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Mind & Body Health
Alcoholism Recovery

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 14 million Americans—1 in every 13 adults—abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. There are also several million more adults who engage in risky drinking that could lead to alcohol problems such as binge drinking and heavy drinking on a regular basis.

The Consequences of Abuse
The consequences of alcohol misuse are serious and often life threatening.There are serious health problems that can arise. Heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, cause liver cirrhosis, immune system problems, brain damage, and harm to the fetus during pregnancy. Drinking also increases the risk of death from automobile crashes as well as recreational and on-the-job injuries. Homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by persons who have been drinking.

Alcoholism has devastating effects on relationships with family, friends and coworkers because it creates a loss of trust. Trust is lost when an alcoholic behaves badly. Trust is paramount to keep relationships healthy. But with the craving for alcohol comes a problem of being unreliable in relationships. It is as if the alcoholic chooses alcohol over their loved ones. The alcoholic is often in denial about their problem and will blame the loved one for being too harsh with them. After all, what is wrong with a little social drinking? But for the alcoholic, there is no such thing as social drinking. Denial and then rationalizations keep the alcoholic drinking and pushing their loved ones away. Eventually the alcoholic may lose the respect of their family and friends and end up alone.

What is alcoholism?
Yes, alcoholism is a disease. The craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems. Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person's lifetime; it usually follows a predictable course; and it has symptoms. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcoholism is a disease that includes 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.
  • Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get high.”

People who are not alcoholic often do not understand why an alcoholic can’t just “use a little willpower” to stop drinking. However, alcoholism has little to do with willpower. Alcoholics are in the grip of a powerful “craving,” or need, for alcohol that overrides their ability to stop drinking. This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.

The important thing is to face the facts of one's illness and to take advantage of the help that is available. There must also be a desire to get well. According to Alcoholics Anonymous a recovery program will usually not work for those not absolutely certain that they want to stop.

How do I know if I have a drinking problem?
How can you tell whether you have a drinking problem? Answering the following four questions can help you figure it out:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (as an “eye opener”) to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

If you answered, “yes” to one or more of these questions it is important that you see your doctor or other health care provider right away to discuss your situation. He or she can help you determine whether you have a drinking problem and, if so, recommend the best course of action.

Even if you answered “no” to all of the above questions, but have experienced drinking-related problems with your job, relationships, health, or the law, you should seek professional help. The effects of alcohol abuse can be extremely serious both to you and to others.

There are a variety of resources available to you if you think you need help. It can be difficult to choose the right treatment program. Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.