It can be very difficult for those suffering from alcohol addiction. It can eventually effect every aspect of their life, from relationships, to employment. Here are the three common stages of alcoholism and how to move past them into successful recovery.
Alcoholism, now called alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a brain disorder that doesn’t develop overnight. For many, in the beginning, drinking alcohol is just something fun to do with friends. They don’t realize how continued use affects the brain and body, leading to more serious conditions, including addiction.
The National Center for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder. Meaning, they cannot stop drinking despite adverse consequences like losing a job, poor health, loss of relationships, and legal problems.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol excessively will develop an alcohol use disorder. Many factors play a role in who gets it and who doesn’t. Researchers have found common risk factors that contribute to alcoholism.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism
Risk factors refer to things in your life that make you more susceptible to problem drinking and alcoholism. One risk factor is the age at which you start drinking. The younger you are, the higher chance you have of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Another risk factor is genetics. Alcoholism runs in families. However, just because you have the gene doesn’t mean you will automatically have an alcohol use disorder. Genes combined with lifestyle and environmental factors make a difference.
If you live with parents or siblings addicted to drugs or alcohol or with family members who encourage you to drink or use drugs, you may be prone to an AUD. Also, if you have experienced past traumas like sexual, physical, or verbal abuse and were never taught adequate coping skills, you may use alcohol as a way to cope.
Underlying medical, biological, and psychological issues can also be linked to excessive drinking. You can replace risk factors with protective factors, things that prevent you from going through the stages of alcoholism. One protective factor is knowledge and understanding of the disease and its three stages.
If you are aware of the signs and stages of alcoholism, you can be aware when it’s time to get help.
Stage 1 of Alcoholism: Early Stage
In the early stage of alcoholism, you may participate in binge drinking. You abuse alcohol occasionally, but it has not affected your work or personal relationships. The consequences you experience in stage one are hangovers, making poor decisions, and possibly blackouts caused by drinking so much you don’t remember what you did or how you behaved.
You may have even put yourself in high-risk situations while drinking excessively but for the most part, you are still functioning and succeeding in other areas of your life. Eventually, as your drinking increases, so do the consequences.
Stage 2 of Alcoholism: Middle Stage
In stage two, you may find yourself looking for reasons to drink. You are no longer waiting for the right moment to enjoy alcohol, like a friend’s party or celebration. In the middle stage, you are creating reasons to drink. You often encourage coworkers or friends to meet you at happy hour to relax after a stressful workday. As soon as you get home, you have a drink to destress. You are also drinking to stop withdrawal symptoms that appear when you go without drinking for a while. For example, you may notice your hands are shaky; you have chills and sweats, stomach cramps, and digestive issues. You may also have trouble sleeping, nausea, vomiting, irritability, and headaches.
It’s like you have a hangover that won’t go away until you take another drink. Your body is becoming dependent on alcohol to function.
Likely, you are experiencing negative consequences in other areas of your life. Driving under the influence charges is more common in this stage. Also, physical and psychological health problems start to arise. You may have high levels of liver enzymes that can lead to fatty liver disease. You may experience increased depression or anxiety.
Furthermore, during these stages of alcoholism, it means your drinking habits negatively affect how you perform at work and how well you maintain relationships with family and friends.
To avoid conflict with loved ones and to hide how much you drink, you may start hiding alcohol around the home. You have financial problems, avoid interacting socially with family and friends, and often have injuries due to falls.
Getting treatment at this stage is crucial to avoid further damages.
Stage 3 Alcoholism: End Stage
In the final stage of alcoholism, serious problems impact all areas of your life. Even when you don’t want to drink, you must avoid withdrawal symptoms that now include tremors and seizures. You find yourself in a vicious cycle every day of finding alcohol, drinking it, and then finding more alcohol to consume. Your world revolves around alcohol.
Physical diseases associated with stage three alcoholism include alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer. You may have ulcers in your esophagus, stomach, or mouth from vomiting.
Loss of job and damaged personal relationships often appear in this stage. Without professional help, you face severe, even fatal, consequences.
It’s important to know you can get treatment during any of the stages of alcoholism.
Treatment Options for Alcoholism
In each stage, alcohol treatment programs are available. If you are overwhelmed with cravings and physical discomfort from withdrawal symptoms, medication is available. Entering a medically supervised detox program is recommended for those in all stages of alcoholism.
Residential and intensive outpatient programs are options for treatment following detox. In these programs, you create a relapse prevention plan and learn early recovery tips. You get peer support, individual and group education and therapy, and family therapy.
Twelve-step groups of Alcoholics Anonymous, co-occurring disorders treatment, and holistic therapies are available.
You can get help during any of the stages of alcoholism. You don’t have to wait until you get to stage three for help – you can start as soon as today by calling a treatment specialist for more information. If you aren’t sure which stage you are in, we can help you figure it out. We can also help you decide which treatment options will be best for you.
You can overcome alcoholism at any stage and get back to living the extraordinary life you deserve.