Alcoholic beverages are consumed every day by countless amounts of people. Ethanol is a psychoactive substance which is present as the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and distilled spirits. It is one of the oldest and most commonly used recreational substances. In low doses, alcoholic drinks can reduce anxiety and increase sociability but in higher doses, it can cause intoxication and unconsciousness.
There are several reasons why people consume alcohol. People may drink to relieve the stresses of everyday life such as work, relationships or money. Some people, especially teenagers, may feel obligated to drink due to peer pressure, in order not to feel left out or ridiculed by others. The consumption of alcohol also tends to be fun for many people. Alcohol’s drunk effect makes people feel happy and drinking it with friends can be a fun experience. If a person is nervous in a social situation, drinking helps them to relax and have more fun. However, what happens when the use of alcohol is no longer beneficial?
This is Sophia’s story.
Alcohol had always been a part of my life. As I was growing up, my parents would occasionally drink a glass of wine. If they were feeling generous, they would let me have a sip or two. By high school, I was drinking with my friends at parties. I have a few embarrassing drunk stories from these parties, but then who doesn’t? As I got older I would still drink with my friends on a girl’s night out or night in. I would even drink a glass of wine on a stressful day.
But the glass of wine I would have in the evening of a stressful day was no longer enough. I would need a second glass to relax. Until it slowly became a third glass, leading to a fourth and eventually, the whole bottle. Soon every day became stressful. There were piles of paperwork all over my desk, bills to pay and rent to worry about. I was struggling to cope. So my solution was to drink a bottle of wine every evening.But the evening just couldn’t arrive quick enough, so I carried a small flask of vodka with me to work. I needed a way to cope during the day. Until I could no longer carry a small flask to work anymore because I’d been fired for being intoxicated one too many times.
The nice person my friends used to know was slowly replaced with someone distant, irritable and quick to anger. My friends voiced their concern about my drinking and tried to help, but I refused to believe I had a problem. I mean, it’s not like they didn’t drink either. It’s just that their ‘one more drink’ would always be just that, but mine never was. They eventually stopped inviting me to social situations. I guess it was in the fear that I would embarrass them in my drunken state. Soon my friends became strangers as they actively avoided me. So, strangers in the bars I would frequent became my friends. They didn’t judge me or my drinking. They didn’t judge me when I would say, ‘‘just one more drink’’ despite it never really being one more. Yet they were still just strangers. The only ‘friends’ I had left were the empty bottles of wine that littered my apartment. An apartment I could’ve lost due to an addiction. An addiction that cost me my job, friends even my health. Luckily it hadn’t cost me my home, but it could’ve if I had reached for help any later.
My use of alcohol started as a simple escape but slowly became my biggest problem.
There are many people with stories, like Sophia, of their battle with alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse can be a severe problem which can lead a person to lose their job, home and ruin relationships with friends and family. Regular heavy drinking may also lead to health problems such as fatigue, memory loss, liver diseases, heart problems, diabetes, mental illness and cancer.
In most parts of the world, alcohol is legal for adults to purchase and consume. As a result, alcoholic beverages are widely available. Since use is so common, it might seem hard to determine who is drinking alcohol in an appropriate manner and who is drinking in a manner that could lead to alcohol abuse or alcoholism, especially because alcoholics can be secretive about it. Alcohol abuse is one of the oldest problem’s in humanity, with alcoholism being the most severe form of alcohol abuse as it involves being unable to control drinking habits. When alcohol consumption becomes out of control it can be detrimental to a person’s life. If someone close to you is showing any of the following signs, it may be that they’re suffering from alcoholism:
- A lack of interest in previously normal activities
- Appearing intoxicated more regularly
- Needing to drink more to achieve the same effects
- Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
- An inability to say no to alcohol
- Anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
- Becoming secretive or dishonest
If a person seems to be experiencing some of these symptoms, they may require help. The first step of treating alcoholism is acknowledging that there is a problem. As with many health problems the second step is to seek help from a healthcare professional, like a local GP who can refer you to a specialist. If this is not the route a person wants to take, other options are available such as trying the many alcohol support services accessible to them.
There needs to be less stigma around alcoholism because it’s a problem that affects many people, whether it is personally or someone they know. It is something that can happen to anyone at any time.
By Bernice Mangundu.