Alcohol Addiction: Its Stranglehold On Anyone Unfortunate Enough To Succumb To Its ‘Lure’…Its Tentacle-Like Effects On Others Too…Commentary By Adina Kutnicki

EVERY so often it is valuable to step outside ones regular sphere.

In this regard, blog postings at this site are (mainly, but not exclusively) dedicated to pressing issues germane to Zionist & Conservative ethos. Nevertheless, there are societal issues which similarly demand attention, even if geo-politics leaves little room for much else.

To catch the readership’s (hopefully) undivided attention, the following are recaps on a very lethal issue:

‘Teenage Murders Shock Israelis, Many Seek Answers’ was an op-ed at Israel National News (May 11, 2012) – contents links a causal relationship – of parental substance abuse – to aberrant behavior by their teenage charges.

Similarly, within ‘Alcoholism: The Wreckage In Its Wake‘ published in The Jewish Press (December 18, 2011), this blogger explains the often unreported phenomenon of ‘enabling’ and its impact on the merry-go-round of the addicted and their families –

In an eye opening piece, ‘The Underbelly of Substance Abuse & Its Crossing of All (Societal) Red Lines’ –, the reader is taken into gripping carnage, wrought by Diane Schuler’s drunk driving (an ‘average’ suburban mom from NY), killing her own child, plus several others in a horrific crash.

Heart rending.

With the above in mind it is incumbent to further the discussion, thus, adding some required context to the disease, via its clinical progression. It is called a ‘stealth’ killer, being that so many deaths are clinically attributed to alcoholism but are often reported otherwise. However, there is nothing stealthy about its very obvious effects – except to those stubbornly refusing to recognize them.

‘Stages of Alcoholism’ – –

Stages of Alcoholism: Denial Stage 1

“For some, drinking is an enjoyable and social activity. Whether it’s a cocktail in a stylish corporate watering hole in the downtown business district, or beers at the local sports bar, people gather for a few drinks and enjoy the crowd. However, for some, the drinks go beyond social contact, becoming not so much about social contact, but need. But if you were to ask them if they think they’ve had enough, the answer would be “no” and most likely followed by “There’s nothing wrong,” or “I don’t have a problem.” This is characteristic of the first of the stages of alcoholism.

Denial is a powerful enemy to well being. The problem may be obvious to others, but the one in the clutches of early alcoholism is either oblivious, or makes a conscious choice to ignore that is clearly before him/her. In the early stage of the disease, the person has enjoyed the effect of alcohol and desires to repeat the experience. If one drink is good, then two must be better. However, as the disease starts to progress, it will take greater amounts of the drug alcohol to achieve the same feeling. In this stage of the disease, it is often difficult to tell an alcoholic from a heavy drinker.

People build up a tolerance to alcohol and its effects, which is why people who progress to the other stages of the disease can drink their buddies under the table and may not even appear to be tipsy. They may even have a couple of drinks before going to a party or social event, just to make sure they can get a buzz without being too obvious about it. That leads to the next stage.

Stages of Alcoholism: The Cover Up Stage 2

Because people will develop a tolerance to alcohol, and because it will take more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect, what used to be a couple of drinks after work turns into a drink at lunch as well. Drinking is no longer just a way to get a buzz and have a pleasurable experience, it becomes away to self-medicate and numb the pain.

As the disease progresses, a person might start drinking earlier in the day. Part of American culture is the proverbial “two martini lunch” which is sort of a twisted badge of courage, so to speak, as if being able to down alcohol at lunch makes one more of a player in the business world.

The real problem is that people will drink during the day because they have to. It’s not about some psychological relief, or a way to reduce stress, it’s about dependence. People slipping into this middle stage of the disease will experience cravings for alcohol.

When people “need” a drink, rather than merely wanting to enjoy a drink, it’s a sign of dependence. People may not perceive a loss of control, but they may see that the one losing control needs to “cut back.”

Husbands and wives, children, people at work all might notice that something is wrong. The drinker, who is still in denial, might make efforts to cover up his/her increasing habit. They may sneak into the washroom and have a drink, or in some other way cover up their need for alcohol. This is characteristic of the second of the stages of alcoholism.

There may also be some physical side effects that go beyond merely having a hangover after a party. That hangover becomes a regular occurrence. As the tolerance to alcohol increases, the quantity of alcohol consumed may cause blackouts.

People develop the “shakes” in the morning, hand tremors that others notice. They need a drink to calm down. Other health issues might arise at this second stage, such as stomach disorders. Blood pressure problems, etc.

As the disease progresses into this stage, we begin to see just how cruel alcoholism is, as the person with the problem denies it and covers up, and may even turn on those who are trying to help. It’s their fault that the alcoholic has problems. They may agree to cut back just to get the other person to shut up about it, but they can’t. The disease has crept forward, beyond the point of their ability to control it.

Stages of Alcoholism: You’re Wrong, I’m Right Stage 3

My friend Chaplain Dwayne Olson states, “We use things, people, ideas, additively for our own pleasure.” When I first heard that I scratched my head and thought nothing of it. However, as I pondered its message, I soon realized that the operative word at the end of the statement was “additively.” Everything feeds the addiction. The alcoholic is losing control at this stage and alcohol becomes the center of his/her life.

What started out as the desire to have a couple of drinks, turns into several beyond that limit, mainly because the individual cannot stop drinking. By this time, the addicted person has probably had some warnings from family and friends that the drinking has gotten in the way. People miss work, or even begin to have some health problems directly linked to alcohol consumption.

