Alcoholism is infamously known as cunning, baffling, powerful among those of us more familiar with it. It is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit that claims the lives and happiness of so many people, and it is not always as easy to assess as most would assume. There are some common signs, and there are many other aspects that most people would never think to take into consideration, but the illness is real. Here we will try and touch on a few key concepts, like different types of alcoholics, common symptoms, and common solutions to try and explain some important information about alcoholism.
The term functional alcoholic (“functioning” alcoholic, “high functioning” alcoholic) is a term that refers to a person who is addicted to consuming alcohol but is still somehow able to lead a seemingly normal, or even ‘successful’ life. It is not a medical diagnosis. This of course is an assessment made from an outside perspective and often times by the alcoholic, themselves when they can see their own drinking habit as a problem. An alcoholic, functional or not, is still suffering from a disease that affects the lives of their loved ones’, as well as their own, very real way. Generally functional alcoholics are those who can hold down a job or even excel in their career. They often times even own homes and have ‘functioning’ families.
Opposite of a functional alcoholic, a ‘raging alcoholic’ is someone with a much more obvious un-manageability problem. The ‘raging alcoholic’ will go on permanent sprees, and hurt anyone without discretion in order to keep drinking. This type of alcoholic may refuse to slow down for even a moment despite losing a job, a relationship, their home or their livelihood. They will take advantage of every opportunity to drink, because they are so hopeless without that solution.
Common Symptoms of Alcoholism
Sometimes there a pretty typical indicators in a person’s thought process of behavior. Signs of alcoholism include bad habits or feelings such as:
- After one drink, experiencing a craving to have more and cannot predict what their alcohol intake will be
- Obsessing about the next time they will be able to drink alcohol
- Behaving in ways that are not characteristic of themselves while drunk and continue to repeat these behaviors and patterns
- Surrounding themselves socially with heavy drinkers
- Getting drunk before arriving at social engagements
- Setting drinking limits and not being able to adhere to them
- Always having to finish an alcoholic beverage or even another person’s unfinished beverage
- Using alcohol as a reward
- Having memory lapse due to excessive drinking (blackouts)
- Taking breaks from drinking and then increasing alcohol consumption when they resume drinking after a long period of time
Obtaining an alcoholic diagnosis is something you really have to do for yourself. No one else can really make that definite distinction for you, it depends on how you react to the phenomena of craving. However it can be simple if you look at their history of and drinking. Most alcoholics know deep down they have a serious drinking problem, usually a long time before they even admit they are openly.
12 Step literature gives a pretty well rounded description that explains the difference between alcoholics and non-alcoholics. It is said that “Non-alcoholics change their behavior to meet their goals, and alcoholics change their goals to meet their behavior.” This I have found to be true in countless cases of alcoholics seeking help for their affliction. The diagnosis of an alcoholic can easily come from looking at whether or not they continued to drink despite the negative consequences. Failing to achieve goals or avoid punishment for dangerous behaviors is not enough for them to give up drinking for good. So many alcoholics give up on dreams or ambitions to continue drinking.
Spiritual Side of Alcoholism
The inability to stop drinking once you start, having no control over the amount you drink, and the way that you behave and the things you give up in your life to be able to drink are all clear cut signs that you probably have a serious drinking problem. Alcoholism is described also in 12 Step fellowships as a spiritual abnormality that requires alcoholics to develop themselves in a way that brings about a psychic change and a new focus on some level of spiritual principles.
Most people who drink or use drugs say that at some point or another it became a coping mechanism used to fill some sort of void in their life. Abusing substances and numbing themselves to the world was the only way they were able to get through, and when they were not drinking them were miserable mentally, emotionally and physically. In the eyes of many recovering alcoholics this is due to the spiritually sick state of the alcoholic, and true recovery comes from working a program of action and creating a spiritual connection to fill that emptiness that so many alcoholics experience.
A shift in spirituality could mean a vital shift in perspective for the alcoholic. There are many programs out there design to help combat alcoholism by explaining to the suffering individual what alcoholism really means, and suggest what kind of actions should be taken. Working a program that promotes spiritual solutions is how I personally was able to get sober, and I continue to work that same spiritual program in order to maintain my sobriety.
Alcoholism is a deadly and powerful disease. It takes a drastic toll on the lives of everyone it touches. Being an alcoholic is one of the hardest things to accept, understand, and address for most people, but in the end alcoholism is at its worst when untreated. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism, or just has a desire to stop drinking, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588
Anxiety, which can be described more specifically as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, or phobia symptoms, that is decidedly caused by the effects of a psychoactive substance, that is, a drug such as alcohol, is the primary feature of a medical condition known as a substance-induced psychotic disorder.
