The Stages of Alcoholism

The Stages of Alcoholism: When is it a Problem?

After a long week, some of us want a good drink on a Friday night. Some of us want a good glass of wine after eating a well-cooked steak. This is a perfectly normal and sometimes healthy practice. Italians are known for their good health because of their consumption of fine wine. But like all things, an excess is bad. When does it become bad?

1st Stage: Tolerance Building

This part is often unseen, especially by the very individuals themselves. If the individual drinks alcohol frequently enough, they start to build tolerance. Tolerance occurs when the body adjusts to the toxins it receives. It’s a survival mechanism that ensures that we maintain function, or homeostasis, decreasing the effect of the alcohol in the system. This may cause the person to drink more alcohol to get that same feeling they need.  

This is where the problem starts. When the person consumes more and more alcohol to achieve that certain level where they feel satisfied. One of the reasons why this often goes undetected is that it’s a very slow process. What drinkers think is a “functional” amount can grow over a long period of time until it’s three times more than what they started.

2nd Stage: Drinking the Stress Away

This may sound normal, but the key difference is what constitutes as stress. If someone had a horrible meeting with the people in upper management, they may have a drink at their favorite pub that night. The 2nd stage is reached when just about anything that needs coping, is coped by drinking alcohol. This cements alcohol as a part of that person’s life. Put it another way, the person only thinks of alcohol as a way to relieve themselves of stress and nothing else.

This when their lifestyle starts to decay. They may forgo their other habits in lieu of alcohol, centering their lives into it. At this point, it’s difficult to stop because alcohol makes them feel happy. They believe that they cannot fully enjoy anything without a sip or two.

3rd Stage: Isolation

This stage is triggered when people close to the drinker start to show their concern. If you know someone who drank too much for their own good, chances are you’d tell them about it. The drinker’s reaction is to deny it or ignore it. If people prod enough, the drink would start to feel that their habit is being threatened and they start to distance themselves. Far from help, unable to cope with anything else, they start to spiral downwards.

4th Stage: Health Issues

After severe changes in behavior, trouble with people and sometimes the law, the last stage is when it starts to hurt them. The body’s struggle to keep itself functioning amidst the alcohol flux is waning, causing liver problems and kidney issues.

This is the latest time drinkers should stop. Liver damage can be permanent, even fatal. If you need a new liver, hospitals may not assign one to you because there’s a risk that you’d damage it again. The next stage is rather grim. When that point passes, then it’s truly too late.