The 5 Stages Of Alcoholism

Drinking has been a favorite pastime of many people over the years. Not everyone can be a social drinker, however. Some people cannot limit their drinking to one or two drinks. They may try, but more often than not, they drink far more than they really wanted and could become alcoholics who struggle with the stages of alcoholism.

What Is an Alcoholic?

It may not be simple to diagnose alcoholism, but there are general signs that someone could be struggling with the disease. Also, the path to alcoholism and the stages of alcoholism are usually progressive, getting worse and worse over time. Whereas moderate drinking used to be the norm, it may progress to heavy drinking day after day, causing multiple issues.

Stages of Alcoholism

Substance abuse professionals assert that there are five stages of alcohol abuse. Learning the common signs of each of the stages of alcoholism may be helpful to determine if you are traveling the path toward alcoholism.

Stage 1 – Binge Drinking

Binge drinking, or drinking a substantial amount of alcohol in a short amount of time, is generally believed to be the first stage of the stages of alcoholism. Binge drinking often occurs when people start experimenting with drinking. They may not know how much they can tolerate and drink so much that they become extremely drunk and may even pass out (lose consciousness).

For drinking to be considered binge drinking, a male would consume five or more drinks within the space of two hours. A female, meanwhile, would consume four or more within two hours. Teenagers and young adults make up a large percentage of the binge drinking crowd. While many of them end their binge drinking behaviors as they grow older, some of them will progress to later stages of alcoholism.

Stage 2 – Drinking More Often

The second of the stages of alcoholism involves drinking more often over time. Whereas maybe you only drank a couple of weekends out of the month previously, over time you may find yourself drinking every weekend. Or, if you drank one night a week, you may find yourself drinking three or four nights a week. You may have only drank at social events, but now you have plenty of excuses to drink: to relieve boredom, reduce stress, calm nerves, numb emotional pain, and other reasons.

In this stage, your tolerance will increase too. Whereas maybe two beers used to give you a good buzz, now it might take you four or five to find the same feeling.

Stage 3 – Problem Drinking

As you progress through the stages of alcoholism, there is a good chance that you will begin to experience problems. Maybe you will miss work because you are too hungover to go. Or, maybe your partner will break up with you because you would rather party than spend time together. In this stage of alcoholism, you still may not realize that you are becoming dependent on alcohol or have already become dependent on it. Even experiencing some problems may not be enough to really see your problems and admit that they exist.

Here are some other problems that may result from problem drinking:

      • Trouble sleeping
      • Depression
      • Health issues
      • Problems with the law (DUIs, assaults, etc.)
      • Money issues
      • Relationship issues
      • Isolation

Stage 4 – Dependence on Alcohol

It is in stage four of the stages of alcoholism where many people begin to realize that they have become dependent on alcohol. Maybe they try to cut down on drinking or stop completely and find that they cannot. Maybe they cannot endure the withdrawal symptoms they face when they are not drinking or just do not know how to cope with life when they are sober.

During the alcohol dependent stage of alcoholism, your mind and body become firmly attached to alcohol. The thought of quitting it might even feel as if you are giving up a good friend. You may feel sad about it or may wonder if you will ever be able to let it go for good. In fact, you may be experiencing a lot of thoughts and feelings during this stage. You may not be sure how to address your struggles with the stages of alcoholism.

Stage 5 – Addiction to Alcohol

The last of the stages of alcoholism is full-blown addiction to alcohol. In this brutal stage, your body has become quite dependent on alcohol. In fact, it needs it. If you try to give it up, your brain lets you know in a hurry that it is not happy.

In this stage of alcoholism, you are not drinking for pleasure anymore. Gone are the days of just having a few brewskis with your buddies in the name of having fun. Now you may feel you need to drink just to get through the day. Now, when you wake up, your hands may be shaking and your brain may be rallying around the thought, “When can I have my first drink today?”

This is a grueling stage, and many alcoholics are afraid to reach out for help when they reach this stage. They may feel ashamed as they progress through the stages of alcoholism. They may feel as if they are failures and may have no idea what to do. Chances are, their family members have already noticed their alcoholic tendencies and may have had multiple talks with them, but still, they may be resistant to reach out for help.

Help for the Stages of Alcoholism

There is treatment available for alcoholism, no matter what stage you may be in. If you see yourself in one of the stages of alcoholism, consider getting some help to quit drinking. Even if you have tried on your own to no avail, help is available. You do not have to feel ashamed and you do not have to struggle any longer. Whether you attend an alcohol rehab center, meetings of a 12-step recovery group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or sessions with a therapist, just know that you have choices. You can treat an addiction to alcohol with hard work and professional help. Please consider seeking alcohol treatment by making a call to speak with a professional.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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