A substance, such as alcohol, can actually cause psychotic symptoms, such as anxiety and panic disorders during intoxication (while the person under the influence of the drug) or during withdrawal (when the person stops drinking or using).
Alcohol Induced Anxiety
A substance induced anxiety disorder, such as alcohol induced anxiety, can fall under one of two categories. Alcohol induced anxiety that begins during the substance abuse can last as long as the use of the alcohol. Alcohol induced anxiety that begins during withdrawal can first manifest up to four weeks after an individual stops using the substance.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), produced by the American Psychiatric Association, dictates that that a diagnosis of alcohol induced anxiety is made only when the anxiety symptoms are more extreme than what would be expected during intoxication or withdrawal and also when severe.
#1. Prominent anxiety
This is described as feeling nervous and powerless and having an overall sense of impending doom. Physically, it describes having an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired, and having trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.
#2. Panic attacks
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or actual cause. Panic attacks are extremely frightening; there’s a feeling of loss of control and many believe they are experiencing a heart attack or even dying.
#3. Obsessions or compulsions
Uncontrollable obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors, usually done as a way to feel some sense of control in otherwise chaotic life circumstances.
#4. Symptoms develop during, or within one month, of intoxication or
#5. Symptoms develop during withdrawal from alcohol
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a very real and sometimes dangerous medical condition that occurs when someone tries to stop drinking without the help of a medical professional. It is a condition marked by both physical and psychological symptoms, with extreme anxiety and panic being just a couple of those.
#6. Symptoms are not actually part of another anxiety disorder
Such as generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and that is not alcohol induced. For example, if the anxiety symptoms began prior to substance or medication use, then another anxiety disorder is likely.
#7. Symptoms do not occur only during delirium – a sudden severe confusion due to rapid changes in brain function that occur with physical or mental illness, such as that which occurs during alcohol withdrawal.
#8. Symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in functioning
Which can exacerbate the anxiety symptoms and lead to other problems, such as an inability to function is daily activities due to panic disorders and overwhelming anxiety.
The good news
The prognosis, or future outlook, on alcohol induced anxiety is a good one, should you successfully stop drinking.
Alcohol induced anxiety symptoms usually subside once the culprit (alcohol) is eliminated from the equation. Depending on how much and for how long you were drinking, your metabolism and other such idiosyncratic factors, symptoms can persist for hours, days, or weeks after last use. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms induced by substances sometimes do not disappear, even though the drinking has stopped. More intensive treatment for the obsessive-compulsive symptoms would be necessary and should include a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.
If you experience a psychological disorder such as anxiety as well as a substance abuse or addiction disorder such as alcoholism, specialized treatment called ‘dual diagnosis’ is available. Call us toll-free at 1-800-777-9588 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available 24/7.
As addicts we can justify just about anything. Some of us are such good con-artists in active addiction that we can sell just about any excuse or idea to anyone to get what we want. So it should be no surprise that we find a thousand seemingly convincing reasons to continue using drugs and alcohol, even when it was obvious to ourselves or others that we were putting ourselves at risk or sabotaging our lives. When we’re trying to fit every aspect of our lives into an alibi or we are turning every reason to stop into a justification to keep on our path of self-destruction, we are feeding our skills as masters of manipulation. Little do we know, these justifications are killing us. These are 10 Justifications addict use to keep using that should at least be given a second thought.
1. Physical Pain
A lot of times addicts will cry out about the pains we have from illness or injury, and rationalize our drug use as a means to combat the pain and make our lives more comfortable. Sometimes there is real pain, but regardless we still have the potential to abuse that justification.
2. Relationship Problems
When addicts are stressed out with relationships, whether they be family, friends, or intimate relationships we turn the small problems into vast and dramatized sad stories that we tell ourselves and/or others to show that we use to ease the pain or the strain caused by others, or by the situations.
3. Death of Loved Ones
Death is never easy, and coping with a loss is especially difficult for addicts. I know personally I used this excuse a lot. When an addict is able to isolate or spot-light themselves based off of the death of a loved one it’s pretty common that those around them will back off from inquiring about their drug use. My biggest justification was always the ‘no one knows what I’m going through’ mentality, and nobody ever questioned it.
