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The subject of alcohol prices may be of news lately, but have you thought about the other costs your alcohol consumption might be having - to your health, your relationships, your job and your emotional wellbeing?
Alcoholism affects 1 in 10 people and sits at the extreme end of a spectrum that we all feature on somewhere. Very few people who drink alcohol have an idea of what alcohol actually does to them. They know what alcohol does for them; it alters the mood and gives a feeling of well-being. But most people are unaware of what alcohol actually does to harm them. Alcohol is one of the most important known causes of human cancer after tobacco smoking.
Alcoholism can be defined when a person no longer has the choice over whether they drink or not, they simply cannot function without it. It can also be defined when areas of their life become unmanageable because of their drinking - hence, costing them more than money.
What is alcohol?
Alcohol is a colourless inflammable liquid that’s been the basis of intoxicating drinks since 6,000BC. It’s produced by yeast fungi, that ferments sugars to exhaustion point. Alcoholic drinks are mainly ethyl alcohol and water, but they also contain other substances called congeners; used to give colour and flavour and also contribute to the causes of a hangover.
How does it affect us?
Alcohol is absorbed into the body via the stomach and intestines. The bloodstream passes it round the body to all the major organs, especially the liver and brain. The rate of absorption can be influenced by certain circumstances such as food in the stomach (which slows down absorption) or carbonation in drinks such as sparkling wine or soda mixers (which accelerate absorption and speeds up the effect).
Effects on our body
Early physiological effects of drinking can be warning signs. Upset stomachs, gastritis, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and skipping meals can be signs that alcohol is causing unrest in your system. More serious problems can develop as the illness grows, with a higher risk of stomach ulcers, cancer of the stomach and oesophagus, irreversible damage to the liver, the nervous system and blood cell function. Effects on our emotions Many alcoholics have the same emotional problems as everyone else before they start drinking. However, alcoholism undermines the alcoholic’s ability to cope with the normal problems of living and their emotions become exaggerated as the illness progresses. Arrogance, low self-worth, over-sensitivity, self-pity, anger, resentment and dishonesty are common feelings and behaviours of alcoholics.
Understanding the spectrum
The lines between consumption are arbitrary – 2 drinks for one person might mean they’re a social drinker, whereas 2 drinks for another could be tipping into problem drinking if they have co-occurring disorders or illness. Problem drinking can be caused by any one, or a number of factors including genetic, physiological, psychological and social factors.
You may have 1 or 2 drinks every now and then with a meal or in a social environment. You are aware of your limits and know when you have had enough. You do not spend time thinking about whether to have another drink or not. It is not an obsession in any way.
You regularly drink more than 3 drinks in one night. Binge-drinking comes under heavy drinking if you consume more than 3 or 4 drinks in one night, even if it is only once in a while and you don’t tend to drink in between those times. Heavy drinking can lead to dependent addiction before or after incidences where you may lose your job, split from a partner or lose a loved one. For some, these periods of ‘crisis’ drinking can be short lived and the drinker goes back to heavy/social drinking once the grief has passed. However, for some, these periods can tip them into addiction from which they can never come back from.
When you have become dependent on alcohol to the point that you have no choice but to drink, alcoholism is diagnosed. An alcoholic is someone who has lost the power of choice. It has turned into a disease that the drinker is powerless to control.
Heavy drinkers still maintain the power of choice and can stop if they choose to or decide that the effect their drinking has on them is more negative than positive. This is not the case with alcoholics.
Road to recovery
As the diagram suggests, a spectrum can go two ways – so if you’re a social drinker, it is possible you may spiral into heavy drinking if circumstances change in your life, and in the same way, a heavy/crisis drinker can also turn back and move into social drinking without the need for treatment. For the alcoholic, it’s not quite so easy. Admitting they have a problem and choosing to get help is the first step to recovery which is the only solution for an alcoholic to overcome their addiction. An alcoholic will never be able to go back up the spectrum, they must remain abstinent from drinking or taking any other drug in order for their recovery to work and to heal the long-term effects of alcoholism.
So what is Recovery?
Recovery treatment through Silkworth works with 12-step modelling. It’s a transformative experience, set in simple constructs such as the sharing of experience, strength and hope. The overriding precursor must be and is predominantly hope, inspired by the individual’s experience of addiction and his or her own felt desperation for a better way of experiencing life. Recovery provides a person with self discovery and connection to their own potentials which may have been stripped away by their addiction, helping them to connect to their own resource of inner strength. This strength is also amplified due to the combined experience, strength and hope of the group dynamic. The group dynamic is an essential element because it enables a person who was previously isolated, physically, mentally and spiritually, to come into a collective and collaborative way of relating to self and others.
The 12 step model of treatment is an opportunity to follow a process of how you manage thoughts and feelings and change the way you live your life – a life where you live in the solution, instead of existing in the problem. This teaches vital life skills to be able to become a valuable and valued member of their family and wider community.
If you are in need of help, advice or support, call us today on +44 (0) 1534 729060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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