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Understanding Alcoholism to Facilitate Change

Understanding alcoholism and addiction is no easy thing to do because they’re a multi-faceted and complex problem, and have traditionally been totally misunderstood causing them to be a subject of much shame and derision, resulting in those and their loved one’s affected by it tending to cover up and often deny their existence, rather than asking for help and get getting proper treatment.

Even though it’s still a controversial issue, alcoholism and addiction is now medically accepted as a disease because they meet the criteria used to classify a disease, in that they’re primary, progressive, chronic and fatal. You can’t really argue with that, but for me the main thing isn’t what label you can assign to these addictions, but ultimately what you DO to recover from them successfully.

I think the key point to whole Alcoholism as a Disease explanation, is that it hopefully removes some of the shame and stigma attached to being labelled alcoholic/addict, and will encourage people to seek help and treatment, rather than do nothing which is so often the case.

There are various Causes of Alcoholism, the primary one now being regarded as the genetic or hereditary component, with children of alcoholics/addicts far more likely to develop the disease themselves, than those whose families don’t have a history of addiction. Lifestyle and environmental factors are also important causes, but the main thing to realise here is that alcoholism or drug addiction isn’t something you choose, but it tends to happen to you because more likely than not you’re already genetically pre-disposed towards developing an addiction.

The main Symptoms of Alcoholism are loss of control (you can’t stop once you start) and dependence (usually a combination of physical and emotional like getting the shakes when withdrawing and becoming anxious).

Many people mistakenly think you need to drink heavily or use every day and be pretty much down and out to be regarded as an alcoholic or addict. This isn’t the case at all – because many people for example are what we call functional alcoholics who on the face of it appear pretty ‘normal’, but still suffer from addiction. Alcoholism especially isn’t so much a function of how much you drink, but the negative effects it starts having on your life, and not being able to stop despite these.

Beating alcoholism isn’t something easily done by yourself. In fact, I’ve seen very few people manage to do it successfully. Firstly, the initial detox can be dangerous if not done supervised and then there is a lot that needs to happen to treat an addiction effectively - so going through a proper Treatment Program is always the recommended course of action.

But that’s only the first step in leaving a life of addiction behind you. Because working a proper Recovery Based Program is crucial if you’re going to avoid relapsing and go from strength to strength in your new life. Addiction is a cunning and complex disease, so requires vigilant and consistent effort to effect positive change on all levels, i.e. spiritually, mentally/emotionally and physically.

This tends to be the step where most miss the bus and end up relapsing because they’re not committed to their recovery and making the changes they need to. AA and NA still remain the most effective recovery programs available because they facilitate change on all those levels. But no matter how good any program – what you get out is directly proportionate to what you put in.

Understanding alcoholism, especially from the perspective of a family member or loved one of an alcoholic can be especially frustrating because you always feel there is something more you should be doing, and want to know what else you can do to help. There is unfortunately no magic cure and reality is that the only way the addict in your life is ever going to achieve sobriety is by taking responsibility for their life and choices they make. So it’s crucial that you remember these principles when dealing with someone suffering from an addiction: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and neither can you cure it.

I’ve tried giving you a basic overview when it comes to understanding alcoholism and addiction. So feel free to click on the various links to provide more detail on the different topics covered

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