Occasional alcohol consumption, in moderate amounts, is something many adults enjoy without cause for alarm. Unfortunately, alcoholism can occur when consumption grows beyond control. Similar to other forms of addiction, alcohol use disorders do not just appear. They take time to develop. If you are concerned about a possible addiction to alcohol, you should understand the main stages of alcoholism.
Stage 1 – Occasional Binge Drinking
This beginning stage of alcohol abuse can be deceptive. You may find a desire to drink heavily, called binge drinking, or only engaging in sporadic but rapidly increasing drinking consumption. There is a false belief that if you are only drinking at one specific time or type of event, there are no issues.
New drinkers, such as teens and young adults, are often the most common drinking group at this stage, leading it to also be known as the experimental stage. It often involves occasional drinking merely to try different alcoholic drinks and their effects, and can lead to dependency if you believe that you need to try different drinks in large quantities. In binge drinking, you may discover that you cannot stop at just a few alcoholic beverages, especially during events centered solely around alcohol.
In this stage, you are putting yourself in a dangerous position. First, consuming too much alcohol at one time can lead to poisoning, which can often result in health issues including coma. Second, depending on your motivations for drinking this way, you can easily fall further into the path of addiction.
Stage 2 – Drinking More Often
When your drinking occurs more frequently, you have passed into the second stage of alcoholism. It is important to understand that this stage distinguishes moderate, controlled drinking from regular, erratic drinking. In this stage, you become more dependent on the effects of alcohol.
Most commonly, people drinking at this stage make excuses to drink more often, like drinking makes their driving better. In fact, you may find that you attend or plan more social events just to be able to drink more. As you become more dependent, you may begin to feel like you need to drink to reduce stress or feel happier. Once you begin feeling like you need to drink to get through, you move into the next stage.
Stage 3 – Becoming a Problem
Until this point, you may have been able to disguise your alcohol abuse. Eventually, however, you or your loved ones begin to suffer from the effects of alcoholism. You may experience mood changes and anxiety when you are not drinking or intoxicated. It is also common to experience insomnia and sickness during this stage. Additionally, your social abilities begin to suffer. As your desire to drink pushes you to keep drinking, you could lose your inhibitions and behave poorly with little regard for yourself or anyone else. You may also lose your ability to communicate effectively with others. Many alcoholics engage in drunk driving during this stage.
Stage 4 – Becoming Dependent
Dependency becomes the procession at this point. You are still aware of the effects that alcohol abuse has on you and your life, but by this stage, you do not consider any of it. Your normal life routine has been completely changed by your drinking. Instead of controlling your consumption, the alcohol now controls you. The constant alcohol consumption has likely caused your body to build up a tolerance. In order to experience the intoxicating effects you seek from drinking, you most likely need to drink more than before. You may experience pronounced withdrawal symptoms while you are sober, including tremors, nausea, and excessive sweating. In addition to these undesirable symptoms, you may also be causing internal damage with increased alcohol consumption.
Stage 5 – Complete Addiction
There is a difference between dependence and addiction. You can experience dependency without being completely addicted. This stage signifies an actual addiction because, at this point, you do not drink just to experience the intoxicating effects. In this last point in the stages of alcoholism, drinking has become both a psychological and physical need. You drink because the withdrawal symptoms are too much to handle. It is likely you even believe that you will not make it through a single moment without drinking which can lead to blackout drinking. You might experience compulsory drinking, which occurs when you drink without actually thinking about drinking, often absent-mindedly.
Denial is very common with alcoholism. Similar to other addictions, you may believe that you are in control and can stop at any time. To avoid conflict with loved ones or even confrontation about your drinking, you may even resort to lying about and hiding your drinking. Seeking help is the best way to break the cycle. Alcohol abuse and addiction can be addressed at any point, no matter how deep into the abuse you are.