The Phases of the Disease
There are three distinctly noticeable phases in alcoholism. Each phase has its signs and symptoms.
The Early Phase
- Increased Tolerance: This is the first warning sign of the development of alcoholism. You would need more drinks to get the same pleasurable feeling, which you got earlier with just one or two drinks.
- Blackouts: This is not going unconscious or falling flat. During a black out, you may go through many activities like walking, talking, even driving a vehicle apparently normally, but have no recollection of them afterwards.
- Preoccupation with Drinking: Even when you are not drinking, you are preoccupied with when and how you will you can get the next drink.
- Avoiding Any Talk About Alcohol: Despite the preoccupation, you do not want to discuss your craving with anybody. Even if you have boasted earlier of you capacity to drink, you want to avoid the subject now.
The Middle Phase
- Loss of Control: Initially, there is a loss of control over the amount of alcohol consumed. Later on, you lose control over the time, place and occasion of drinking.
- Justifying Your Drinking: You feel guilty and depressed. You justify drinking by giving excuses such as unhappy married life, tension at office, pressure from friends to drink, etc. In an attempt to reduce the feeling of guilt, you keep giving different reasons, but your drinking continues.
- Grandiose Behaviour: You talk big and spend big; more than you can afford. Quite often, alcoholics in this phase, do not provide even basic needs for the dependent family, but spend what little they have in extravagant gestures among friends.
- Temporary Abstinence: By this time, your drinking has lead to plenty of problems, at home and in the office. You are at the point of losing your job and perhaps your marriage. This might make you abstain for a while.
- Changing the Pattern: Some make a change in the pattern of drinking. They try to change what they drink; arrack to brandy, whiskey to beer. They try a change of place or time. But so long as it is alcohol, no matter how many changes are made, they continue to be immersed in the same problems that haunted them before.
The Chronic Phase
This phase is characterised by noticeable physical, mental and social deterioration. There is a total breakdown in relationship with the family.
- Binge Drinking: You drink continuously for days together, do not eat and do not involve yourself in any other activity. At the end of each binge you are left shaken, frightened and guilt-ridden, You promise never to drink again. Soon enough you go on another binge.
- Ethical Breakdown: You borrow, lie and even steal to keep liquor in supply. You have no qualms about being unethical. Your sole aim is to get enough to drink, whatever the means.
- Paranoia and Hallucinations: You begin to suspect people around you with little reason. You imagine they are plotting against you. You may imagine voices speaking to you. You may see things that do not exist or may feel things crawling on you.
- Lack of Motor Co-Ordination: Your hand trembles as you hold the coffee cup. Even to shave you have to steady yourself with a few drinks. You drink to feel better, but it only makes you feel worse.
This is the end of the road. Those who do not stop alcohol consumption even at this stage get mentally ill or die a slow, painful death.