Alcoholism has its stages. There are different types of alcohol problems and they all lead into one final stage. Alcohol Dependence is that stage. It is the point where you are going to either hit rock bottom or are going to drink yourself to the point of death. It can look like many things including losing your home, having to have life-saving surgeries, losing your family, or even losing your ability to deal with everyday life. If you are worried that you or someone you love is starting to show alcohol dependence, look at some of these symptoms. See if you are having to deal with them and learn what you can do about them.
If you are dependent on alcohol you will be physically unable to keep from drinking it. You will drink to the point that you are drunk on a daily basis. You may slur your speech. Your vision will be blurry. You will be dizzy. You may be unable to stand upright. I know what you are thinking – yeah everyone is like that when they are drunk. However, these are the symptoms you will experience when you haven’t had a drink. After your first drink of the day, you may begin to feel normal. You may even be able to do your daily routine. That is a physical sign of alcohol dependence.
If you don’t get a drink, withdrawal symptoms can be worse than being completely drunk. You may feel like you have the flu. You may even feel hungover. It seems like your body is going to collapse in on itself – you just have to have. You are obsessed and your body feels it to its core. Alcohol has taken over your body. It is so easy to rationalize that one drink isn’t that bad. You may even see your alcohol dependence as no big deal. Read on and let’s see how else it affects you.
The negative effects of alcohol dependence on the body happen so slowly that you may not even notice them until it’s too late. You may notice nausea and stomach pain. You may even notice the headaches. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the negative effects that happen deep within your body that cannot be reversed.
Cardiovascular disease – alcohol affects your heart’s ability to pump. It raised your blood pressure. This raise in blood pressure can be permanent. It can lead to heart failure and even death.
Anemia – heavy drinking decreases your body’s ability to create red blood cells in the bone marrow. It also causes ulcers which also leads to blood loss.
Dementia – Alcohol depletes your B vitamins. These are essential to brain function. Without long term memory loss and dementia can set in.
Cirrhosis – your liver becomes swollen, stiff, and unable to do its job.
Cancer – alcohol can cause abnormal cells to grow throughout your body.
Seizures – alcohol changes the way that neurotransmitters are released and absorbed by the brain putting you at risk for seizures.
Nerve damage – alcohol weakens your body’s nervous system and leads to long term damage.
Pancreatitis – excessive drinking causes the pancreas to become inflamed and get cysts on it.
Gout – alcohol causes the kidneys to excrete alcohol instead of uric acid.
Infectious diseases – alcohol weakens the immunity and therefore you are more likely to get sick.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
There is a connection between mental disorders and alcohol dependence. Some will say that the mental symptoms led them to drink while others say that drinking caused a mental problem. Either way, there are some disorders that are more common among heavy drinking.
Those with depression may reach for alcohol to self-medicate. However, drinking depresses the mind’s ability to focus on a problem and work through an issue. Therefore, this is a never-ending cycle that can have tragic consequences. Signs of depression are restlessness, quick to anger, loss of interest in hobbies, changes in eating, and changes in personality.
Bipolar disorder is also known as mood swings. You can go from being happy and easy-going to volatile and mad in a matter of seconds. Then go back just as fast.
Obsessive-compulsive Disorder shows up in many ways. It can be worrying about something, excessively counting, double checking things (like the stove) or even the inability to avoid an urge. Alcohol dependency can make it way worse.
Dual Diagnosis is possible. Symptoms can cross and you can start off with one condition and then develop another. Anxiety is often a symptom of all of these and is often exacerbated by alcohol dependence. Guilt and self-hate is another driving force behind many mental disorders that are caused by alcohol dependence.
This is a category that sounds funny. You wonder how life can have symptoms. However, studies have shown that alcohol dependence has a direct effect on your life. Every part of it is affected. This goes beyond your emotional and physical well-being. We are talking about how you change your life to accommodate alcohol. Think about it. How many fights have you had with your loved ones because they are worried? Have you had to go to rehab and be cut off from your friends and family temporarily?
Alcohol dependency affects more than just your social life, even if you are only social drinking. The money that you spend on alcohol may impact the money that you should be spending on rent, utilities or groceries. You may be unable to care for your children properly because of the amount of money you are spending on alcohol.
You may be unable to hold a job. You may even be unable to work without having a drink on your lunch break. Your coworkers may feel that you are unreliable. This affects your ability to spend money on alcohol and lead to a spiral where you will do whatever it takes to get a drink, including rob and steal from your company or friends. People start distancing themselves from you.
Isolation is another life symptom. You may not want to face the criticism that comes from well-meaning friends and family. You might not want to deal with the world because you need to drink. You may feel guilty for your actions. You may feel that you are being judged. These are just a few reasons why you don’t want to go out with others. Others might also start to distance themselves from you. They may not want to deal with the way that you act when you have been drinking. They may have lost trust in you, especially if you have stolen something from them in the past. You may even have to deal with the resentment from times that you have left them down.
You may notice that your alcohol dependency is keeping you from doing the things that you once loved to do. You may not be able to drive. You might not have an interest in activities or you may not be able to focus anymore. These are just a few ways that alcohol dependency can begin to show symptoms in your life.
Let’s face it, alcohol dependency changes who you are. You may not look at the world the same. The world may not look at you the same. There are steps in place to help people get help before they get to this point. You can make the changes you need to break your dependency on alcohol. It is never too late to turn around.
If you are watching a loved one slip down that slippery slope, there are some things that you can do to help. First, and most importantly, you can keep the line of communication open. You can be there for them so that they know they can come to you and talk. Second, never blame them. You can blame the alcohol. You can blame the addiction. Sometimes just by letting someone know that you realize it is a real addiction and not just them, you help them realize that they can recover. Finally, you can reach out and offer to go to meetings and treatment options with them. Help them find joy in things that don’t include alcohol. Learn what coping solutions work for them and encourage them. Alcohol dependency is life-changing and sometimes you do have to reach the bottom before you realize how bad that it is getting.
Alcohol dependency is a real addiction. It has a direct effect on all aspects of life. The only way to recover is to decide what you want to. No one can do it for you and no one can make you do it. This is something that you have to do on your own. A support group makes it easier but it is not the magic solution that makes it all go away. Life is beautiful, but it takes work to make it that way.