Addictions Help – Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
The symptoms of alcoholism are numerous. All alcoholics do not exhibit each and every symptom, just as every diabetic does not exhibit each and every sign of diabetes. I shall list some symptoms that I consider to be important.
These are periods of amnesia. They may last from a few minutes to several hours. Mary starts off for work but ends up sitting in the park admiring birds; she does not know how she got there. Harry is having a great time at a party and wakes up in someone else's home; he doesn't remember a thing. The facts are, however, that both of these people operated efficiently. Mary drove her car to the park. Harry checked with his friends, and he was the life of the party; He even drove himself around town afterward. This is one symptom you can hang your hat on.
Alcoholics think a lot about alcohol. The afternoon cocktail or a few beers at lunch or drinks before supper or the weekend drinking – these are constantly on their mind. The idea of having a good time without booze is simply not feasible. Alcohol is consistently on their mind.
When an alcoholic begins his drinking career, it doesn't take much to get the effect he desires. A couple of drinks and he's seven feet tall. No conquest is too difficult; no problem is unsolvable. The world lies before him to conquer. A few more drinks and he thinks he is Albert Einstein and Kung Fu rolled into one. The only trouble is that, as the years go by, it takes more and more booze to achieve this effect. What used to take two, now takes six or eight drinks. Tolerance to the drug is taking over, and addiction looms around the corner. Ever notice how proud some people are of their ability to hold their liquor? The guy who can drink everyone under the table and drive them home is more prone to become an alcoholic. Alcoholics usually consume great quantities of alcohol.
An alcoholic does not nurse a drink along. He drinks fast. You may be halfway through your drink and he's ordering another round. The chances are that he has had a few before seeing you – “to get the old motor running.” Anyone who drinks fast is getting into the problem area.
Use as Medicine
“Doe, I need a couple of drinks to 'settle my nerves.” “I can't make a sale until I belt a few down.” “I can't sleep at night without a couple of drinks.” People are using the drug alcohol as a tranquilizer or a sleeping pill. Therein lies a great danger which we will investigate later. Alcohol, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers are poor bedfellows. When alcohol is substituted for, or used concomitantly with, any of the above, trouble is brewing for sure.
Alcoholics drink alone. As the man said, “I only drink when alone or when I'm with someone else!” This conduct is abnormal. Almost every drinker takes a drink alone now and then, but the alcoholic hits the bottle by himself more than just once in a while. One reason is obvious. He thinks that no one will know how much he drinks.
Most alcoholics move a lot. They change jobs, move to different cities, different states, different countries. They figure that things will be better for them. Joe's Bar won't be there – the drinking buddies will be absent. The only trouble is that there is a Joe's Bar everywhere, and drinking companions are not at a premium. Things do not get better.
Not all alcoholics hide bottles, but most do. There's a bottle stashed in the car trunk, one in the desk drawer, one carefully tucked away in the closet. When you start finding bottles here and there, the disease is well down the road.
Charlie stops to have a few and ends up plastered. Mary is determined to curtail her drinking at a particular party and ends up bombed out of her mind. The alcoholic is unable to draw the line. Will power and resolutions disappear with that first drink. Some people sit down fully intent on getting blind drunk. The alcoholic does not. He is to be pitied, not condemned.
Morning Tremors and Drink
Our good old nervous system comes alive after the depressant effect of alcohol disappears. With the liver doing its job, what does the alcoholic do? Naturally, he drinks anything in sight. To the male alcoholic, the electric shaver is one of the world's greatest inventions. Ever see him try to shave with a straight razor the morning after? When finished, he looks like he's been in a knife fight and lost. The tremors may be gross or fine – usually fine at first. I've seen people who couldn't hold a glass of water without spilling it all over themselves after being sober for a week. It takes time: Anyone who shakes or has to drink in the morning has crossed, or is crossing, the line.
I've enumerated 10 symptoms of alcoholism; There are many, many more, but I think these are significant. Most people listen carefully as I click them off and express visible sighs of relief when I name one they do not have. Here's the catch. You do not have to have each and every symptom to be a problem drinker. A diabetic or an arthritic does not manifest every symptom of his classic disease. Some authorities feel that if anyone answers to four out of the ten symptoms, he is indeed well into the disease.
Question: How can you tell the difference between an alcoholic and a so-called “hard drinker”? This is indeed a reasonable query. In answer, I would say:
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. It is worse now than it was last year, and it was worse then than it was five years ago. It doesn't get better; it gets worse. Oh, there are times when an alcoholic can abstain for lengths of time, months, perhaps years, but generally the picture gets progressively worse.
An alcoholic cannot control his drinking. Drinking controls him. He does mean to get smashed – that's what makes him an alcoholic. He cannot take a few and call it quits. He usually drinks until he is plastered. This is a general rule.