How does one become an alcoholic? One can assume that many people have asked themselves that same exact question. The truth is there are many reasons why someone can develop a drinking problem. A better question would be why would someone want to go down that road when they know the harms of alcoholism? This essay will cover the reasons why people develop drinking problems and why they struggle to look for help. I speculate that the main reason why people develop a problem with alcoholism is because they use it as a way to escape from their problems. I also speculate that they deny having a problem with alcoholism because they are just too addicted to how alcohol makes them feel.
One of the first things that should be covered about alcoholism is that anybody can develop a problem with it. Often society portrays the image that only low-income people or homeless people have drinking problems. Although that can be true they are definitely not the only ones. In the article “How Alcoholism Works” by Stephanie Watson, she notes, “in the United States alone, alcoholism affects millions of people and costs the country billions of dollars each year” (Watson). Alcoholism doesn’t only affect the people of the United States, but also affects people all over the world.
The main reasons why someone can develop problems with alcoholism are “a combination of genetic, physiological, psychological and social factors” (Watson). Keep in mind that those reasons alone might not bring someone to develop alcoholism, but like the statement points out, is when they combine with each other that the problem has a higher chance of developing.
The most important reason for developing alcoholism might be the psychological factor. People are constantly stressed in today`s world. The pressure of having to deal with school, work, family and many other things take a lot out of a person. When that stress becomes unbearable, some turn to alcohol for that temporary fix. The problem comes when this scenario becomes a habit. It may not turn the individual into an alcoholic, depending on how much they are drinking, but any habit involving alcohol can be harmful to the human body. The main problem with this scenario is when the person is drinking an excessive amount and then they develop the need to drink in order to face life. This is when it is clear that the individual has developed a problem with alcohol.
Low self-esteem is another psychological problem that drives people to drink. In the journal, Psychiatric Treatment of Alcoholism by Sidney Vogel, he claims, “most psychiatrists stress the lack of self-esteem, whatever its origin, as a most important reason for addictive drinking” (103). Often people turn to alcohol when they don`t feel accepted by society for the way that they are. Again, this method of drinking is used to forget feelings that are too hard to deal with. Together with the social aspect, some people sometimes drink before a date to feel less nervous. It may not seem harmful at first but the body picks up on the feeling of how easy it felt to have that drink in order to deal with the situation. Soon enough the body may want to use alcohol not only for dates, but also for other situations that makes the individual nervous or anxious.
A learned trait is another psychological aspect that can help people develop a drinking problem. People that come from families where they were brought up watching a family member drink a lot can go in two directions. The first direction is that they can develop a hatred for alcohol for the harms that it caused their loved one. The second is the most unfortunate one, which is caused by when the individual becomes used to watching someone close to them drink so much that it doesn`t even seem wrong anymore. This situation drives them to believe that drinking is not a big deal, and therefore they too can develop a drinking problem.
The genetic factor is also very important to better understand the reasons why people develop a problem with alcohol. Genes alone cannot determine if someone will become an alcoholic. However, environmental factors, such as advertising and product availability, together with genes can be a great combination for someone to become an alcoholic. Watson points out, “[r]esearch has indicated that children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves; and while this statistic is at least partly due to environmental factors, scientists have determined that there is a genetic link” (Watson).
While thinking about this factor, those that come from a family with a history with alcoholism do have a higher chance of having a problem with alcohol; therefore they should refrain from drinking socially because it could develop into something more serious a lot faster than it would for someone without a history of alcoholism.
The social factor is also a very dangerous and easy way to develop a drinking problem. As early as in the teen years one can develop a problem with alcohol because of the social factor. Peer pressure drives lots of teens to start drinking in high school. Much like teenagers, adults can also feel pressured to fit in, and what seems innocent, like a drink after work with peers, may turn into a nightmare if it becomes a regular event.
