The stages of alcoholism will vary from person to person, but for most they are basically the same. Those who have gone down the road of alcoholism can tell you there are many stages of alcoholism they have gone through.
Understanding the various phases an alcoholic goes through can help you identify and recognize the signs of an alcoholic and when drinking becomes a problem.
Knowing when it is time to seek help and the degree of physical dependency can help the person decide which treatment options would be best depending on the stages of alcoholism the alcoholic is going through.
Alcoholism begins with just one drink for the first time, though this of course does not mean that one drink automatically causes alcoholism in every person. Drinking socially or casually for many people is not a problem. However, as a person begins to drink more frequently and more often, they are likely to become both emotionally and physically dependent on alcohol as their tolerance increases.
Beginning Stages of Alcoholism
In the first stage of alcoholism, the person begins to rely on alcohol for alleviating stress or forgetting about their problems. They use alcohol as a means of escape from the everyday struggles of life.
The beginning stages of alcoholism can be seen when a person starts thinking about when their next drink will be or starts planning on when they can go drinking. They may start to neglect close friends or relationships in favor of drinking.
During this early beginning stage it is easier for a person to stop drinking than in later stages, but it is just as easy for them to continue drinking and so many people unfortunately do not stop drinking.
Their withdrawal is non existent to mild or unnoticeable and so because they do not experience the typical withdrawal symptoms the person showing the early signs of alcohol dependency is typically in denial that their drinking could quickly become out of control. This early stage for most can last anywhere from a few months to a year.
The Second Stage of Alcoholism
The second stage of alcoholism is apparent when the person has an increased need to drink. They begin to drink every day, many even drinking as soon as they wake up in the morning or at lunch time.
In this stage of drinking the person has lost much control over how much and when they drink. They may have the intention of only have a beer or two, but end up drinking 6 or more in one sitting.
Denial of a problem with alcoholism begins to be very prominent in this stage. Family members may express concern, but the alcoholic does not think anything is wrong with them and that they could quit drinking anytime but they don’t want to. Other problems may begin from this increased need to drink – DUI’s, money problems, problems at work, and relationships may suffer as well.
Quitting drinking during this stage of alcoholism can again be easier, though it is likely the person will go through mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal in this phase however is not as typically severe or as dangerous as it can be in the final stages of alcoholism. This middle stage of alcoholism can last several months or several years before progressing to the final phase.
Fortunately many people towards the end of the middle stages of alcoholism will seek treatment at the pressure of friends and family or their own desire to begin feeling better, since at this point the alcoholic in general does not typically feel very well going through the constant cycle of drinking.
Final Stages of Alcoholism
By the final stages of alcoholism, the person is consumed by alcohol. Their entire day and thoughts revolve around when they will drink. They will feel sick when they do not drink, as withdrawal symptoms begin to become severe.
They may experience shaky hands, headaches, and stomach problems when they do not have enough to drink. They cannot make it one day without a drink before feeling violently ill.
After years of prolonged excessive drinking, the alcoholic in this stage may also begin experiencing related health problems – kidney and liver disease, heart disease, stomach problems, and others.
In this stage the alcoholic is also highly likely to have strong mood swings or erratic behavior that can also pose a risk to his or her own safety and the safety of others. Some may become violent, others may increase their likelihood of accidents, alcohol poisoning, or blacking out. If the alcoholic continues at this pace, alcoholism in this stage can and will be fatal if treatment is not sought.
During the end stages of alcoholism, going through withdrawal can be just as fatal as continuing to drink, and so if the person does decide to seek treatment it should be done in a carefully monitored setting and with the aid of medications that may help with withdrawal symptoms.
Understanding the stages of alcoholism can help you understand the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and identify when to seek help before it is too late.
With treatment and support, an alcoholic even in the final stages of alcoholism can make a full recovery and reclaim their life back. If you or someone you know is going through any of these stages of alcoholism, please check our page on where to find alcoholism help.