Let’s talk about alcoholism…

People use the word alcoholism and alcoholic but are not always certain of what it means or what it actually is. It is a dependency or addiction to alcoholic drinks.

Some people say that if someone doesn’t drink spirits, they are not really an alcoholic. This is a complete untruth. It does not matter what type of drink the alcoholic prefers, if they habitually get drunk, they are probably an alcoholic.

People say that if someone doesn’t drink every day they are not an alcoholic. Again, this is untrue. Other things that people say are; the person has a job, they pay their bills, they drive, they spend time with their children. All of these things do not preclude alcoholism.

This bell curve shows the drinking habits and toleration of alcoholics. They begin drinking normally like any of us. But they will experience hangovers while many others don’t. Their desire to drink alcohol will increase, so they will drink more. They have an increased tolerance of alcohol, often consuming far more than their friends, and still function at work. However, they will begin to tell lies, especially about how much they drink. They will lie about why they are late, for example, or why they did not arrive where they were expected to be.

After time, the alcoholic will become drunk and have no memory of what they did or said during that time. They will have gained weight, especially around the neck, they may often appear flushed for extended periods of time and hangovers will be miserable.

Hangovers are a genetic hand down. People who get them are damaging their internal organs. Usually the liver and kidneys are damaged most and first, and then the heart. So if you get hangovers, you are very likely to become an alcoholic.

When an alcoholic begins to forget what he did or said while drink, we call it blackout. They may get into someone else’s car and drive it away, they may go home to wrong place, they may sexually assault someone. Anything. I know of someone who got into an ambulance and drove it away.

When someone has blackouts, things are seriously bad for their health. Their liver is failing, their kidneys are working overtime and their heart is far less than healthy. Blackouts can go on for years.

Finally, the alcoholic will stop tolerating large quantities of alcohol. They will begin to shake if they go too long without a drink. They won’t care what they drink, as long as it is alcoholic. Eventually, they may need to relieve themselves often, and even wet themselves.

During all this, they will be obvious of the effect of alcohol in their life and body. Denial is their worst enemy and best friend.

I know someone who died of alcoholism and would never admit he had a problem. I would at times meet him at the train station, and as soon as he got in my car he would ask me to stop at an off-license. I would agree, and planning my head where I could park near one. After a few minutes he would remind me to stop and I would reply that I had somewhere in mind. He would tell me exactly how many we had passed and I would try to prolong the conversation so we could get to my planned stop. He never started drinking in my car, he just needed to know it was in his hands.

He died alone in his flat. He hadn’t been seen for just over two days. The coroner’s report said that he would have had a severe bladder infection which led to kidney infection. He would have probably lost consciousness from high fever as the infection entered his blood stream. Organ failure was the cause of death.

Only one in twenty alcoholics get sober. They have to reach what is known as a rockbottom. This is different for every one. It may be a serious car accident, a heart attack. the break up of a marriage.

We tend to say that only an alcoholic can say whether they are an alcoholic. This is because we want them to have the honesty to admit it. However, an alcoholic can easily be spotted except by the people close to them. One alcoholic will affect up to ten lives, and at least three people will be enabling them to keep drinking without realising it. We call these people co-dependents and they need to recover too.

Do feel free to ask questions. This is only an overview. You may be worried about someone, or living in a situation I have described.