Friends, much like peers, can play a role into helping someone turn into an alcoholic. Most people spend a lot of time with their friends and if that group of friends are always drinking, odds are that an individual will pick up on their friend`s drinking habit. This is a perfect example of how this environment combined with both social and genetic factor can turn someone into an alcoholic. I speculate that single people also tend to drink more than those who are in a relationship, because single people use drinking as a way to make them feel better, and when alcohol is involved in making someone feel better it can usually become a problem.
The physiological factor is yet another reason why someone can develop a drinking problem. Watson reports, “[p]hysiologically, alcohol alters the balance of chemicals in the brain. It affects chemicals in the brain’s reward center, such as dopamine”(Watson). This is a problem because the body then develops a habit of how the alcohol makes it feel and this results into a craving for alcohol, which then easily turns someone into an alcoholic (Watson).
Once a person becomes an alcoholic their lives are forever changed and they will never be able to drink socially again. As Vogel point out, “the alcoholic drinks in a special way because he “requires” alcohol”(100). This means that for most people that think that alcoholics drink because it is fun for them or because they drink because they enjoy it, they are wrong.
Alcoholics drink because they need to, and unfortunately they can’t control that need. This need for alcohol is so strong and is one of the main reasons why giving up alcohol is no easy task to do. For those who are not alcoholics it is almost impossible to think of what it must be like to have no self-control over something, but that is exactly what alcoholism consists of.
Alcoholics often find ways to defend themselves from the reason why they turn to alcohol, and they do so by using defense mechanisms. Vogel confirms this by acknowledging that, “alcoholics, like other individuals, make use of numerous defense mechanisms to protect themselves from anxiety and to resolve their conflicts”(102). One of the most important and most well know defense mechanisms used by alcoholics is denial. Alcoholics often deny that they have a problem with alcohol. They believe that they can stop drinking whenever they want ant that alcohol doesn’t control their lives. Denial is used to keep reality away from an alcoholic`s mind and this becomes a problem because as long as they are in denial there is no way to fix their addiction.
Once an alcoholic comes to terms with their drinking problem two things can happen. One is that the alcoholic can start looking for ways to achieve sobriety. The other is that they can decide that there is no need to do anything about it and continue drinking for the rest of their lives. The hardest part of giving up alcohol is coming to the realization that they will never be able to drink again.
This can easily become frustrating for an alcoholic because he will now have to find something else that can give them the same relief that alcohol used to. I speculate that this is when alcoholics have extreme difficulty adjusting to life without alcohol because unless they turn to other drugs, is almost impossible to find something that can replace the feeling that alcohol did. Vogel backs my theory up by acknowledging that, “they feel threatened by a society which they consider too ready to take away without substitution the crutch which has been used to resolve their omnipresent problems”(105).
Sobriety is not easily achieved. It takes motivation and self-discipline. It is almost impossible for alcoholics to achieve sobriety by themselves. The process is very long and is something that they will need to work on every single day for the rest of their lives. It is One of the preferred ways of dealing with alcoholics that are looking to achieve sobriety is through group therapy (Vogel 106). Group therapy can help the alcoholic feel less judged because they can feel safe knowing that others just like them are trying to deal with the same problems that they are.
Alcoholism is a deadly disease that is very much present in today’s society. As we have learned there is no actual cure for the disease and recovering alcoholics will have to constantly refrain from alcohol to avoid a relapse. People do turn to alcohol to escape from their problems, but the combined social, philosophical, genetics and physiological factors, go deeper into explaining why people then turn into alcoholics. Denial, as mentioned, is used as a defense mechanism, and is used to overcome facts of reality and is a way to unable the alcoholic from realizing the harms that alcohol is bringing to his or her life. The process of becoming an alcoholic takes time and the process of achieving sobriety is even longer. Society needs to find a way to overcome this disease otherwise alcoholism will forever be a part of human`s lives.
Watson, Stephanie. How Alcoholism Works. HowStuffWorks.com, 2005. Web. 14 Mar. 2013. Vogel, Sidney. “Psychiatric Treatment of Alcoholism.” Understanding Alcoholism 315 (1958): 99-107. Print.