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Understanding Alcoholism…

Do I Need Help?

We are all familiar with the term “alcoholism” and “alcoholic”, but do we know enough about the actual disease of alcoholism to help ourselves, or other people we know, make healthy choices and positive change in our lives. There are many misconceptions about alcoholism and those who are alcoholic, which keep people from seeking treatment. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the definition of alcoholism reads like this:

“Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive...and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notable denial”.

"How can I tell if I have a drinking problem?" Answer these questions to help you find out:

            Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?

            Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

            Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?

            Have you ever had a drink first thing in morning (as an “eye opener”) to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, you may need to speak to someone who can help you lead a healthier, happier life. Accepting the fact that you, or someone else, should seek help is not easy, but the payoffs are enormous!

"I’m not sure I’m ready to make changes in my life." Readiness to stop using substances is the reason 39% of people do not seek treatment. If you are even thinking about yourself now, see if you can find yourself in the following “Stages of Change”:

Precontemplation Stage – You are probably unaware that you have a problem, until someone else approaches you. You may be thinking about “thinking about” making change”.

Contemplation Stage– You are thinking about making change, but still go back and forth, trying to justify drinking and making positive change. It is quite easy to get stuck in this stage.

Determination Stage – You realize that something must change and you begin to make a plan to take action within a month. You are thinking more about the future than the past.

Action Stage– In this stage, you are actively making behavioral change, such as going to counseling, 12-Step meetings, or other treatment. You are also identifying and changing other areas of your life which have been affected by your drinking – relationships with family and friends, job performance, physical and emotional health, legal or financial problems, etc.

Maintenance Stage – Your challenge in this stage is to sustain the positive changes you have made in your life.

Where are you in the process of change?

"Why can’t I just stop drinking?" Some people who are not alcoholic cannot understand why people can just use their own “willpower” to stop drinking. But alcoholism has little to do with willpower. The unrelenting “craving”, or uncontrollable need, for alcohol exceeds their ability to stop. This need is usually as powerful as our need for food and water. Alcohol hijacks our brain, but with some meaningful work, we can unlearn behaviors that have kept us hostage!

"I think I need to talk with someone." There are many resources, and very kind people available to assist you in moving through this process. You are not alone. Reach for the telephone. It’s OK…’s what we do when we feel like this. 


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