Listen to Al as you read along
Question: I am 21 years old and am wondering if I am an alcoholic. I have been out drinking almost every night for the last 6 months. I also use drugs as well when they are available. I seem to have lost my will to say no to drinking and I fear I have become an alcoholic. My father was an alcoholic until he died at age 53 from liver failure. How can I tell if I am really an alcoholic?
In today’s world there is confusion about what is an addiction and what is not. The behavior described above might be addictive behavior or it might be temporary bad judgment. It is clearly not healthy behavior and risky behavior with an alcoholic father. This behavior could be the beginning signs of an addiction or if continued it could become an addiction. Let’s define and describe addiction so that we will know who should seek professional help and who should find a better class of friends to hang with.
Addiction is defined as a state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. (Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2009). Addiction is an enslavement, an entrapment, a habit that causes extreme suffering if we try to do without it. The slavery can be mental and/or physical. We can be addicted to a substance like alcohol, a person like an mate or a situation like the feeling that comes from gambling. Addiction can be mental without a physical dependency, thinking that we must have the object of desire or we can’t be at ease. The addiction can be to substances that causes a physical dependence like drugs or alcohol.
Addiction vs Dependence
Note that physicians make a distinction between addiction which is connected to pleasure seeking to replace psychological pain and dependence which is the physical dependence that results from the medical use of some substances. Physical dependence can occur from medications without a person being classified as an addict. Some people with chronic pain can become dependent on medications while using them as prescribed just like people with diabetes can become dependent on insulin to maintain proper bodily functioning. An addict seeks the pleasure and has to have more and more as tolerance builds to get the feeling they crave. Medical patients who use medications properly are not addicts.
Who is an Addict?
Addicts are those who use substances to seek pleasure often to compensate for emotional pain. They use drugs or alcohol to produce a high and it is the feeling of the high that they crave and to which they are addicted. Also, addicts form a psychological bond with the feeling that they refuse to relinquish under any circumstances. They will risk going to jail or losing every thing they love in order to get the feeling they crave. The addict tells himself that the high is now a necessary part of their daily experience for them to have a sense of well-being. Often people enter into addictive behaviors to distract themselves from painful feelings caused by past events that hurt them. They use the mind altering feeling of the high to make them forget the pain that they have harbored deep inside. Initially a small amount of the substance can bring the desired high and the relief they need. As they become more and more habituated to using the high for relief, more and more of the substance is required to create the feeling and relief the pressure. They end up drinking more or using more of the drug and are forced to use illegal means to support their habit. This description is of the traditional addict.
Other addicts follow other scenarios like the binging addict. This person drinks or uses drugs only occasionally but when they do, they cannot stop for a brief period of time. They might drink for a whole weekend and sober up in time for work on Monday. They might not use again until the following weekend or many weekend later. When they do use, they will binge out again, getting drunk or high. Another scenario is someone who uses a small amount everyday but never enough to disrupt their normal lifestyle. They hold a regular job, manage a marriage and family and use their substance secretly after their family goes to bed. Many men are porn addicts that only log into their favorite site after their family has gone to bed. They can develop an appetite for self-manipulation that exceeds their desire for normal sex with their wife.
Some people use substances for a high and can put it down whenever they choose. Others try this life and can’t let it go. The behavior of “partying” for 6 months does not mean the man is an alcoholic, but that he is practicing unhealthy behavior. He could be an addict or become one if he continues to use this behavior to ease his pain or stress. If you are concerned that you are into an addiction, seek out a professional that can help you evaluate and determine your status.
If you can stop drinking or using drugs without stress, the best course of action is to stop. If your friends that you hang out with are influencing you to practice unhealthy behaviors, it is recommended that you find other friends who live healthy lifestyles.
If you cannot stop using your substance of choice without distress, it is likely that you are an addict and need help. Breaking addictions to a substance or sex can be very difficult and even the professionals have very poor success numbers. The brain becomes accustomed to feeling the high it craves and doesn’t want to live without it. Addiction can be physical and require a detoxification from the substance that is best done under medical supervision. If you think you might be an addict, seek help today. Tell your husband or wife and allow them to hold you accountable to get help. Breaking an addiction can be done with the will to do it and with help.
My final suggestion is one that I use in my own life to keep me on a positive track. I believe in God and trust what God has said in the bible to help me see a positive future. If you have found God for yourself or think it is time for you to make things right with God, there are links in this website that discuss how to go about entering a relationship with God. My prayers will be with you.
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A Christian Perspective