The 4 stages of alcoholism

What we at Eden Recovery Centre have come to understand is that alcoholism is a progressive disease. We often compare the disease of addiction to cancer because no one chooses to get cancer, just like no one chooses to become an alcoholic. Both diseases need rehabilitation and professional treatment and both diseases have stages.

Allow Eden Recovery Centre to walk you through the 4 stages of alcoholism.

 Stage #1: Binge Drinking & Increased Tolerance

Are you drinking to get drunk?

This may sound like an odd question. Who doesn’t drink to get drunk?

The truth is that the average drinker without the disease of alcoholism doesn’t aim become intoxicated when they drink. The average drinker doesn’t like to feel that loss of control; the feeling of oblivion. Alcoholics on the other hand, love it. When I was drinking, oblivion was the feeling I sought most. I continued to drink because it felt good to me. When I was hammered drunk, I felt normal.

When I was in Stage #1 I didn’t drink every day. When I did drink however, I had a purpose: to get intoxicated. I would embarrass myself by falling down stairs, dropping my drink, and hanging on random strangers at the bar. Where it used to take two beers and a couple shots to get me to where I wanted to be, I started to have to drink more to reach that feeling of oblivion.

In Stage #1, you may think that you’re a “functioning alcoholic” because you’ve kept your job, your car, your relationships with friends and family – but you’re not because once you take the first drink, you have little to no control over how much you will consume.

Stage #2:  Drinking as a Coping Mechanism

Do you drink to feel better?

Drinking to unwind sounds perfectly reasonable. It’s not uncommon to want to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine or a cold beer. Relaxing with some girlfriends on Friday night over margaritas is a lot of fun. However, this isn’t what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is the mental obsession that comes before the drink.

Over time, I really began to have no other coping skills for life. There wasn’t any negative feeling that alcohol didn’t make better. On the flip side, when I was happy, alcohol increased my mood even more. Every Friday was a celebration.

Sure, I didn’t have to drink. I wasn’t physically addicted to alcohol. I didn’t shake in the morning. I made it to work on time every day. My appearance wasn’t altered in anyway. Sure, I was hungover a couple times a week, but who wasn’t? I just liked to party and cut loose.

In Stage #2, you might feel like you’re a “functioning alcoholic” because you still have your job – even though you’re hungover some mornings, you still have your car, and your relationships still seem intact. But you’re not a functioning alcoholic because drinking is your only coping mechanism. You are drinking to deal with stress. You are drinking to deal with success.

Stage #3: Isolation/ Legal Problems/ Depression

Do you have consequences yet?

Have people begun to question your drinking? Stage #3 is all about managing your drinking.

I had to start managing my drinking when the consequences started piling up: People were starting to question me about my drinking, my life, my state of mind, the people that I spent my time with. Alcohol was slowly becoming my only friend.

Isolation: Friends and family have made you feel uncomfortable about drinking around them. Maybe they have had to remind you about the night before because you can’t remember. You feel embarrassed and either chose to stay home and drink or go out by yourself.

Legal Problems: Have you been caught drinking under the influence? This too can cause you to stay home and drink rather than go out.

Depression: It begins to hit hard, too. Alcohol acts like a depressant inside of our minds and bodies. Alcohol in chemical form begins to make us feel down and sometimes hopeless.

In Stage #3, you might feel like you’re a “functioning alcoholic” because you still have a job – even though you may have changed jobs a few times, you still have your car – even though you may drive intoxicated,  and you still have some relationships – even though they’re not the same.  

Stage #4: Change in Appearance, High Blood Pressure, Liver Issues

How does your body look and feel?

Once you hit Stage #4, your body is no longer what it used to be.

When you are looking in the mirror, do you recognize yourself? There is nothing pretty about this stage. Outward appearances begin to really change. There is sometimes a flush to the skin. A distended stomach, or “beer belly.”

In Stage #4, you may think you’re a functioning alcoholic, but let me ask you:

  • You might still have a job, but what is your performance like?
  • You might still have a family, but are you present for them?
  • Your body may still be working, but for how much longer?

In Stage #4, you’re not a “functioning alcoholic” because you’re not performing well at work, you’re not present for your family, your body is deteriorating, and it takes everything in you just to “function.”

If you are concerned that you could be in any of the four stages of alcoholism, please contact us. We may be able to assist with signs to look out for, as well as advice on how to deal with the situation.

For information on Eden Recovery Centre’s Treatment Programmes and advice, please feel free to contact the Eden Recovery Centre. You can depend on full discretion.

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