Sometimes, alcoholics do some pretty funny stuff when they are drunk; not so much “ha! ha!” funny, but more towards the… frustrating and shockingly funny. In the beginning, someone who has had too much to drink, might take a little tumble or offer a dirty joke at the wrong time, but as they progress, alcoholics can morph into completely different beings. They can become secretive or aggressive or ill-tempered or even catatonic. They can start to plan their days around their drinking, and they can lose sight of what is important in their lives. Regardless of the individual, there are usually some pretty common behaviors that can be used to differentiate an alcoholic from a normal drinker.
As we progress into our drinking careers, we may begin to lose control of ourselves, our emotions, and well, our drinking. The definition of an alcoholic is someone who cannot stop or control how much they drink, and who, despite every possible reason for them to stop, find that they cannot. But again, those of us who are currently or have been in the throes of spiraling alcoholism tend to have a couple of outlying characteristics of those two behaviors and qualifiers that can signal our family members and friends of our alcoholism.
Blackouts are the result of memory loss due to excessive alcohol intake. And while everyone can have a little too much to drink every once in a blue moon and can experience a blackout, studies show that long-term alcoholics are more susceptible to frequent blackouts. So if you or someone you love is experiencing recurring blackouts when they drink, it could simply be due to the amount and the rate at which they indulge.
Research has shown that there are two types of blackouts, the first, a fragmentary or a “brownout” is when a person loses recollection of short periods of time and can usually remember after being reminded. The other, an En Bloc, lasts for longer periods of time, and the person can usually not recall anything, even after being reminded in detail of the events. Over time, frequent blackouts can lead to serious memory loss and a very unhappy family of an alcoholic.
A Life Planned Around Drinking
For anyone who suffers from an addiction of any sort, it becomes a necessity that they are not without it for very long. For the alcoholic, going without a drink can mean serious physical side effects. Depending on the severity of the drinking, a person who has developed a physical addiction will experience migraines, nausea, tremors, irritability, and anxiety when they are without alcohol. Usually, these symptoms subside once alcohol is reintroduced to the system, so alcoholics will usually plan their day around their drinking habits. Some people have to have a drink in the morning to prevent the shakes, while other people patiently await happy hour or their case of beer after work. Again, while the external appearance may vary for each drinker, the idea remains the same — their days and their lives revolve around when they will be able to take that first drink.
The Inability to Stop
This is where things get dicey. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous differentiates the types of drinkers into three major categories. There is the moderate or normal drinker who can have a drink, set it down, and not think about it again. Then there is the heavy drinker who probably could be considered by some to have a drinking problem, but would be able to stop if they were given good reason. Finally, there is the alcoholic who, despite every rational and understandable reason to put the drink down, finds that they are incapable of doing so. The alcoholic can lose their family, their job, their license, and even their sanity, but will be unable to stop drinking on their own no matter how much they may even WANT to stop.
The phenomenon of alcoholism is based on the knowledge that addiction is a multi-faceted disease that centers in both the body and the mind. The body is the reason why we can’t stop even though we want to, and the mind is the reason why we get started in the first place. The behaviors that the alcoholic exhibits can vary with every person, but usually fall along the same general framework, for example, the mental obsession and the cravings. Sure, some people will be quick to anger when they are drunk, and others are quick to tears, but the fact of the matter is WHY that alcoholic got drunk in the first place. Alcoholics physically and mentally require alcohol in order to feel “at peace” (which usually ends up being counterintuitive). They can come up with thousands of excuses why they need to drink — a celebration, mourning, frustration or joy, but regardless of the reason why they pick up a drink, underneath it will be because they HAVE to.
For people who do not suffer from addiction or alcoholism, this can sound like a copout, and frankly, many alcoholics probably wish it was. They probably wish that they knew why they had to drink even after they have destroyed their lives, their wallets, and their emotional well-being. Research still isn’t 100% sure why some people suffer from alcoholism and others don’t, but reducing the stigma by raising awareness of the common behaviors of alcoholics is a good place to start in order to keep pushing towards better treatment options and alternatives for those who suffer from alcoholism.
Getting Help at Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as programs for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.