The Stages of Alcoholism

The Mind of the Alcoholic

The main reasons why one may drink are to escape reality, to get high, to forget about problems or issues, or to just drown out the world. This isn’t always the case, though. There is casual drinking, which is just having a few beers with friends. This can hardly be called alcoholism. There is, however, habitual drinking, which drinking alcohol becomes a way of life and will definitely lead to alcoholism. When the alcoholic begins drinking, he/she may believe it is manageable and is only drinking ‘every now and then’, however, there is a progression of stages in which drinking becomes more and more prevalent and the drinker begins to progress through the stages of alcoholism as he/she consumes more drinks and becomes addicted.

First Stage of Alcoholism

In the early stage, the first of the three stages of alcoholism, the drinker is starting to become a habitual drinker and begins to drink larger quantities of alcohol while still able to function physically and mentally. He/she may even be unaware that he/she is becoming a habitual drinker. This is very dangerous as it can easily, and most commonly does, lead to alcoholism. “I can handle it.” becomes his/her motto. The drinker will not see his/her drinking as a problem and will become offended or upset if anyone confronts him/her about it.

Second Stage of Alcoholism

In the middle stage, the second of the three stages of alcoholism, there is no clear distinction with the early stage; however, there are easily discernible features of this dangerous new stage. Whereas in the early stage of alcoholism, the drinker consumed alcohol to get high or to get a pleasure from his/her habit, in this middle stage, he/she begins to act in a violent and destructive manner, a behavior indigenous with constant long-term abuse of alcohol.

The dangerous characteristic of the middle stage of alcoholism is physical dependence (withdrawal symptoms occur if alcohol is not present) and an uncontrollable craving for alcohol. This creates a terrible vicious cycle in which the addict must satisfy his/her cravings to avoid withdrawal symptoms and to ease any anxieties or stresses induced by the craving.

Because of the strong urges to drink and physical dependence, the drinker loses control and drinks more and more, leading to more destructive behavior and stronger cravings and a greater physical dependence. It is a terrible vicious cycle of craving, drinking and adverse behavior. To add to the effects of this middle stage, memory loss, blackouts, and inability to effectively perform even the simplest tasks are evident in this middle stage.’’

The Third Stage of Alcoholism

In the late stage, the last of the three stages of alcoholism, the drinker has become very ill from consistent and habitual alcohol use. Confusion and mental illness are two very distinct characteristics of an alcoholic in his/her late stage of alcoholism. What else is evident is the tragic regression from success to destitution, possibly because all of the drinker’s money is spent on alcohol, additionally, the alcoholic may have lost his/her job due to poor performance and/or showing up drunk at work.

The most dangerous part of this late stage is the damage to the body and the mind. A lowered immune system, heart and liver damage ( most likely irreversible at this point) and a host of mental ailments including memory loss, unstable mental condition, and possibly long blackout periods. In many cases, the alcoholic may find himself/herself in a location and not remember how he/she got there.

The Delusional Alcoholic

The progression through the stages of alcoholism has led the drinker through casual drinking, through habitual drinking, and ending with constant, uncontrollable drinking to the point where the mind and body are irreversibly damaged. One tragic aspect of the late stage of alcoholism is delusional reasoning. The alcoholic believes he/she is drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms and does not believe he/she has a drinking problem. He is in utter denial of his/her addiction and will not seek help, despite heavy physical and psychological damage. Unfortunately, without any intervention at all, the alcoholic is so irrational, that drinking may continue even if the alcoholic is on his/her deathbed. Tough love and decisive intervention is necessary to keep the alcoholic off the bottle.



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