The fact is, it doesn’t matter what everyone else says. Your family can suggest you need help. Friends may start spending less time with you. Your doctor may be urging you to consider the possibility. Co-workers are distancing themselves. It simply won’t matter. It will not be until we can say to ourselves “I’m an alcoholic, now what?” can any type of healing begin.
It’s always hard to look in the mirror and see what everyone else does. Recognizing faults requires an honesty a lot of us are willing to avoid for our own peace of mind. We don’t want to confront the shame and embarrassment. We often fear what we have to do to change ourselves once we do admit something’s wrong. On top of that, alcoholism itself can be difficult to diagnose. It can be deceptive and confusing. When drinking, we don’t really see how our actions and behavior affects others. When sober, denial, confusion, and justification come into play.
One should define alcoholism in the simplest terms. That would ultimately be I can’t say I know when to stop. We’re not just drinking at social occasions. We start our day with a drink. We’re having drinks during most meals. We drink alone, even when we’re around family. We feel the need to cover up the smell of our breath.
Here are some other things to consider in terms of defining alcoholism.
You spend a lot of time with people you don’t even know. They may be faces you simply recognize. They may be individuals you normally would not spend time with or introduce to real friends or co-workers.
Recognizing one or two of these traits may not make one an alcoholic (though one might want to reconsider their drinking habits). But if you found yourself nodding to several of them, you probably have a drinking problem.
Coming to grips with alcoholism is going to require a self-exploration that many of us don’t want to deal with. It means identifying and connecting to actions and interactions in our life that have had a significantly negative impact. At the center of it is our addiction.
Drinkers have narrowed vision. We usually can’t see when we cross that line from social and moderate drinking to problem drinking. There are many factors that can be attributed to problem drinking. Genetics are critical. Individuals with a family history of alcoholism are more likely to become an alcoholic than one without. People who associate with drinkers could develop drinking problems. The depressed, sufferers of anxiety, bipolar disorders, or other mental health issues tend to unknowingly use alcohol to self-medicate. Social influence can play a part. Native Alaskans and Native Americans have a long history of battling alcoholism.
When we’re looking for answers, we have to look at ourselves. We need to look for, not just signs and symptoms, we need to find the reasons. What is going on in our life that makes us reach for a drink before we even have breakfast? Do we hate our jobs? Are we unhappy in our relationships? Relying on alcohol to function through what should be routine or enjoyable habits, like working or being with family, means we have lost control of our lives and chosen to focus energy on alcohol.
Until we are able to look in the mirror and see the problem is ours — not everyone else’s — will we ever be able to deal with our alcoholism.
There is only one real obstacle to dealing with alcoholism, and that’s denial. The need to drink can be overwhelming and regardless of what it is doing to us and others, we will wrestle to find ways to rationalize our actions. Work, finances, and relationships can crumble around us and we will still seek out reasons to avoid looking in the mirror. The arguments are always the same.
I can stop whenever I want to.
I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t drink every day. And I only drink beer or wine.
Drinking is my problem, not yours.
We have only talked about coming to terms with our drinking, its effects on our mental well-being, and the impact on others. We haven’t touched upon the lethal damage long-term drinking can do to us physically. It can lead to liver and kidney failure. There can be heart problems and cancer.
This, in the end, is how those around us have to deal with our drinking. They must take care of us when we’re no longer able to care for ourselves. Much like they always have, cleaning up our messes, covering for us, working to make ends meet, and lying for us and to themselves.
Look in the mirror and at least tell yourself that’s enough of a reason to reconsider what you’re doing and seek addiction treatment.
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