Do you have a good understanding of alcohol addiction? The reality might be quite different to what you expect, with information through television or societal prejudice allowing myths to arise.
To help dispel some of the myths about alcoholism, we have listed five of the most common yet damaging misconceptions.
1. You need to hit ‘rock bottom’ before you can get better
This allows alcoholics to justify their drinking. There are many sad cases when people do lose everything before they seek help, but you can seek treatment at any stage. Often, the sooner you get help, the easier it will be.
2. Alcoholics drink every day
When we think of an alcoholic, we imagine someone who drinks all day, every day and has probably lost their job, home, family and friends as a result. However, this can be a dangerous assumption.
Many drinkers continue to-function from day to day. They maintain a successful career, hold down relationships, appear healthy and may not even drink every day.
‘High-functioning’ alcoholics are very good at hiding their drinking habits and thanks to the seemingly minimal consequences of their actions, they and others are unlikely to recognise a problem.
If you think that you or a loved one may have a problem, look out for the following signs:
- Behaviours change once alcohol has been consumed, e.g. anger, anxiety
- Regularly drinking more than they intended/can’t stop at one drink
- Relies on alcohol to relieve stress
- Memory lapses or blackouts when drinking
- Drinking alone or in secret
- Experiencing irritability, restlessness, agitation and mood swings when not drinking
- Trying to justify drinking or how much they drink.
3. Will power alone can stop addiction
One of the main reasons why people fail to recover from addiction is because they think they can get over it by using willpower alone. Addiction is often the result of trauma, mental health problems or underlying issues which have never been addressed. It’s not something you can turn on and off as you wish and those who stop drinking without processing why they became addicted in the first place, are at higher risk of relapsing or picking up another addiction in its place.
4. Alcoholics should just stop drinking
One of the biggest stereotypes about alcohol addiction is that people become alcoholics simply because they drink too much and that if they exercise self-control, they won’t have a problem anymore. Alcoholism is an illness and absolutely nobody has the power to stop being sick by simply clicking their fingers.
Anyone can become an alcoholic, no matter who you are. While no one cause has been determined, there are several risk factors for alcoholism:
- Genetics – a family history of alcoholism can mean you’re more vulnerable
- Mental health conditions – anything from depression, stress and anxiety to eating disorders and other addictions can cause a person to turn to alcohol in a bid to help them cope or escape reality
- Frequency of drinking – over time, those who drink regularly may be at risk of developing a physical dependence to alcohol.
5. You can’t overcome addiction
Addiction is very difficult to overcome, but with the right help and support it is possible. There is no set treatment plan that guarantees sobriety – what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another so it’s important to determine what the most effective strategy is for you.
It’s also important to remember that relapse is common. While this should never be used to justify falling off the wagon, don’t give up hope if you do. One of the best ways to avoid this happening is to devise a relapse prevention strategy. This should detail what your known triggers are, how you can avoid them and what to do and who to contact if you’re feeling the urge to drink.
If you think that you or someone you know may have a drinking problem, please feel free to visit our Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Page for more information about the signs, symptoms and different treatment options which are available.