Let’s Get Serious About Alcohol Abuse.
Most people who drink too much are not honest with themselves about what they are doing and how it is affecting them and others. This doesn’t surprise you, but it is usually surprising and unpleasant to alcoholics.
This article is only about reality which, in my practice, is the hardest part of recovery.
I’ve written many times about how to beat alcoholism.
This time I’m only writing about reality.
It may be hard to read, but please hang in until you get to the bottom, because reading this and those charts at the bottom can turn your life around. Actually, they can get you to decide to get your life back. Or, help you save a loved one.
Yes, I said alcoholic above. Few people who come to me call themselves alcoholics. They say they drink too much and they’d like to cut back but they “can’t see themselves never being able to drink again”. This is a direct quote since it is what I have heard, verbatim, so many times for so many years. I still hear it, almost every day.
I’ve treated a lot of people who are addicted to substances. Alcoholics have many similarities to those who abuse drugs but they are also unique in many ways as noted below.
You might be surprised to hear that my alcoholic clients, past and present, have a lot in common with each other. See if any of these apply to you or your loved one.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics do not drink enough water to be healthy, for proper brain function.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics complain they don’t want to drink adequate amounts of healthy, pure water because it will make them go to the bathroom more often, so I wonder if that worse than dying of alcoholism?
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics complain a lot. They blame people and situations. They blame their former therapists and rehabs. They even blame their current therapist for lack of immediate success – even when they will NOT follow their own jointly derived Treatment Plan.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics don’t “want to be told what to do”. This includes being angry with worried friends and family who offer comments and advice. Is it easier to blame others and come up with excuses than to save your career? Your friendships? Your driver’s license and freedom to drive? Your life?
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics are in danger of harming their brain. Many already have. Most talk around in circles about what they know they could/should do and why they won’t do it. Many already have trouble sticking to the point and have flights of ideas where the slightest of details send them off on one or several tangents that repeatedly go way off subject. It’s hard to listen to them or have a conversation. It tends to make listeners anxious and want to get away. Family members may say GET TO THE POINT in frustration and fear because of the damage they are seeing.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics don’t want to try a few different AA meetings to see if any seem compatible. They tend to judge the other attendees and think they have nothing in common with most, or all, of them – yet they have everything in common.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics blame their past, but a majority also claim it is too painful to talk about in detail or process – so it festers. Some claim we don’t talk about it enough, even though the bulk of the sessions are, of necessity, taken up dealing with the latest auto accident, trip to ER or jail/DUI, or fall, or blackout, pass out, fainting, tripping accident or other dangerous and life threatening events.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics adamantly refuse rehab or visiting a physician who specializes in using drugs that help control cravings, to reduce or stop drinking. However, be prepared, because we will discuss options and alternatives each visit.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics do not have and cannot maintain satisfying romantic relationships because their first love is alcohol. It takes the place of, and crowds out, the possibility of respect, love and partnership with a sober person. Sometimes, however, a romantic interest can be a catalyst for change, even if it is only a flirtation or hope of repairing a current relationship.
- Most of my clients resist any type of tracking how much they drink, let alone charting or writing it down. They resist paper tracking, or putting a cup or spoon on the counter or table with each drink consumed for a graphic example of how many drinks they’ve really had each day. They don’t want to know and they don’t want me to know.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics don’t have enough to do to occupy their minds, they have little or nothing to hope for, and they have nothing interesting to put in their hands besides a drink.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics are smart, interesting, sensitive people who anyone would really want to help immediately upon meeting them. Many are very funny, wry or insightful – except about themselves.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics have managed financially one way or another, they certainly are not destitute, though their finances and happiness could be much better if they devoted themselves to anything with as much energy as they devote to the booze.
- Most of my clients complain of feeling depressed, yet they pound their body with a strong depressant – alcohol – and wonder why they’ve been feeling more and more depressed as they drink more and more not to feel so depressed.
- Most of my clients who are alcoholics are in serious denial about what the amount of alcohol they consume is doing to them.
- Virtually all of my clients, past and present, greatly underestimate the BAC (read below), which could cost them their freedom or their lives.
