“I was living in constant fear of who I’d meet, what I might have said to them, what I might have done with them, so I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone. I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic — it wasn’t me. I’m a fun, polite person and it turned me into a rude bore.”
When Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Harry Potter at age 11, he became a star almost instantly. It seemed that everything was turning in his favor. In fact, everything continued to seem that way for quite some time as the young actor grew up.
But behind the scenes, life wasn’t so easy for Radcliffe. For three long years, Radcliffe struggled with alcohol abuse. And the disease of alcoholism turned the teenager into someone who simply wasn’t him anymore.
And as Radcliffe discovered, anyone can fall prey to this disease: celebrity or common person, adult or child, man or woman. And addiction to alcoholism can happen when you least expect it.
No one has their first drink and immediately says, “Look, I’m an alcoholic!” Alcohol abuse doesn't happen that way. Abuse usually begins innocently, with the casual use of a substance that’s commonly accepted as a part of life in the United States.
We live in a society where drinking alcohol is not only viewed as "okay" and acceptable. What’s more, it it is associated with many significant events.
Think about it. Booze is served at parties. Champagne is served at weddings for toasts. Beer is sold at sporting events. Wine is given as a housewarming gift. Drinks are served at most sit-down restaurants. Wine is even served at many churches for communion.
So, why are so many people are shocked to learned that the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that more than 15 million people in America are addicted to alcohol? Why are so many people surprised when someone close to them develops an addiction to it?
The truth is that alcohol abuse and addiction are far bigger problems than most people realize. But the good news is that for those overtaken by this disease, there is help. Alcohol recovery is possible and prevalent all around the U.S.
Among those affected by alcohol abuse and alcoholism are many well-known celebrities. For many, it can help to know that even those who seem untouchable can be affected by alcoholism. They’re human too, after all. The celebrities who have struggled with alcoholism include Ed Sheeran, Jada Pinkett Smith, Russell Brand, and Robert Downey Jr. They aren’t the only ones, either.
But the best part of the knowledge that these famous individuals have struggled with alcoholism is the fact that all of them have recovered, too. They’ve worked through the problem and come to a healthier, happier, place.
~ Daniel Radcliffe, on recovery from alcoholism
If you believe that you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol, the time to start recovery is now. And the first step to recovery is learning more about the problem. Below, we’ll cover important topics such as:
We hope this information can set you up for success. If you want to recover, we want to help.
It’s common knowledge that alcohol can refer to a whole array of different drinks. These include beer, wine, whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, cider, brandy, vodka, and many others. But not every drink is addictive, and not every drink affects the human body the way alcohol does. So what makes alcohol different?
The active drug in alcoholic drinks is a chemical called ethanol. Ethanol is one of two byproducts produced when yeast interacts with some sugars. These can include the sugars found in grains, fruits, or vegetables. This interaction is called fermentation. In general, the longer something ferments, the stronger it will be. Some of the particularly strong alcoholic beverages are the results of this fermentation with some of the water removed.
Alcohol can begin to affect the body only 5 minutes after consumption. Alcohol is usually consumed as a drink. It is then absorbed into the body through the small intestine and the stomach. The average body can break down about one standard drink per hour.
If someone does get drunk, the effects may include a loss of memory or coordination, slurred speech, or other harmful and irritating side effects. This is called intoxication. If someone has too much to drink, they may contract alcohol poisoning or fall unconscious.
Several hours after consumption, the body usually experiences a hangover.
These statistics may be surprising. There is glaring evidence that alcohol is a dangerous and harmful substance. However, Americans continue to consume alcohol regularly. The outcome? Alcoholism.
If it seems so obvious that continued alcohol use is harmful and dangerous, why do people continue to use?
As we've mentioned, alcohol consumption shows up everywhere in our society. It’s easy to get your hands on. It is advertised all around us. It doesn’t cost much. Few people will look down on another simply for drinking.
When you think about illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, or meth, you probalby already have strong feelings about them. You likely get the sense immediately that something isn’t right about using them. You’ve been taught that these drugs are illegal and scary.
