What Is the Cycle of Alcoholism?
Unlike other drugs, alcohol is not immediately addictive: it takes years to become an alcoholic. It all starts with exposure to alcohol and develops into drinking for the effect, tolerance, blackouts , addiction confirmation, and either death or healing.
To become an alcoholic, you must be first exposed to the drug itself; if you're not, how would you know what it is? For many alcoholics, this starts at a young age either through social, non-familial relationships. This works in combination with ‘drinking for the effect. ’
In tandem, drinking to increase one’s mood or relieve physical/emotional pain at a young age begins the process sufficiently early. Young people, aged 12-25, who drink to chemically improve aspects of their lives are at a higher risk for later alcoholism than others who drink in even higher amounts because others are doing so. Separating the two is usually the sober attitude: the previous is depressed and will often dress in dark colors while the latter can be an athletic star or social butterfly. Over time, this develops into tolerance of the effects of alcohol in the body.
A depressant , alcohol slows down certain areas within the brain. As one gets to the tolerance phase, these areas have a slower norm and begin to develop tolerance to being slowed. At this point, alcoholics to still drink for the effect, they simply need more and more to change their mood. This comes with more and more side effects until alcoholics begin to have blackouts when they're drinking.
A blackout means missing part of your intoxication. It means forgetting things like what you said, who you were with, and how you got home. This drastically startles drinkers and even causes many to shed their alcoholism then and there, but others begin to react to it indifferently. Such apathy causes abusers to become similarly apathetic to the rest of the disadvantages of alcoholism.
Indeed, it is around this time that alcoholics begin seeing the disadvantages of their abuse. Things like dropping social contacts, problems at work/school, monetary problems, and medical issues begin happening. Often they ask themselves if the downturn their lives have taken is related to drinking. Many never come to the conclusion that their drinking is a poor problem-solving method.
Drinking usually replaced a poor problem-solving method in the first place, and it is upon this method that alcoholics will rely on when trying to quit. Whatever this is, it normally involves drinking less and causes withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is the result of the body’s tolerance not getting its sufficient amount of alcohol and, thus, causing trembling, sweating, poor sleep, and restlessness.
It is the avoidance of these symptoms that perpetuates drinking. As the symptoms of withdrawal get worse, the drinking gets heavier. This causes more shame and guilt, which also increases more alcohol as well as total shame and guilt. This cycle begins to consume alcoholics as they lose partners, jobs, and freedoms as well as the ability to function mentally.
It is because of this cycle that it is important to catch this early on in family members and help them move on.