woman who was a 'maintenance alcoholic', meaning she drank a little all the time to keep her blood levels at a certain place (and maintain her altered state); she played tennis as a hobby and would have water bottle containers in her car trunk and in her purse which contained alcohol but she would claim that they were bottles of "tennis water".
Encounters with the law, such as a DUI begin to occur.  They may have problems at work such as being chronically late or missing work or going to work hungover; sometimes this individual will have a co-dependent in their life who covers for them.  For example, the co-dependent may call the alcoholic's workplace and make an excuse, such as, "My husband is ill today and can't come to work."
The alcoholic uses alcohol in place of, that is, instead of, using coping mechanisms.  For example, drinking is often used as a way to avoid addressing a life problem.  An alcoholic will use alcohol to alter their state of mind; note how different this is from ordering wine with the purpose of enhancing a meal.  Often a hallmark of alcoholism is that the drinker shifts once they begin drinking and no longer seem to have the same personality that is usual for them.  This last symptom is very hard on young children of alcoholics.
In contrast to the social drinker, for whom alcohol is just one of a myriad of choices in the world, the alcoholic is, in a way, in love with alcohol.  It can become their primary relationship in the sense that they put it first on their priority list.  This aspect can be very hard on the spouse or primary partner of an alcoholic.  Tolerance issues develop in the alcoholic, going up, up up and suddenly, in advanced stages, precipitously down.  High and increasing tolerance is what is commonly noticed by others.
Eventually, there may be physical addiction.

Effects of overuse of alcohol on the body:
"Brain:  Heavy drinking over many years can cause memory, judgment and learning ability to deteriorate severely.  The alcoholic's personality structure and reality orientation may also disintegrate.
Lungs:  Alcohol has a ...poisonous effect on the lungs."
Heart:  It causes "...irreversible damage to the heart muscle.
Liver:  Cirrhosis...occurs eight times more often in alcoholics than among non-drinkers.
Pancreas:  Excessive use of alcohol causes inflammation of the pancreas.
Small intestine:  Alcohol blocks absorption of various..."  nutrients.
Endocrine Glands:  "Alcohol impairs the function of all endocrine glands.
Sex Glands:  Premature senility, including dysfunction and degeneration of the sex glands, result from alcoholism.  Studies have consistently shown that Shakespeare was right when he observed that drink 'provokes the desire, but takes away the performance.'
Blood:  ...causes anemia...
Infection:  Alcohol lowers the body's resistance to disease...
Bone Tissue:  Alcohol creates...brittle bones.
Hands and Feet:  Alcohol causes poly neuritis..." (quotes from paper drafted by Doctors Hospital)
Alcoholics invariably have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Part of taking care of yourself is being honest with yourself about your relationship to alcohol.
(Reading suggestion:  Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family)  Clicking on the label, Alcoholism and addiction (on the right on the blog landing page) will give you a list of 14 posts on the topic or in which this topic is mentioned.

Was it interesting to you to think about the differences between a social drinker and an alcoholic?


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  3. I am a maintenance drinker interested in slowly gradually turning things around.
    I find these reading materials to be inspirational