How does one know if they are an alcoholic?
There is a simple test we can take by asking ourselves the following questions about ourselves or a loved one.
- Has the person tried to cut down their drinking?
- Does the person get annoyed if he/she is asked how many drinks he/she has had?
- Has the person felt guilty about something they did while drinking?
- Does the person drink in the morning?
Answering yes to one of these questions is a warning signal. Answering yes to two or more questions indicates a high probability that the person has alcohol addiction/abuse. Answering yes to three or more questions indicates that addiction is present.
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Find out about treatment schedules and how outpatient recovery works.
What problems are associated with alcohol addiction?
Problems from Drinking Occur in 5 Major Categories
Physical: Alcohol is a drug and a toxin. Drugs alter the body’s function. In the liver it may be to cause fatty build up and later scarring and finally cirrhosis. In the brain it may slow down brain functions causing slurred speech, loss of balance and loss of motor and sensory function. Repetitive damage may lead to permanent injury. In the pancreas enzymes that normally should be activated only when they reach the intestine to digest food may be activated while they are still in the pancreas, leading to painful pancreatitis.
In the stomach alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and can lead to ulcers, reflux esophagitis, gastritis and nausea with or without vomiting. Chronic alcohol intake may also lead to gastrointestinal bleeding from the stomach, esophagus or ulcers. Diarrhea and malabsorption and poor nutrition are also physical consequences of alcohol. Alcohol commonly is avoided by people with migraine headaches because it makes the headaches worse. Alcohol causes accidents and fights, so there are multiple orthopedic problems that result from alcohol.
Mental/Emotional: There are direct effects of alcohol on the brain function that include such effects are relaxation and euphoria (when the cortical awareness of problems is inhibited, our emotional alarm circuits are inhibited and certain reward circuits in the brain are stimulated). Alcohol also can affect memory, at times leading to a black out (usually when the blood alcohol is over .25 gm/% (three times the legal limit).
In a black out the person may appear to be registering what is being said, but later questioning reveals that no memory of the event or the conversation was formed. When the cortex is inhibited, judgment is lost and the ability to inhibit impulses is lost. Driving reflexes and response times are slowed and judgment is impaired. For some alcohol does not produce much euphoria and instead the person may feel more depressed when they drink, or more sleepy.
Anxiety can be worsened by alcohol, even when it temporarily relieves the anxiety, when the alcohol wears off the person may have more anxiety. This is in part due to a physical rebound from the depressant effects of alcohol and the alcohol’s interference with the person’s coping capacity to deal with the problem. Alcohol may also interfere with medication used to treat depression and other mental health disorders. Sleep is often broken due to waking up at night when the alcohol wears off.
Social/Relationship: Two of the most important elements of a relationship are communication and respect. Addictive drugs in general and alcohol in particular damage these two foundations. When a drug alters one’s thinking, memory, and judgment, the people around the person begin to recognize that they are not talking to the person; they are talking to the alcohol. Communication has broken down. When the family talks to the person who is under the influence, they don’t know how much is going to get through. And when they are not listened to, they do not feel respected. When, they find out that the addiction seems to have a greater hold on the person, than they do, they feel rejected. They may try to get back their relationship by being nice or being tough but eventually it may be too painful and they may numb themselves in an act of emotional protection against the perceived rejection. The results of these damaged relationships can be divorce, loss of trust, children becoming afraid of their parent, and neglect of those the alcoholic cares about most.
Work: Often the alcoholic will hang on to the job while other things are being let go. Eventually, the job will be in jeopardy for the same reasons that other relationships and his or her health are in jeopardy. Employers want people who are able to do their job, to be creative, and to be present at the job. Alcohol damages this. The alcoholic may say, “I never missed work”. But, often that occurred with the reality of arriving at work hung over, still under the influence from the night before or not really being clear. Loss of the driving license can also disable some people’s working ability if their job involves driving.
Legal: DUIs are a prominent reality of the effects of alcohol. There can be loss of child custody, restraint orders and child and spousal abuse. Assaults are often also the result of alcohol use. Continued drinking in spite of legal problems indicates alcoholism.
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