People run into legal problems here, like DUI. People go to bars, get drunk, get into fights and maybe even commit felonies. By this stage, the alcohol is in control, not the person. He/she needs a drink in the morning or a drink in the afternoon, just to feel “normal.” This is characteristic of the third of the stages of alcoholism.

If you are at this stage, trying just to get by, your view of your behavior is doing what is necessary. To others, you have become manipulative, self-centered, out of control and are at risk of throwing your life away. The people in your life want you to get treatment, but you say that isn’t necessary. Maybe you don’t eat, or take care of yourself, but you push all that aside to get your drink.

Stages of Alcoholism: Out of Control Stage 4

In the previous stages of the disease of alcoholism people are able to function in their every day life. They are struggling with losing control over their drinking, but they can usually hold down a job, and even appear to be perfectly healthy to someone who does not know them well. However, as the disease of alcoholism progresses, the need for alcohol trumps all other desires or needs in life. The person has completely lost control.

The person may have been a “problem drinker” or may have had a couple too many from time to time, or may have been able to mask his/her disease by putting on an act, but as the disease tightens its grip in the neck of the alcoholic, any semblance of control is gone. They drink throughout the day, needing the alcohol to function. This is characteristic of the fourth of the stages of alcoholism.

In earlier stages, the alcoholic may have had a small measure of control, a choice, but that choice is now wiped away and replaced with dependence. Chaplain Dwayne says “One drink is too many and Lake Michigan isn’t enough.”

The statement illustrates the predicament the alcoholic finds him/herself in at the end stage of the disease. They can’t stop drinking. That little checkpoint in the brain that indicates enough is no longer functional. People go on benders, drinking uncontrollably, sometimes for days. They never reach that point of satisfaction they had when they first experienced that pleasurable buzz when they first began.

After several drinks, people may pass out on the couch. This is not necessarily true of the alcoholic who has slipped into the end stage of the disease. They continue to drink and “function” only they have to recollection if it. These are blackouts.

They may not remember going home, or having an argument with a friend, or sideswiping parked cars or even running over and killing a pedestrian. They cannot control their behavior and they lost any possible control with the first drink. These blackouts can occur during earlier stages of the disease, but are more common the longer the disease progresses.

If denied alcohol, the alcoholic in this stage will display serious withdrawal symptoms. The shakes they may have experienced earlier in the progression of the disease are now more severe. He/she may experience hallucinations along with the convulsions, known as the DT’s (delirium tremors).

When people are at this point, withdrawal can be fatal, and therefore medical intervention is necessary. Even with the medical intervention, the DTs are an extremely difficult experience for the alcoholic. Alcohol withdrawal is particularly nasty and ugly to witness.

Even after having the DTs, and needing a hospital stay to recover from the withdrawal, an alcoholic is very likely to go back to their drinking habit. They may nearly have killed themselves with the toxic drug, but they are still addicted. Even if they are “dry” they are still a “dry drunk.”

Treatment is necessary to place any kind of management component in their lives. They promise never to drink again, but without treatment, in most cases, they will surely start the cycle all over again, only this time going from stage one to stage four will be rapid. Left to their own devices, the alcoholics got into terrible, life-threatening trouble. Their own devices will not likely sustain them moving forward.

Stages of Alcoholism: Deterioration Stage 5

Alcohol, unlike other drugs, affects all areas of the body. It’s not just the brain, or the lungs, but also the heart, liver, kidneys, intestines, etc. Alcohol is extremely toxic, especially at this point, where a person drinks heavily and constantly.

We mentioned self-medicating earlier, which speaks to a psychological issue, but the damage done by the alcohol effects the organs as well, so the alcoholic at this stage may suffer from many conditions.

Think of alcohol as the common link. In speaking to the patient care manager of a medical respiratory intensive care unit at a large urban hospital, it was shared that in 50 to 75 percent of all cases that come through that unit, alcohol is a major player. This is characteristic of the fifth and final of the stages of alcoholism.

Still, in this serious stage, the alcoholic will continue to drink, unless prevented from doing so. While it seems “crazy” to some that a person would continue down this destructive path, by the time they reach this point, they are completely out of control, have no ability to reason through the problem and they probably are delusional.

In earlier stages, they are in denial, but in this stage, they are not capable of understanding what is happening to them. They crave the drug and they will do anything to get a drink. The addiction is in TOTAL control.

Denial, once again, is a strong enemy. Had it not been for denial, the progression of the disease might have stopped long before the person’s body starts to shut down or fall apart. Any spiritual or psychological issues might have been addressed. Problems in life might have been solved. Sadly, even with intensive and expert medical intervention, if a person has been down the path for too long, the alcohol may win the war and kill the person.”

Like a beckoning lover, the refuge of alcohol holds an irresistible allure, especially to those who are prone to risky and compulsive behavior. Complicating the equation is the steady availability of liquor, in most every setting. Adding fuel to the addictive fire, those who are seeking quick relief from problems (often in the throes of depression), hope to chase away their demons in the (initial) warm embrace of alcohol, for as long as possible. 

But like other addictive substances, alcohol enslaves the drinker to its succumbing effects, with little or no warning. Lest anyone dares think this disease mainly grips the less educated – skid row bum types – think again. Far from it.

The following should serve as a double wake up call, especially since its tale is told by a leading American cardiologist who was not too far from an early grave due to alcoholism –

Most significantly, how scary is it to realize that people in positions of life and death responsibility may often operate ( some literally ! ) under impaired conditions? So is this just someone else’s problem, or one of society at large?