Alcoholism and Relationships

alcoholic relationshipsAlcoholics are not known for their great relationship skills. In fact, it is very common for family to be the only people who ultimately keep an alcoholic closer than arms length. This is because alcoholism is an inherent dysfunction, and relationships with alcoholics are more or less always dysfunctional, to some degree. A number of people try to make relationships with alcoholics and eventually give up because of how broken their lifestyle is. Many others see their relationships with alcoholics through, but not without immense difficulty.

One enormous challenge of having a relationship with an alcoholic is their self focused behavior. This is characteristic of any addict. Addiction, by nature, consumes a person’s thoughts and behaviors. They prioritize their addiction and the pleasure they take from it over everything else in their life, including their relationships. This becomes very trying to those who are close to them. It is human nature to want to feel appropriately valued, and achieving this security is nearly impossible from an alcoholic.

In the same vein, alcoholics are also largely unavailable to the people in their lives. Not only are all of their personal resources going toward their drinking habit, but they also spend a great deal of time intoxicated, which makes them largely useless to the people in their lives.

It is needless to say that an alcoholic is dysfunctional. Merely qualifying as an alcoholic makes a person dysfunctional. However, many people do not realize how deeply psychological the problem of addiction is. It always has roots in underlying causes which are often tied to adversity and stress in the person’s young life. These root causes of alcoholism are complex and often require the help of a mental health professional to unravel.

And lastly, the irresponsible tendencies of an alcoholic are clear to see. Living as an alcoholic is a clear indication that physical and mental health are not a priority to the individual. But there are many other irresponsible tendencies that an alcoholic exhibits, such as financial, reputation, work and school problems.


Alcoholism and Responsibilities

alcoholism responsibilities

One of the first excuses you will hear an alcoholic make for their behavior is that they are a functional alcoholic. What they mean by this is essentially one would not know they are an alcoholic because it does not show in their lifestyle. Anyone who has ever lived with or been close to an alcoholic would attest to this being a delusional statement. The fact of the matter is, every alcoholic is less functional than the sober version of themselves, sometimes minimally and sometimes largely.

Alcoholism reduces the speed that a person moves at. We all have a personal operating speed, some clearly faster than others. However, an alcoholic is always slowed down from their normal operating speed. Alcohol is a depressant, and anyone who drinks heavily experiences a slowing down of mental processes and metabolism, making them less functional and less capable.

An alcoholic is always foggier than they would be sober. They have less clarity because alcohol is an intoxicant. People drink it in order to stop themselves from thinking clearly. Because all adult responsibilities require clear thinking, this proves to be very detrimental to an alcoholics level of responsibility.

By being an alcoholic, a person’s energy is greatly reduced. This is for two reasons. Alcohol is known to kill brain cells, and when someone drinks heavily and habitually, their brain will not recover like it should and they will have less energy and function to expend. It is also because alcohol is hard on the body. It is metabolized as pure glucose, raising a person’s insulin levels and blood sugar levels, causing weight gain and lethargy.

And lastly, an alcoholic is simply less available to their responsibilities because of how highly they prioritize their drinking. They are literally obsessed with their ritual of drinking and depend on it every day. All their personal resources, including money, time, health and energy go first and foremost to their drinking habit.


Physical Health and Alcoholism

physical impact of alcoholismAlcoholism is a devastating condition for the body. No one wants to be an alcoholic, yet many people are drawn into the siren’s call to drink excessively and their physical health pays the price. Drinking seems fun and harmless to everyone while they are drinking, but everyone should be aware of what alcohol is capable of doing to the human body before they decide to consume it.

In the early stages of alcoholism, the body’s physical health will not be devastated yet, but it will be retreating. When a person begins to drink too much, a number of negative health consequences begin to set in. Alcohol is dehydrating and leaves all the body’s systems depleted of water. This can be seen in the blotchy skin and bloodshot eyes of a person who is abusing alcohol. Blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels are thrown out of whack by heavy alcohol consumption as well, throwing the body’s levels off.

When a person has been an alcoholic for an extended period of time, they are likely to develop other health complications. Extended periods of drinking are very hard on the body and toxicity rises with prolonged drinking. Conditions such as gastritis, the irritation of the stomach lining, and anemia, the excessive thinning of the blood, are common in alcoholics. These conditions and others like them result in discomfort and pain as the body struggles to regulate its temperature, becomes lethargic and can be overcome by nausea or headaches.

When alcoholism is long lived and becomes severe, health problems can become far more serious. Permanent life altering conditions can result, the most well known of which is cirrhosis of the liver. The liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the things a person ingests, and when a person has been drinking for an extended period of time, the liver becomes overworked and begins to shut down. This allows toxins to spread throughout the body, throwing the person’s levels into chaos. Fluid build up can occur within the body, causing swelling and discomfort.┬áThe blood vessels in the esophagus may swell and can even rupture. Needless to say, alcoholism is a killer and it has no regard for status or demographic.


