There’s a big difference between having a drink and alcohol abuse.
In our culture drinking alcohol to celebrate or socialise is an accepted and everyday practice and many people can enjoy the affects of alcohol without negative consequences or resulting problems.
However for some people, and some families, using alcohol in moderation is just not possible.
For reasons that are becoming increasingly clear through scientific study, some people have sensitivity to alcohol that results in the development of a dependency that evolves into the disease of alcohol addiction or alcoholism. For these people, it’s not possible for them to simply ‘stop drinking’.
‘Addiction’ means having a dependence on a substance or activity. Unlike someone who simply ‘wants’ something, a person with an addiction will have physical cravings and urges for the substance they’re addicted to.
Development of an addiction generally has 3 stages:
- Experimentation– often begins during the teenage years where the young person explores the personal effects of drinking different types and amounts of alcohol
- Habitual patterning– the process of developing patterns of drinking which become normalised in your life, for example always having a drink when you are socialising
- Dependency– the process of becoming dependent on drinking alcohol to manage some aspects of your life
Alcohol addiction, alcoholism or an alcohol dependence is a cunning and baffling disease that creeps up on you over a period of time as problematic drinking patterns develop and become a regular part of your life. Your relationship with alcohol becomes characterised by obsession and compulsion.
The obsession refers to the way you think about alcohol – the time you spend thinking and planning about when you will have your next drink, or how you plan to limit yourself. The compulsion refers to loss of control over your impulse to drink. The disease of alcoholism is far more complex than just the behaviour of drinking too much.