Alcohol Abuse

Do you or someone you care for have an alcohol problem? This article will look at what alcohol abuse is and what are the common alcohol abuse symptoms to look out for. I will also talk about how hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse can help reduce alcohol dependency.

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Let’s start by learning how to recognise the symptoms or warning signs that an occasional drink has turned into something more troubling or an addiction.

Alcohol abuse symptoms

It’s not always clear when your alcohol intake has moved from being social drinking and moderate to being problematic. Drinking is common and in fact celebrated in much of our culture. It’s common for people to boast about how much they drink. It can therefore feel like a taboo to admit you have a drinking problem. Alcohol will affect people differently, its effects different from person to person. What are the signs that you may have a drinking problem? A red flag will always be if you notice you drink alcohol not just for enjoyment and in moderation but to cope with life problems or to avoid feelings, such as anger or anxiety. If you act in dangerous ways, such as driving when drunk, this will be an important alcohol abuse symptom to take note of and act on.

Some examples of common alcohol abuse symptoms. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You mislead or lie to people about whether or how much you drink.
  • You feel you must drink in order to relax, feel relief or happy.
  • Have you ever experienced guilt or shame about your drinking habits?
  • Have you ever had a “black out” or forgot what you did when you were binge drinking or at a party or drinking alone?
  • Do you frequently consume more alcohol than you intended to?

A good yardstick is asking how alcohol affects your daily life. If your alcohol consumption causes any problems in your home life or career, then you may be abusing alcohol. As I often see from hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse clients, in London, we can often be in denial about how much our drinking is negatively impacting our lives.

Alcohol abuse can sneak up on you

Like many addictions, alcohol abuse can sneak up on you. You seem to be drinking only moderately and then suddenly it is far more frequent than you would like. You may notice more the unwanted after-effects such as a hangover, poor performance at work the next day, or feelings of shame or guilt. If left unchecked alcoholism may lead to relationship problems, loss of jobs and ill health. It’s important to wake up to the dangers of alcohol abuse before it’s gone too far.

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If you feel that you see yourself in what I’m describing, take steps to cut back your drinking habits. Admitting and understanding the problem exists is the first and often hardest step to alcohol recovery. I use hypnotherapy for alcoholism at my London clinic. Some people who come for sessions are very aware of the size of their alcohol use. However some people come and say they feel it’s simply time to cut down but are really in denial about how severe their alcohol abuse is and how much it is impacting their work and home life. People today are drinking more alcohol than in previous generations. The rates of incidents of blackouts and assaults committed whilst drunk or in a black out state are very worrying indeed.  Alcohol is a substance that leads to inaccurate estimates of how much you have drunk since your cognitive abilities are so impaired.  

Risk factors for alcohol abuse and alcoholism

The risk factors for developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol can result from many interconnected factors. These may include genetics, your childhood experiences, your current social circle and of course your emotional health. Certain minority groups are unfortunately statistically more at risk than others to experience alcohol addiction. Evidence points to someone having a family history of alcoholism, to be more likely to develop a problem with alcohol. Also someone who suffers from a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder is considered to also be particularly at risk. This is because alcohol is often used as a way to self-medicate or escape symptoms.

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From alcohol abuse to alcoholism

Not all alcohol abuse will result in someone becoming a full-blown alcoholic. Rather it is considered to be a big risk factor. Sometimes alcoholism develops in response to a traumatic or stressful event or life change, such as a divorce, bereavement, job loss or similar event. At other times, alcohol abuse gradually increases as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you have ever been a binge drinker or your consumption of alcohol was daily, the chances of developing alcohol addiction become much greater.

Symptoms of alcohol abuse or alcoholism

Alcohol abuse experts differentiate between alcohol abuse and alcoholism or alcohol dependency. Unlike an alcoholic, an alcohol abuser does have the capacity to set limits on how much they drink. However, their alcohol consumption is still harmful and potentially dangerous to their personal safety or could affect others.

Common signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Frequently not taking care of home, study or work responsibilities because of drinking too much alcohol. Someone may fail college exams, not meet deadlines, neglect their children or miss out on commitments because of their addiction.
  • Drinking alcohol in situations in which there may be physical danger, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery whilst drunk, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication, against professional medical advice.
  • Experiencing repeated run-ins with the police on account of alcohol consumption. For example, getting stopped for drunk driving or for drunk and disorderly behaviour.
  • Continuing to drink even when consuming alcohol leads to problems.
  • Others, in particular friends and family, comment often about how you need to cut down drinking.
  • Using drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Often drinking problems are rooted in using alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress or anxiety.
  • Drinking too much alcohol after stressful days. This may include reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your boss, children or romantic partner.

Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse, when it has reached a problematic level. Alcoholism includes all the symptoms of alcohol abuse and involves also the physical dependence on alcohol. If you feel you need alcohol to function and get through the day or feel you are physically compelled to drink, chances are you are indeed an alcoholic.

Tolerance: The first important warning sign of alcoholism

Do you have to drink more than you used to tolerate in order to feel the effects or feel relaxed?

Can you drink more alcohol than others without getting affected? These are signs of a greater tolerance to alcohol which can be an important warning sign of alcohol addiction.

