Can an alcoholic ever drink normally again?
So far as can be determined, no one who has become an alcoholic has ever ceased to be an alcoholic. The mere fact of abstaining from alcohol for months or even years has never qualified an alcoholic to drink "normally" or socially. Once the individual has crossed the borderline from heavy drinking to irresponsible alcoholic drinking, there seems to be no retreat. Few alcoholics deliberately try to drink themselves into trouble, but trouble seems to be the inevitable consequence of an alcoholic's drinking. After quitting for a period, the alcoholic may feel it is safe to try a few beers or a few glasses of light wine. This can mislead the person into drinking only with means. But it is not too long before the alcoholic is back in the old pattern of too-heavy drinking - in spite of all efforts to set limits for only moderate, social drinking.
The answer, based on A.A. experience, is that if you are an alcoholic, you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time. That leaves two paths open: to let your drinking become worse and worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober, constructive living.
How can I tell if I am really an alcoholic?
Only you can make that decision. Many who are now in A.A. have previously been told that they were not alcoholics, that all they needed was more willpower, a change of scenery, more rest, or a few new hobbies in order to straighten out. These same people finally turned to A.A. because they felt, deep down inside, that alcohol had them licked and that they were ready to try anything that would free them from the compulsion to drink.
Some of these men and women went through terrifying experiences with alcohol before they were ready to admit that alcohol was not for them. They became derelicts, stole, lied, cheated, and even killed while they were drinking. They took advantage of their employers and abused their families. They were completely unreliable in their relations and spiritual assets.
Many others with far less tragic records have turned to A.A., too. They have never been jailed or hospitalized. Their too-heavy drinking may not have been noticed by their closest relatives and friends. But they knew enough about alcoholism as a progressive illness to scare them. They joined A.A. before they had paid too heavy a price.
There is a saying in A.A. that there is no such thing as being a little bit alcoholic. Either you are, or you are not. And only the individual involved can say whether or not alcohol has become an unmanageable problem.
How can you tell if someone has an alcohol problem?
A good first step is to answer the brief questionnaire below, developed by Dr. John Ewing. (To help remember these questions, note that the first letter of a key word in each question spells "CAGE.")
- 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 to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?
One "yes" answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one "yes" answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health provider right away. He or she can determine whether a drinking problem exists and, if so, suggest the best course of action.
A more thorough diagnostic questionnaire is available on this page.
Can alcoholism be cured?
No, not yet. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, and medication has also become available to help prevent relapse, but a cure has not yet been found. This means that even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long time and has regained health, he or she may relapse and must continue to avoid all alcohol.
Is alcoholism inherited?
Alcoholism tends to run in families, and genetic factors partially explain this pattern. Currently, researchers are on the way to finding the genes that influence vulnerability to alcoholism. A person's environment, such as the influence of friends, stress levels, and the ease of obtaining alcohol, also may influence drinking and the development of alcoholism. Still other factors, such as social support, may help to protect even high-risk people from alcohol problems.
Risk, however, is not destiny. A child of an alcoholic parent will not automatically develop alcoholism. A person with no family history of alcoholism can become alcohol dependent.
What are the symptoms of alcoholism?
Not all alcoholics have the same symptoms, but many - at different stages in the illness - show these signs: They find that only alcohol can make them feel self-confident and at ease with other people; often want "just one more" at the end of a party; look forward to drinking occasions and think about them a lot; get drunk when they had not planned to; try to control their drinking by changing types of liquor, going on the wagon, or taking pledges; sneak drinks; lie about their drinking; hide bottles; drink at work (or in school); drink alone; have blackouts (that is, cannot remember the next day what they said or did the night before); drink in the morning, to relieve severe hangovers, guilty feelings and fears; fail to eat and become malnourished; get cirrhosis of the liver; shake violently, hallucinate, or have convulsions when withdrawn from liquor.
What is alcoholism?
As A.A. sees it, alcoholism is an illness. Alcoholics cannot control their drinking, because they are ill in their bodies and in their minds (or emotions), A.A. believes. If they do not stop drinking, their alcoholism almost always gets worse and worse.
Both the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, chief organizations of doctors in those countries, also have said that alcoholism is an illness.
Physical Allergy - Any time you put alcohol what so ever into your system, it develops an actual physical craving which makes it virtually impossible for you to stop drinking after you've once started. Because of that allergy, which produces that physical craving, you'll never be able to safely drink alcohol again.
Obsession of the Mind - An idea that overcomes all other ideas to the contrary. It really doesn’t make any difference how badly you want to stop drinking. From time to time, your obsession of the mind to drink will be so strong, it will overcome any ideas not to drink and your mind will actually lead you to believe it's ok to drink.
Then you'll take that drink, you'll trigger that allergy and you'll be unable to stop. You can't safely drink because of your body, you can't stay sober because of your mind, therefore you've become absolutely powerless over alcohol.