4. Behavioral Disorders
Some people with addiction also have behavioral or mental health disorders that coexist with their drug habits, or they are misdiagnosed because of the affect the drugs have on them and their behavior or mod. Based off this kind of justification an addict may say they need to use to keep on an even keel. They may say it is because of a hundred forms of trauma, depression, anxiety or other mental health issues that they need a substance to function properly.
5. It’s Monday
Sometimes an addict just wakes up from a weekend and remembers that life is real, and that it’s going to take a lot of work to get enough to survive through the week comfortably until the next pay check or the next party, and sometimes there is just not enough coffee in the world.
The reasons we use are not always negative ones, sometimes they are the exact opposite and we use when we are excited or happy. If an addict gets promoted at work for working hard (‘functional’ addicts some would say… drugs are not free) they may want to reward themselves, for a month. And when an addict rewards themselves, they often do it in a way that punishes their mind, body, and spirit to stay on a fix.
Sometimes an addict just wants to take a vacation. They have earned a little time off and they have no direct responsibilities to take care of now, so they figure they deserve to go ahead and get high while off the job and maybe out on the town. I have seen this numerous times. People will go on very dangerous binges when they have a few consecutive days off, and justify it with not being responsible for the next few days, but they never truly stop using.
Life is an amazing and exciting place, with so much to learn and experience we really never have a right to be bored about anything at all. However addicts tend not to appreciate that, so when we are ‘bored’ or in reality ‘lazy’ we decide to use that as an excuse to use. Like, ‘if there was something else to do I’d do it’ but in reality is there is always something to be done.
Once in a while, an addict who has been in recovery and remained clean and sober for a period of time will decide that they have been clean long enough to use again. This is almost the worst type of justification, because it is someone who has removed themselves from the physical and emotional dependence but chosen to re-enter it. Like a man who clings to life and survives pneumonia only to go skinny dipping in the winter a few months later. Somehow this individual convinces themselves that they are cured of addiction, and that drugs will never hurt them again.
10. It’s Friday
Here comes the weekend! So of course we have to enjoy it and use drugs, or at least that is the addict mentality that tends to cause us serious problems. Friday is usually payday too, so what other reason do you need? In all honesty, if the day ends in a ‘Y’ then we will justify getting high. The truth is, we are the only ones who really buy the lie we tell half the time.
Addicts and alcoholics are really good and have a lot of practice in creating pretty convincing stories to why we use, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the fact that we do what we feel will make us feel what we need at the time even if it kills us, and in this case it eventually will. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588
This post is probably going to be less about Mr. Robin Williams and more about me. Or rather, how his life, and more specifically, his death has affected me and thousands others.
As a blog writer, the way my day goes is like this: I come in to the office, open my email and read my assignments for the day. Initially, the death of comic genius Robin Williams was not a blog topic assigned to me. And, I felt a little sense of relief. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
Last night, at home, when I first read of the tragic news, I felt certain that, when I came into work the next day, I would be writing about his passing, especially since he was a person in recovery and, since I blog for a treatment center, we tend to write about people and topics that are addiction- and recovery-related.
I knew why I felt a sense of relief; it hit close to home. Williams’ death was reported to be a result of a suicide and he had reportedly been struggling with severe depression as of late. I am someone who has what’s called dysthymia, a fancy name for chronic depression. And by “chronic” I mean that I started experiencing depression at an early age, around 11, which was many years before I ever picked up a drink or a drug, and I still experience it to this day. Along with the depression came something called “suicidal ideation,” which is a term that refers to “thoughts about or an unusual preoccupation with suicide.” In fact, at one time in my active addiction, I even intentionally attempted suicide.
For me, alcohol and other drugs had become a solution to “curing” (read: numbing) my depression and “dark thoughts” – the term I had come to euphemistically use for the suicidal ideation. I’ve written a lot of blogs about dual diagnosis, which happens to be quite common among people with a history substance abuse and/or addiction. It can be quite the process untangling which came first: the mental illness or the substance abuse. In some cases, the person turns to substances as a way of self-medicating their mental anguish. Others seem to “develop” psychological disorders in the midst of their addiction, that’s because substances have such a profound effect on brain chemistry that they can mimic mental illness. In these cases, when the person gets clean and begins the healing and recovery process, the mental fog lifts and their brain situation, if you will, also heals.
That is not the case for me. I am in the first group. My mood disorder preceded my substance abuse. When I got clean, it definitely got better. Removing all the other chemicals I was putting in my body (and therefore my brain) gives my meds a fighting chance to actually work. But I have good days and I have bad days. And I still have those “dark thoughts” from time to time, just not nearly as often.
