The New Year brings about a lot of self-reflection. For some it’s exciting, another opportunity to chase down goals, for others it can be scary and overwhelming staring down another year of struggle. One quick search on online message boards and you’ll find post after post with the same question, “Am I an alcoholic?”
These posts are filled with shame and confusion. Parents talk about how they don’t want to be a disappointment to their children. Spouses mention not wanting to talk about it with their partner because they don’t want to disappoint them. There are posts from college students wondering if they could be addicted to alcohol even if they’re only 22 years old. We constantly get calls to our service line asking about how to approach a friend or family member because they are too anxious to call themselves. Or, they are just unaware that others worry that they have a problem.
Addiction to alcohol is not defined by a certain amount or what kind of alcohol a person drinks. Someone who is addicted to alcohol has a strong desire to drink as often as possible. The craving is so strong that will power alone can’t stop it. This is not a question of “just say no!” Addiction is a disease and is no more likely to stop than pneumonia without treatment. We never expect someone with a broken leg to “man up and run the marathon.” This is a disease that affects the brain and, the craving is driven by the unconscious brain. It is not under conscious control.
If you’re giving up healthy activities and relationships to maintain your drinking habit, it may be time to look for help. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has a self-test you can take. Regardless of the answers, if you’re googling, “Could I be an alcoholic?” it’s best to meet with a healthcare provider for a full evaluation. Our website also has self-tests and also a test for others to take to decide whether their concerns about you are justified.
Some symptoms of alcohol use disorder, the precursor to full blown addiction and definitely requiring attention and treatment, include:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Mood swings
- Trembling Hands
- Flushed skin
- Increased tolerance to substances
- Heightened secrecy
Many people try to quit cold turkey and get upset when they can’t fight the cravings. They feel like they’re weak and just need to try harder, but alcohol cravings occur in the unconscious part of the brain.
As scary as this time is, it’s important to know that you can get sober and life can get better. Remember as alone as you may feel, there are people to support you. Even if you think you’ve pushed away your family and friends, you can find support at AA meetings and online. Many people who are struggling with alcohol addiction are surprised to find out that even though they may be estranged from their family or ashamed to ask for help, many of their family members and friends want nothing more than to support them and help them on their road to recovery.
Meet Peter and Sarah
I want to introduce you to two inspiring people, Peter and Sarah, who sat down with us last year to talk about their interventions. They have both been through the ARISE® Continuing Care with Intervention process. Peter is a musician who had been struggling with alcohol and pills for years. He had gotten to the point where he knew he needed help. He called the ARISE® Service Line and told us he wanted to do his own intervention. In Sarah’s case, it was her family who called ARISE® for help.
Whether this is the first time you’ve reached out, or the 20th time, there’s always hope
We want you to remember that you’re not alone and that there are others out there who have been where you are and are now living happy and sober lives.
If you would like to learn more about the ARISE® Network, you can call our free service line (877-229-5462) or send us an email.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ~C.S. Lewis