About the Disease of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a disease that impacts every aspect of the sufferer’s life—from relationships to work to physical health. The Mayo Clinic defines alcoholism as a “chronic and often progressive disease,” with symptoms that include continuing to drink even when it harms you and causes problems in your life, difficulty controlling your drinking, and physical dependence.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Understanding what stage of alcoholism an alcoholic is at helps to place them at the proper level of treatment. Its progression can be identified by these stages of alcoholism:
Stage #1 – Binging Drinking
Most people who don’t have alcohol problems are social drinkers. At the social drinking stage, you can take alcohol or leave it. You can control how much you drink and seldom drink to intoxication, and exhibit little or no alcoholic behavior. This has also been described as having access to alcohol rather than use of it. For the social drinker, drinking is a secondary activity engaged in at social functions. At later stages of alcoholism, priorities will shift and social activities will become opportunities to drink.
Stage #2 – Increased Frequency of Use
The second stage of alcoholism is where the first signs of alcoholic behavior tend to appear, though many individuals in the pre-alcoholic stage will still appear typical to outside observation. In the second stage, you begin indulging in non-social drinking to reduce stress or tension. A tolerance begins to appear, allowing you to consume increasingly large amounts of alcohol without being obviously affected. The first signs of alcoholic behavior include “sneaking” drinks and feelings of guilt associated with drinking. Individuals in the pre-alcoholic stage will often seek out other heavy drinkers, and begin to lose interest in activities that don’t involve drinking.
Stage #3 – Problematic Early Stage of Alcoholism
As you enter the third stage of alcoholism, occasional drinking to relieve stress becomes frequent or habitual drinking to relieve stress. You begin to view drinking as the solution to problems, and problems that demand drink seem to continuously appear. Alcoholic behaviors exhibited in the pre-alcoholic stage intensify, and tolerance continues to increase.
Stage #4 – Alcohol Dependency
By the time the fourth stage of alcoholism arrives, friends, family, and coworkers have probably begun to notice that something is wrong. You may be missing days at work or school, or having other performance or disciplinary problems. You experience blackouts and lost time. By this point, tolerance has become dependence.
Stage #5 – Alcoholism
At the fifth stage, alcohol has completely taken over your life. Signs of long-term abuse begin to manifest, including health problems like cirrhosis of the liver or cardiomyopathy.
Alcoholism affects different people differently, and no two alcoholics will go through the exact same series of stages or exhibit the exact same symptoms. That’s why treatment for alcoholism isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but should be tailored to the needs of the individual. Non 12-step treatment program treats the whole person, not just their alcoholism, so that you can get your life back on the right track.