The question is often asked of what is an alcoholic, normally to try and have some sort of diagnosis, either medical or social, that an individual can be judged against to see if they are an alcoholic or not.
Unfortunately it is not that easy. An alcoholic is someone who suffers from the illness of alcoholism, in the same sense that a diabetic is someone who has diabetes, although obviously very different illnesses.
Alcoholism as an illness is a relatively modern concept, an idea pioneered by a number of early doctors who helped the founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous gets over and stay sober, an idea now generally accepted as true by the medical profession generally.
Although alcoholism is generally recognised to be an illness, it does not necessarily make it easier to diagnose an alcoholic. In some senses there are symptoms of a person having a drink problem, which can either be physical or social or emotional. However the symptoms on their own do not necessarily define all show alcoholism.
There is a difference, although it may be thought of as a bit academic, between alcoholism and heavy drinking. There is a significant difference in terms of solution however, and the distinction between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker’s best explained in the early chapters of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
One of the most difficult features of understanding alcoholism is an illness, is the fact that an alcoholic’s will almost inevitably be in complete denial of the fact that they have a problem with alcohol.
This denial is a protective measure, and is a core part of an alcoholic defending alcohol, and in their eyes protecting alcohol from people who want to take it away from them.
This sense of a need to protect alcohol, and the belief that alcohol is the only thing that is holding an alcoholic together, is a core part of alcoholism. This belief will deepen in an alcoholic, the worse that life gets both internally and externally.
This is one reason why the idea of an intervention as recommended by a number of rehabs and treatment centres should be regarded with extreme caution, and only investigated as a matter of last resort.
An alcoholic needs a number of things to happen in their life before they can begin the process of getting sober. It is difficult to define generally what these things are, but one thing that is crucial if the context of a safe environment in order to begin the process of healing.
Such a safe environment can either be a rehab or treatment center, or a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. The nature of a safe environment means it has to be non-threatening, in the sense of helping an alcoholic to understand both sides of the coin.
On one hand an alcoholic needs to understand that alcohol is killing them, and at the same time begin to understand why they feel the need to protect alcohol and defend and deny their alcoholism.
This is a fine line, and a process that inevitably takes much time. Often the time spent in a rehab will be able to open an alcoholic to the realisation of this distortion in their lives and some of the reasons for it.
The rebuilding of their life is the key feature of recovery from alcoholism, and this journey in recovery, which often begins in a rehab, needs to be nurtured and encouraged by all those close to and around the alcoholic. Is