When I heard about Robin Williams’ untimely death, of course I was saddened. But I was also morbidly curious. I always am when I hear about a suicide. I think about how terribly sad and lonely the person must have felt to lead them to such an act of desperation. And I can relate. Then I see how profoundly hurt and saddened their loved ones are by their actions. And I feel a sting of guilt for feeling a little bit jealous that they went through with it.
I think it’s important to speak out about my experiences with addiction and depression because, let’s face it – it’s kind of like being hit with a double-whammy of imposed shame. Both disorders still carry very negative stigma, culturally and socially speaking, even though they are legitimate medical conditions.
Mr. Williams had over 20 years of sobriety when he experienced a relapse and did the honorable thing, seeking help by going to rehab back in 2006. He preemptively returned to rehab just this summer, obviously realizing he was in a bad spot and willing to do something proactive about it. Both addiction and depression require lifelong vigilance and it can be overwhelming and taxing.
Rest easy, good sir.
It might be cliché to say that the world is a little bit darker today, without Williams’ bright light. But it’s true. He was larger-than-life.
“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” - Lao Tzu
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, and/or mental illness, help is available. Please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist who can answer your questions day or night. You are not alone.
What do you mean ‘relapse’? Are medications a relapse? Is drinking a relapse for an drug addict? Questions pop up once in a while and opinions may vary on the terms of what is a relapse versus what people think are acceptable forms of substances that should not qualify as a drug or constitute a relapse. Firstly, let us take a look at what the word ‘relapse’ and those associated with it mean.
- Relapse typically is defined as- a deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement. It’s described in relation to drug abuse as resuming the use of a drug or a chemical substance after one or more periods of abstinence.
- Drugs are typically defined as- a chemical substance that has known biological effects on humans or other animals. Recreational drugs are chemical substances (there’s that term again) that affect the central nervous system. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine are the most widely consumed and typically accepted psychotropic drugs in society. They may be used for effects on perception, consciousness, personality, and behavior.
So according to this, a relapse is when an addict or alcoholic resumes using a drug or chemical substance (that clever little term) that affect the central nervous system, and have an influence on perception, personality, behavior and other facets of the individual after a period of sobriety. This is all what we can articulate from the strictest definition.
Now as far as a relapse in recovery is concerned, there is much debate on what kind of chemical substances (yes, that stuff you put in your body) should be considered a relapse, and which should be acceptable as a medical necessity or healthy recreational supplements. Sometimes people can be prescribed medications for pain, or for mental health concerns, or for physical growth. While they are being prescribed with the best of intentions, some people say that an individual who takes a substance that alters their mind in any way is relapsing.
Then again, some people would argue that coffee, nicotine, and other things that human beings take into their body on a regular basis could be considered as qualifying for a relapse based on the strictest definition. Some people need to take their medications in order to stay physically and mentally stable and healthy, and others just want to improve on their healthy life-style with supplements. There can be raging debates that go on for days at a time arguing the real meaning of relapse and what either applies or denies some chemical substances to the rule and people will always disagree.
- Some may say medications are a relapse- but there is literature written on how what is prescribed to a patient by a doctor is their own business.
- Some may say drinking is not a relapse for drug addicts- but alcohol is probably the most dangerous drug there is, and there is literature to remind recovering addicts that a drug is a drug.
Recovery Counts over Relapse
At the end of the day, most would say if you are putting a substance into your body with the intention of altering your mood and mind, if your are knowingly taking a foreign chemical into your body to get high or catch a buzz, it is probably safe to say that it counts as a relapse. You should always consider what kind of effect you’re expecting from the substance, and how it could possibly influence you to the point where you become physically dependent or intoxicated by it.
Recovery counts over relapse any day. If your recovery is strong, and you have a good sober support system built up around you that will help you through these situations, and you have the right kind of mind-state and action applied in your affairs to stick to a program in sobriety, then there are always different opinions. Taking in a chemical substance of any kind that will change your thinking, create a physical or emotional dependence, and that has the potential to make your life unmanageable is dangerous to your recovery.
In all reality addiction and alcoholism is NOT about substances, it is not about the drink or the drug. It is about the person and the thinking, the spiritual and emotional affliction and how we strive to grow and change our coping and our actions to fit our principles. So ask your sponsor or someone who has a decent amount of time clean and sober to share some experience. That is the one of the best ways to get an idea on what counts as a relapse.
Recovery is possible without relapse, and some people want to debate what counts and what does not count as a relapse. What’s more important is- if it is not an absolute necessity then why risk it? Regardless if you relapse or not, what counts is that you do what you must to recover and save your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588