WHAT IS ALCOHOLISM OR ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE?

Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) consists of four symptoms:

  • Craving: a strong need, or compulsion, to drink. 
  • Loss of control: the inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.

Serious dependence can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms including convulsions, starting eight to twelve hours after the last drink. The delirium tremens (D.T.’s) begins three to four days later where the person becomes extremely agitated, shakes, hallucinates and loses touch with reality.

  • Tolerance: the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get high.

An increasingly heavy drinker often says he could stop whenever he chooses—he just never “chooses” to do so. Alcoholism is not a destination, but a progression, a long road of deterioration in which life continuously worsens.

“When I went to quit drinking, I realized that alcohol had taken to my body in such a way that I couldn’t stop. I would shake like I was going to break, I would start to sweat, I couldn’t think until I had another drink. I couldn’t function without it.

“I spent the next 8 years in and out of detox and hospitals, trying to figure out what happened to me, how was it possible I couldn’t quit. It was the worst and longest nightmare.” —Jan