- All of my clients deserve a better, happier, healthier life – which they can achieve as soon as they get serious about their disease.
SO WHAT REALLY HAPPENS?
Without even considering the 14 million people living in the US who qualify as alcoholics, most people are not realistic about what even moderate drinking does to them.
Anyone with a history of “over-drinking”, or the genetic component of having alcoholics in your family, are at considerable risk of going from believing they are light drinkers to actually being addicted.
IN THE SHORT TERM
- You can’t get a good night’s sleep because you’ve seriously disturbed your ability to do so. Though it can help you to go to sleep for the light drinker, it also assures you will wake up in 2-4 hours and often decide it’s a good idea to drink more to get back to sleep a second or third time. This makes it difficult to cut back or stop drinking. Without quality sleep you have trouble with clear, concise thinking and decision-making.
- Here’s what scares me and causes a lot of conversation with my clients: even small amounts of booze can inhibit your REM sleep which can damage or even kill your brain cells and the body organisms that provide the brain with vital materials to use for energy, critical nutrients and energy to think and conduct normal life affairs.
- Even your excuses don’t make sense to others. Judgment is impaired, unnecessary things are said or brooded on, and decisions are made to just stay home and drink or, worse yet, that you are fine to drive.
- The majority of my clients are on some kinds of drugs for health issues. These interact dangerously with alcohol, especially acetaminophen, pain meds, sleeping, meds and certainly antidepressants, etc. Shockingly, clients absolutely ignore this very high risk to their health, safety and their very lives.
- Since your immune system is impaired for about 72 hours after a night of heavy drinking, you damage your body’s ability to fight off disease and sickness. Drinkers often get sick for this reason. Imagine what this means for chronic abusers. It’s common for drinkers to be nutritionally deficient, since alcohol lessens desire to eat in a healthy manner and even blocks the absorption and use of vital nutrients in your body. Some physicians who specialize in addiction are concerned about folic acid deficiency since it helps build DNA and is needed for proper cell division. Alcohol blocks its ability to be absorbed and also neutralizes it in your blood. Therefore, doctors have alcoholics take supplements of folic acid daily to counteract this and lower cancer risk. Add folic acid only if your Dr. advises it.
WHAT ABOUT THE LONG TERM DRINKER?
Heavy or chronic drinking can harm every organ in your body.
There many long lists of diseases and problems proven to be associated with heavy drinking. Only a few of them are:
- Seizures, falls, fainting
- Relationships damaged or destroyed
- Stroke leading to death or paralysis
Hypertension – How many alcoholics do you know that are also on high blood pressure meds?
- Cardiac disorders and death
- Alcoholic hepatitis, an ugly disease
- Stomach, oral, breast, liver, and colon cancer
- Bone marrow suppression
- Sexual dysfunction
- Severe sleep disorders, primary insomnia, sleep apnea and long term sleep disturbances (reliance on meds)
- Liver damage and death from liver disease
Your BAC is your Blood Alcohol Content and it is the amount of alcohol present in your blood. When rehab or the police (or your own hand held device) give you a breathalyzer test, samples of air are taken from deep within your lungs, giving reliable enough estimates of your BAC to be used in court, even if a blood test isn’t used.
Be kind to yourself. Therapy helps.
3030 Bridgeway, Suite 108,
Sausalito, CA , 94965, phone 415.215.5363
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area
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for updates on this and other matters than may interest you and can help you live more of the life you want.
Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment, and Prevention Service at Washington State University
Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A Harm Reduction Approach by Linda A. Dimeff, John S. Baer, Daniel R. Kivlahan, and G. Alan Marlatt. 1999 and the work of Dr. Pat Fabiano at Western Washington University.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information and the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division. One drink = 1oz. 80 proof spirits =3 oz. glass of 12% wine = 12 oz. of 5% beer.
BAE – Blood Alcohol Educator
An interactive, educational program, available in English and Spanish, developed in conjunction with the University of Illinois that informs the public about Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels and how alcohol affects you.
Alcohol Studies Database
Contains over 70,000 citations for journal articles, books, book chapters, dissertations, conference papers, and audio-visual materials dealing with Alcohol research
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Government site for prevention of substance abuse. Includes news, research and resources.