It is important to be able to recognise the stages of alcoholism in order to help people suffering from this condition to obtain treatment.
Alcoholism is a disease or condition (depending on your view of the disease concept) that has no preference for economic or social status. It can affect men or women of any age and from any cultural background. The affects are often devastating to the individual and those around him or her.
Below is a working definition of the different stages of alcoholism. Remember though, that there may be varying degrees from one individual to the next.
Early Or Adaptive Stage
When someone begins drinking he or she doesn’t automatically become an alcoholic. If however the frequency and amount of drinking increases then the person begins to enter the adaptive stage. This is when the body gradually increases the alcohol tolerance.
As the individual begins to drink more frequently you may notice that this person can drink heavily and not appear to have become intoxicated. It may be easy to overlook the drinking because they seldom experience hangovers.
At this stage the person may not have any other ill effects. Work does not seem to be effected at this stage either which makes it a tricky diagnosis. It is hard to determine the difference between someone who is simply a heavy drinker and someone who is beginning to battle alcoholism.
The next stages of alcoholism are different. Then you’ll see marked changes.
The middle stage of alcoholism is when the alcoholic’s life begins to spiral (downwards). The body has simply developed a tolerance for greater amounts of alcohol and now the individual begins to crave it. Often at this stage the drinker isn’t aware at a conscious level that craving is taking place. Drinking more frequently is just something ‘they do’.
When there is no alcohol to consume the body may start to go into withdrawal-mode. There is so much alcohol in the body that the person doesn’t function without it.
During the middle stage of alcoholism, the family will begin to notice marked changes in behaviour, including possible blackouts. Blackouts do not necessarily mean someone passed out, just that he or she won’t remember what happened while drinking.
During this stage the individual also begins to suffer at work. The craving for alcohol and withdrawal symptoms without it will be noticeable. In addition work performance will be affected. The individual may be absent from work with ‘phantom’ illnesses and show a general deterioration in appearance.
As the alcoholic continues on this downward spiral of the stages of alcoholism the next one becomes the most devastating.
The Late Stage Of Alcoholism
Often referred to as the deteriorative stage. Not only has the body begun to demonstrate the effects of the alcohol but personal crisis have often occurred as well. The body may experience serious medical effects including heart attack, hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and/or a host of other ailments. Some of these are reversible if the individual stops drinking, some will have a lasting impact on their health.
Individuals at this stage may have experienced personal loss of job or a divorce due to their behaviour. At this stage the alcoholic will often strongly deny they have a problem. While the family may be seeking help the individual may be becoming ill, confused and drinking constantly. At this point, the individual may be very unstable mentally.
If you choose to intervene then the intervention should take the form of encouraging the individual to enter into discussions about what a better life would look like – get them to describe it.
NOTE They may well mention drinking alcohol in their ‘vision’ of a great future – just let it go at this stage – all you need is for them to be creating images and possibilities of a better life, removing alcohol from this image can be tackled later.
Once the possibility of a better life is implanted in the alcoholics mind you have in effect created a choice for them. One of the reasons alcoholics refuse to accept they have a problem is that to do so means considering not drinking, they can’t think of not drinking without having something better to replace it with.
This isn’t rocket science yet so few so called experts in the field of recovery grasp the need for this very simple step.
This is just one of the many unique steps I use in my successful Alcoholism Recovery Program.