Even if you do not outwardly admit you have an alcohol problem, the nagging voice in your head is trying to get your attention. While it is natural to ignore the warnings that you have been drinking too much alcohol, symptoms of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) are beginning to become obvious. Remaining in denial about the reality of an AUD is like kicking the can down the road … until eventually it hits the wall.
Continued alcohol abuse can contribute to multiple medical conditions, cognitive impairment, relationship problems, and employment difficulties. For example, the consequences of alcohol addiction can include heart disease, dementia, increased cancer risk, liver disease, gastrointestinal problems, and brain damage. Other negative fallout includes social problems like divorce, depression, anxiety, violence, loss of job, and legal problems. As the problem drinking escalates it can evolve into alcohol dependence, and even become life threatening.
It is never too early to get help for an AUD. If you have noticed the drinking-too-much-alcohol symptoms occurring more and more often, it is time to consider getting help. The sooner that an AUD is acknowledged and treated, the better the recovery outcome will be.
What is a Safe Amount of Alcohol Consumption?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has established useful guidelines to help people better manage their drinking behaviors. According to the CDC, a safe amount of alcohol is defined as follows:
- For men, no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day
- For women, no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day
- A “drink” is described as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits
So, why do people drink more than the safe amount? There are a multitude of reasons why people drink excessively. Some may be struggling with a relationship problem or the death of a loved one and trying to self-medicate their emotional pain, others might just get caught up in the party atmosphere and lose control of their consumption. Individuals may have a genetic predisposition toward addiction, but may not know that until it is too late and an AUD has already developed. Others may have a mental health disorder and use alcohol as a means of managing the symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol, Symptoms and Warning Signs
When someone has developed a serious drinking problem there will be telltale signs. Get to know the red flag warning of an AUD:
- Increasing tolerance. Consuming more alcohol to get the desired effects they initially experienced.
- Drinking alone to the point of intoxication. Regularly drinking in isolation to the point of intoxication is a sign of an AUD.
- Lying about drinking. Some will lie to cover up the excessive amount they consume. They may feel ashamed and guilty about it, or they may want to keep others in the dark about their problem.
- Experiencing blackouts. When a blackout occurs it usually follows heavy drinking. This leads to loss of memory of certain events, places they went, or things they did or said while intoxicated.
- Increased cravings. As an AUD becomes more severe, the brain and nervous system adjust to the constant dopamine surge. This can lead to alcohol cravings during periods when abstaining from alcohol.
- Relationships suffering. Excessive drinking can take a toll on relationships, such as a spouse, children, friends, and coworkers, because the drinking becomes their priority.
Legal problems. Driving under the influence of alcohol can result in a DUI/DWI or a tragic car accident.
- Avoiding social gatherings. An alcoholic will begin to avoid social gatherings knowing they cannot control their drinking, which can lead to embarrassment.
- Increasing negative consequences. As problem drinking escalates, so do the negative consequences. These might include declining job performance, loss of employment, relationship or marital problems, child custody challenges, health problems, and mental health disorders.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms. A cluster of symptoms, such as hand tremors, nausea and vomiting, irritability, insomnia, confusion, headache, and anxiety that signals an alcohol dependency emerge when the alcohol wears off.
The Negative Effects of Excessive Drinking
As the alcohol use disorder deepens the damage to one’s life increases proportionately. There are many ways that alcoholism can negatively impact a person’s life. Here are a few examples of the consequences of alcoholism:
- Isolating behaviors, social withdrawal, loneliness
- Loss of interest or participation in the activities once enjoyed
- Legal problems, such as getting a DUI, foreclosure on house, loss of custody
- Abusive or violent behaviors at home or in public
- Can disrupt significant relationships and harm family dynamic
- Neglecting parenting responsibilities and work-related obligations
- Mounting financial problems, due to spending too much on alcohol, neglecting to pay bills, or being terminated from job
Serious physical or mental health issues
Because alcoholism is a progressive disease, if no attempts are made to control or stop the compulsive drinking the disease will continue to worsen. There are three stages of alcoholism, including:
- Early stage alcoholism. In the early stage of alcoholism, the problem is not fully apparent because the individual is still functioning. Sometimes the disordered drinking may arises from attempts to self-medicate, or to use alcohol’s effects to manage stress or negative emotional states. As tolerance builds, consumption increases, and soon it will be harder to hide the problem. Symptoms of early state alcoholism may include alcohol cravings, inability to moderate intake, and steadily increasing the amount of alcohol consumption.