Withdrawal: The second warning sign

Do you require a drink to steady the shakes or clear your head in the morning? Drinking to feel relief or to avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sure indication of alcoholism. When you drink frequently and heavily, your system gets used to the alcohol level and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it’s taken away.

Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to sleep (Insomnia)
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches

In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can also lead to hallucinations, confusion, or fever. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical advice.

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Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism

Do you think you have lost control over your alcohol consumption? Drinking more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer periods of time. This despite telling yourself you wouldn’t this time. You might want to quit drinking, but you somehow can’t. It turns into a cycle of drinking, shame, resolution not to drink again, but then drinking again. You have a real wish to cut down or stop your alcohol abuse, but attempts to quit always seem unsuccessful. Perhaps you have given up other hobbies or activities because of alcohol. Are you spending less time with people or activities that used to be important to you? This can include less time with family and friends, exercise, or engaging in enjoyable pursuits. Alcohol is simply taking up more and more of your energy, time and focus. The drinking continues despite you knowing it causes damage to your marriage, causes you to feel depressed or causes serious health problems.

Are you in denial about your level of alcohol abuse?

We often don’t want to view ourselves as having a problem. As long as you don’t look honestly at your behaviour and any negative effects, being in denial can invite greater alcohol-related problems with health, work, money and relationships.

Are you in denial? Some common signs of denial:

  • You drastically underestimate the amount you drink
  • You downplay the unhealthy consequences of your drinking
  • You complain that family and loved ones are judgmental or exaggerate the problem
  • You blame your drinking or problems on others. For example, you blame an unfair boss for your poor work performance or a nagging partner for your relationship issues. You excuse yourself and how your alcohol abuse is contributing to the problem.

If you notice that everyone else is at fault and your mantra is always that you are the victim, notice if maybe you are avoiding taking responsibility for your drinking. If you find you often rationalize your alcohol consumption, lie or refuse to discuss the subject, maybe take a moment and ask yourself why you are so defensive. If you truly don’t have a problem, why are you trying to cover up your drinking or make excuses?

Five common myths about alcohol abuse and alcoholism

Myth: Since I don’t drink every day and only drink wine or beer, I can’t be an alcoholic.

Fact: We don’t define alcoholism according to what you drink, how much alcohol you consume or when you drink. It’s about the effects your drinking have that define whether you have a problem. If your alcohol consumption is causing problems in your personal or work life, you have an alcohol problem. It doesn’t matter if you drink daily or only on weekends, only drink whiskey or gin and tonic. 

Myth: Despite my drinking I go to work and pay my bills. I’m not homeless or a complete loser, so how can I be an alcoholic?

Fact: We often think that alcoholics are sad old men, often homeless, who really don’t have much of a life. However you can have an alcohol problem no matter how old you are, your gender or what sort of life you lead. Often movies or the media show people drinking to excess to be cool and attractive, leading fun lives, whilst alcoholics are down on their luck, unable to hold down a job and unlucky people. This is simply not a true picture. Clients who see me for hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction are often very successful, some have children and none fall into this stereotype. You don’t have to be homeless and drinking gin out of a brown paper bag on a park bench to have an addiction. Most alcoholics are just like you and me.

Myth: I can stop drinking anytime I want to.

Fact: Of course, there is nothing stopping you from simply stopping. However more likely, you do ‘grit your teeth’ and stop but since the underlying causes of the drinking haven’t been dealt with, the cycle restarts and before you know it, you are drinking again. Like the smoker who says, ‘I’ll just have one and stop’, you trick yourself with promises you can’t keep. Notice the excuses you use to delude yourself. Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 steps start by an admission that the drinker is powerless in face of the addiction. As long as you think you can ‘just stop’ anytime but then see that you always end up drinking never the less, you are trapped in the cycle of being addicted to alcohol.

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Myth: My excess alcohol consumption is only my problem. It doesn’t hurt anyone else and no one has the right to tell me to stop.

Fact: Yes, the choice to put glass or bottle to your lips is 100% your decision. However it’s not true that your drinking doesn’t affect others. Alcohol abuse affects your family, friends and even work colleagues. When you drink, your focus becomes narrowed, your reactions and emotions blurred and dulled. The next days you suffer from a hangover, shame and lower levels of productivity. If you are very drunk or have blackouts, you will not necessarily remember what you did. You may feel you are in control but in reality your decision making abilities are dulled and extremely reduced. It’s no wonder that many crimes and assaults occur when one or both parties are extremely intoxicated. If you drink heavily, you do become other people’s problem.

Myth: Everyone drinks these days, so drinking too much alcohol isn’t a ‘real’ addiction like cocaine or nicotine.

Fact: Alcohol is a drug and you drink in order feel a high, numb feelings or escape, just like people do who use weed, cocaine or other substances. Alcohol also negatively effects your health and your abilities to function. As a hypnotherapist, helping people with all types of addictions, I can tell you that people who come for hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse have an addiction as much as anyone else. Alcohol damages the body and damages relationship and importantly really affects self esteem as well. The physical effects of alcohol can be heart disease, liver disease and cancer, for example. The long-term results of alcohol abuse can be devastating for your health. Coming off alcohol also involves physical withdrawal just like other drug users experience when they quit.

Effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism

As London hypnotherapy of alcoholism clients tell me, alcohol abuse can affect all aspects of life. It’s not just serious health complications, excessive drinking can also damage your mental wellbeing, bank balance, career, and ability to build satisfying relationships. Despite the damage that drinking inflicts on the body, including cancer, heart problems, and liver disease, the personal consequences can be just as severe. Alcoholics have higher divorce rates, higher chances of experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence, unemployment, depression or experiencing mental health conditions. Even if you do succeed at work and hold relationships together, you will still experience the effects that alcoholism and alcohol abuse have on all areas of your life.

Alcohol abuse effects loved ones

Drinking puts an enormous burden on the people closest to you. Often, loved ones and close friends feel responsible for you and for clearing up your messes, lying for you, or working more to pay your bills. They may suffer in silence, pretending that nothing is wrong, hiding their fears and resentments. Living with an alcoholic can be very distressing. Children, especially, can suffer long-term emotional distress when a parent is an alcoholic or heavy drinker.

Getting help and hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse

If you feel you have a drinking problem, admitting this is already to be congratulated. You have taken the first step to recovery. It can take enormous courage to face your alcohol abuse and alcoholism head on.

Reaching out for support is the second step. You may choose to go to an inpatient rehab facility, use self-help programs, go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), book a hypnotherapist for hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse, or see a psychotherapist. Whatever you choose, support is essential. Don’t do this on your own.

Recovering from alcohol addiction is going to be easier if you have support you can reach out to for encouragement, tips, and guidance. An advantage of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse is that you will have someone who really understands what you need and what would help you. Ensure you have a plan so you feel confident that you won’t fall back into old patterns.

Staying off alcohol will involve learning healthier coping strategies and making more resourceful decisions when life feels a struggle. Together with clients who come for hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse, I look at the underlying problems that led to their alcohol addiction in the first place. This may involve looking at issues such as depression, anxiety, your ability to manage stress, or any unresolved traumatic experiences from your childhood. Sometimes, without alcohol to use to run from or cover up issues, these issues can feel more urgent. By cutting down alcohol you will be in a better position to address the real issues in your life you need to look at. Hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse will often focus on these underlying causes.

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How to help a loved one who may abuse alcohol

If someone you care about drinks too much, you may be experiencing feelings including shame, fear, anger, and self-blame. The alcohol abuse affects you too and may feel overwhelming and that you are powerless to really help. It may feel easier to ignore it and pretend that nothing is wrong. However, deep down, you know that it will bring more harm to you or others and of course the person with the drinking problem.

What not to say and reactions to avoid

When talking with someone who drinks more than you think they should, always check if you are angry or being short-tempered. Avoid making threats or ultimatums. Don’t punish, bribe, or preach. Avoid being cruel or using emotional appeals that add to the problem drinker’s feelings of guilt. The worse you make them feel, the more likely they may head to the bottle to escape. Yes, you are in pain, but don’t dump that on them, it won’t be productive. They are drinking since they are in pain already.

Also don’t ‘enable’ them by covering up for them or making excuses on their behalf. Don’t shield your loved one from the results or consequences of their excessive alcohol consumption. Don’t step in and take over their responsibilities. Not only will this drain you, it will leave them feeling disempowered and can leave also a feeling of having no sense of independence or dignity. If there are bottles left around, don’t go out your way to clear them up, that’s not your responsibility.

Remember not to argue with someone who is drunk. It won’t be productive. Never drink together with someone who has a drinking problem. Importantly, don’t feel guilt or responsible for the alcoholic’s behaviour. Their behaviour is their responsibility.

Ensure you take care of yourself, including your health, sleep and emotional wellbeing. You may need support too as you are in a distressing and potentially emotionally abusive situation. Often clients who come for hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse will be brought by a family member. It is more often than not the family member who really needs to talk and get help just as much as the alcoholic. Ensure you find people you can talk honestly with about your situation.

There are support groups for families coping with alcoholism. Often listening to the stories of others with the same challenges can be a tremendous source of comfort and support. You might also want to talk with friends, a therapist, or people in your community.

Remember that you can’t force someone you love to stop drinking. It is really up to them to do so when they are ready. It can be frustrating and hard to watch, but you cannot make someone stop drinking if they don’t want to. Once drinking has stopped, staying sober without support is tough too. Recovery is a journey rather than a destination.

How hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse can help reduce alcohol dependency

I see many people at my London clinic who come for hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse. I use hypnotherapy for a range of addictions. Through hypnotherapy you will look at your patterns and importantly the underlying causes of your addiction to alcohol. I use advanced hypnotherapy tools to help you feel confident that you can say ‘no’ to alcohol. I do not have any expectations regarding your future relationship with alcohol. If you would like to give up totally or simply cut down, the choice is up to you. We will discuss the role alcohol have created for itself in your life and aim, using hypnotherapy and other therapy tools, to change that for the better. Sessions are enjoyable and motivating.

I hope that hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse will signify a new chapter for you. For more information about hypnotherapy for alcohol addiction, click here.