Mental Health and Alcoholism

mental health alcoholismOften, people think of alcoholism as a condition that eventually wrecks a person’s body. However, people seldom think about the effects that alcoholism has on a person’s mental health. Physical health has historically been more studied and more empirical, but our understanding of mental health has grown exponentially in recent years and the way it is affected by substance abuse is significant. Alcohol, as a depressant, slows down brain function and negatively affects the body’s balance of chemicals, which in turn causes forms of brain damage. It is confirmed that alcoholism destroys mental health and destroys a person’s mood regulation.

When someone is a mild alcoholic or a recent alcoholic, long term effects have not taken a hold of the person’s mental health just yet. When alcohol is consumed heavily, even if only once, it has a profound effect on the mind. When overdone, it kills brain cells, slows down brain function, and throws the brain chemicals that are responsible for mood regulation out of whack. Everyone who drinks, especially those who have a mental disorder, have difficulty regulating their moods.

When someone advances from being an occasional problem drinker to being an alcoholic, they have a more serious condition. When alcoholism is in its early stages, it takes the form of lowered function. People in the person’s life, even loved ones, may not be able to tell that the individual is an alcoholic, expect if they look for the signs that the person is not functioning as well in life. Because the person is putting more time, money and energy into drinking than they should, they are reallocating these things from other more important areas of their life, which begin to suffer.

A severe, long term alcoholic will exhibit signs of total dysfunction and physical health problems. It is unlikely that they will be able to follow through with any vocation, be there for their loved ones or meet any of their responsibilities. They will probably begin to have health problems such as gastritis, anemia and eventually cirrhosis of the liver. They will only be a shell of the mental health that they used to be and will be controlled by erratic emotions. Do not take alcoholism lightly. If you or someone you care about it is struggling with alcoholism, seek alcohol counseling as soon as possible.


Dysfunctional vs Functional Alcoholics

functional alcoholicEveryone has heard the terms “functional alcoholic” and “dysfunctional alcoholic.” These terms are generally used to describe the difference between an alcoholic who can still meet responsibilities and one who cannot. These terms are used in a somewhat black and white way, as if every alcoholic fits into one of these two categories. I would argue that, not only is there nothing black and white about how functional an alcoholic is, but also that the entire concept of a functional vs. dysfunctional alcoholic is a false dichotomy.

The traditional definition of a functional alcoholic is one who is responsible by day and drunk by night. They are able to hold a job, go to school, have relationships and have a meaningful life. However, they have a deeply ingrained habit of escaping into alcohol on a regular basis. The term “functional alcoholic” implies that the alcoholism has no consequences. This is simply not the case.

The traditional definition of a dysfunctional alcoholic is a person who has lost their ability to be responsible to their alcoholism. They are unable to hold a job, go to school, care for the people in their life, manage money or care for their own health. They are self-destruction on legs. This term would indicate that the individual’s alcoholism has made them a throw-away person. This is also not the case.

The truth is that both terms are misleading. In reality, there are functional humans, and then there are alcoholics. Applying the adjective “functional” to any alcoholic is an oxymoron. Alcoholism is an addiction and a disorder. It is impossible for a person to be an alcoholic and not negatively affect some part of their life, even if it is just instilling fear and stress into their loved ones and lying to them about their habit. No alcoholic is free of dysfunction. An alcoholic’s level of dysfunction is based on a┬ásliding scale, and the downward slide accompanies every level of alcoholism, from mild to severe.


Living as an Alcoholic

alcoholic lifeAlcoholism is one of the most serious and detrimental forms of addiction and substance abuse. When a person becomes dependent on alcohol, their life will never be the same. Alcoholism robs people of everything they love and value, and requires professional alcohol abuse treatment to eradicate.

Alcoholism is one of many faces of addiction. It is the nature of an addict to find an escape and become obsessed with it. Addicts have been found to have difficulty producing dopamine, the brain chemical that accompanies pleasure and gratification. So when they discover something that makes them feel exceptionally good, they become dependent on it and heavily overuse it, even to the point of their own mental and physical collapse.

Certain addicts gravitate toward alcoholism for a number of reasons: its accessible, legal, socially acceptable within certain limitations and is very easy to find. On a personal level, alcohol can reduce inhibitions, give a person confidence and switch off bad thoughts and emotions, plus a number of other attractive qualities.

When an addict discovers that alcohol can do these things for them, they become hooked. At first, it works like a charm and alcohol fills in for the areas the person is lacking. Moderated drinking is not bad for a person, so initially alcohol will treat a person fairly well. However, it is a delicate scale to tip, and once a person is ingesting more alcohol than their body is designed to manufacture, things begin to deteriorate.

The person’s mental and physical health begin to decline. They become less functional in the world and in their personal lives. They lack energy, stamina and good health. They have also become physically dependent on alcohol and experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit.

Alcoholism is a serious mental and physical condition. In order to address the underlying causes of the alcoholism and remove it from a person’s life, professional treatment in an addiction clinic or substance abuse rehab is necessary. If someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism, do not buy into the fallacy that you are protecting them or helping them by telling no one. Their lives may depend on your intervention.