- Middle stage alcoholism. During middle stage alcoholism it becomes evident to others that there is an alcohol problem. At this stage the individual may experience blackouts, mood swings, irritability, and stomach distress, bloating and weight gain, intensified alcohol cravings, and become obsessed about when they can drink next. At this stage, alcoholism can lead to relationship problems, financial problems due to job loss, and possibly a DUI. When attempting to abstain from alcohol the individual will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, hand tremors, and gastrointestinal distress.
- Late stage alcoholism. Late stage, or end stage alcoholism features a loss of control over the alcohol. Major negative life consequences pile up. Because alcohol consumes the person’s life, all other responsibilities are neglected. Major health problems emerge, with nutritional deficiencies, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and brain damage present. When alcohol is not available, highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms emerge, which can include the delirium tremens.
What to Do When Recognizing the Drinking Too Much Alcohol Symptoms
When it becomes clear that help is needed, you will begin the process of locating an alcohol recovery program. An effective rehab program will combine various treatment elements that are work together to help you overcome the AUD and transition to a new sober lifestyle. There are many different kinds of rehabs, each with their own treatment philosophy, services, and amenities, however most will offer the following treatment elements:
Detox: During a supervised medical detox your vital signs will be monitored carefully as you progress through the detox and withdrawal phases. As withdrawal symptoms intensify, the detox team keeps you as comfortable as possible using a variety of medical interventions.
Evidence-based therapies: Psychotherapies help the individual change their behaviors by guiding them toward recognizing the disordered thinking that has contributed to the alcohol addiction. Some examples of evidence-base therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and contingency management (CM).
Group sessions: Peer support sessions are essential during treatment. These group sessions offer participants a supportive place to share their stories, fears, and hopes while gaining encouragement and support.
12-step meetings: Many rehabs include the elements of A.A.’s 12-step program, or an alternative non 12-step program. Both options provide group meetings.
Psychosocial: Recovery tools are taught, equipping clients with new coping skills and better communication techniques that will benefit them when encountering challenges in recovery.
Holistic activities: Because stress is a trigger for relapse, most rehabs now integrate relaxation activities into the program. These activities teach you how to regulate stress and promote a calm, relaxed state of mind. They might include yoga classes, massage therapy, mindfulness training, guided meditation, art therapy, journaling, and regular exercise.
How to Maintain Sobriety
Following a residential treatment program, you should have a continuing care plan in place. These are the aftercare actions to reinforce the coping skills learned in rehab and help the transition to a new sober lifestyle. Sober living is an excellent aftercare action, as it provides an excellent opportunity to slowly transition back to normal daily life while still learning recovery techniques in a substance-free living space. Sober living offers an opportunity to reestablish healthy living habits by keeping a regular daily schedule, adhering to the house rules and responsibilities, and being accountable to the other housemates.
Aftercare also includes continuing therapy and/or group counseling sessions, relapse prevention classes, and guidance for life skills, job seeking, or academic goals. Attending meetings with a recovery community such as A.A. will provide accountability (to a sponsor or the group) as well as offer opportunities to make new sober friends.
By seeking out treatment and support, and following up rehab with ongoing continuing care efforts, you will soon discover the many benefits of living a sober lifestyle.
Ken Seeley Communities Treatment for Alcohol Addiction or Dependency
Ken Seeley Communities is a leading addiction recovery rehab in Palm Springs, CA. Founder Ken Seeley is the renowned professional interventionist who was featured regularly on the A&E series, Intervention. Ken Seeley Communities provides all levels of treatment for the recovery continuum, including intervention services, medical detox, outpatient rehab programming, residential rehab programming, and sober living housing. If you recognize the drinking too much alcohol symptoms and are ready to embrace sobriety contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.