by | Feb 12, 2013

The most severe form of problem drinking is alcoholism. This goes beyond alcohol abuse—alcoholics physically depend on alcohol to function. Without it, your body responds with withdrawal symptoms like the shakes, depression, nausea, irritability, sweating, anxiety. These are serious danger signs indicating you need help.

The Problem

Alcoholism is insidious and pervasive, creeping into all aspects of your life. Aside from the physical damage it can do—it contributes to heart problems, cancer, liver disease and possibly more—it also wreaks havoc on relationships. The psychological effects can be quite damaging.

Since alcohol is a depressant, it stresses your body and may result in feelings of depression or even personality changes. Alcohol affects the serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter having to do with your mood, and when it is affected by alcohol, you can experience mood swings or uncharacteristic aggressive behavior. Alcohol also works to slow down the response rate of the synapses in your brain, which impairs your thinking. If you are intoxicated, you may say or do things you would never consider if you were sober.

Denial of the Problem

Denial is one of the biggest problems alcoholics have because you cannot fix the issue if you cannot admit you have it. Because drinking alcohol is so important to the alcoholic, the mind finds ways to rationalize drinking. In other words, you tell yourself things like:

  • I can quit anytime I want to. I just don\’t want to right now.
  • I know I have a drinking problem, but it only hurts me, so what\’s the big deal.
  • I still function in my job just fine, so alcohol is not a problem.
  • I just drink wine (or beer) so I can\’t be an alcoholic.
  • Drinking is something everybody does. It\’s not like drug abuse.

The fact is, it is drug abuse. Alcohol is a drug. And it\’s easy to be an alcoholic while limiting your intake to wine or beer. It\’s not what you drink, it\’s the effects alcohol has on you. You may be functional but that has nothing to do with whether or not you\’re an alcoholic—you may just be a high-functioning alcoholic. You are still in danger. And your family and loved ones are in danger too, because your drinking does affect them. If you can quit anytime, do it and quit rationalizing. If you\’re an alcoholic you probably don\’t want to try.

When you are too close to this problem, it\’s hard to see how drinking affects you adversely. Denial helps you continue in the destructive pattern you\’ve chosen for yourself. It is easier to blame marital trouble, difficulties at work or financial stress on outside factors. The truth is, these problems are often caused or exacerbated by alcohol.

If you find yourself in denial, or rationalizing your drinking, or lying to yourself or others about your drinking, then you have an issue with drinking and should seek help. After all, if you truly do not have a drinking problem, then there\’s no need to make excuses or cover it up. I\’ll talk more about this subject next week.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here:



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