This is not true for people who abuse alcohol.
Someone with an alcohol problem can abuse alcohol for years and not know that they are abusing it. After all, they’ve had alcohol in the company of friends and family members. They may have had alcohol in the company of their boss or coworkers. And they’ve probably seen others drinking alcohol too with no problem.
See, the problem doesn’t come from the alcohol itself. The problem comes from a mix of the amount of alcohol consumed, the frequency with which it is consumed, the context in which it is consumed, and even genetic factors unique to each individual. There’s a fine line between drinking alcohol and abusing alcohol. Alcohol is tricky because there are so many ways that normal use can go wrong. And each of these ways can be difficult to identify.
Are you wondering if you or someone you care about might have a problem with alcohol consumption?You might be on to something. It’s important not to allow your societal view of alcohol to interfere with noticing the signs of a problem. Below, we discuss how to recognize this transition into dangerous use.
Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions. Alcohol abuse is a tricky thing, but it can be beat with the proper treatment.
“I belong to the drinking class
Monday through Friday, man we bust our backs
If you're one of us, raise your glass
I belong to the drinking class”
~ Lee Brice, “Drinking Class”
Alcohol abuse doesn't make front page news like heroin or cocaine addiction. However, it runs rampant in the United States. Why, then, is alcohol such a popular drink?
Well, as demonstrated by the lyrics of a popular country song above, alcohol has become ingrained in many aspects of U.S. culture. And let’s face it - many people enjoy the taste and feeling associated with alcohol.
This is one of the reasons why so many people drink in the first place. And this reasoning isn’t a bad thing. There’s no shame in enjoying something legally, and there’s no shame in wanting to feel like part of a group.
In fact, alcohol use isn’t the problem. While alcohol can be somewhat harmful in any amount, the real trouble with alcohol begins when the user abuses the substance or becomes addicted to it. Here, we’ll dive into the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Keep in mind that having the occasional drink doesn’t fall into either category.
Abusing a substance simply means to misuse it. For drugs and other things, this means any use that is illegal or against the instructions of a doctor or the manufacturer. Abuse can also include using a substance in a manner or for a reason that it isn’t meant for.
That said, the following situations are considered substance abuse:
Abuse can also include using a drug despite it being harmful or having negative consequences. This is where alcohol abuse lies for many people.
In many cases, alcohol is abused simply because the user is not old enough to drink legally. Because the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, anyone below that age consuming alcohol is abusing it. There are few exceptions to this rule, including alcohol consumed with the permission of a minor’s guardian and in their presence.
Even once an individual is 21, though, it’s easy to abuse alcohol. Those who are getting blackout drunk regularly are abusing alcohol. Those whose alcohol use has caused them to lose a job are likely abusing alcohol. Those who use alcohol as an escape from emotions are abusing it.
However, not everyone abusing the substance is addicted. Many of those abusing alcohol truly could stop using whenever they want.
If you’re reading this and still not sure if you’re abusing alcohol or not, we’re glad you’re thinking about it. If you truly have doubts about your alcohol consumption, there’s a good chance you’re an abuser. However, it’s a good sign that you’re trying to learn more.
Consider the following signs of alcohol abuse:
This list is by no means all-inclusive. There are plenty of other behaviors common to those who abuse alcohol. However, if the signs in this list sound familiar, you should look into getting help.
Addiction to alcohol, or alcoholism, is a step further than alcohol abuse. There are both physical and psychological aspects to true addiction.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine says that, “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” They go on to explain that, “Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.”
This definition implies that alcoholism involves being unable to stop using, having a hard time controlling oneself or one’s cravings, and a lack of understanding of the problems caused by alcohol.
The physical part of this addiction is the body’s inability to function without the drug, otherwise known as dependence. This is coupled with withdrawal symptoms, or a physical response to the lack of the drug.
For a visual representation of why some people become addicted to the drug and others don’t, check out this video.
As we’ve mentioned above, someone who is truly addicted to or physically dependent on alcohol will begin to go through withdrawals. Alcohol negatively affects almost every major organ in the body. It is especially harmful to the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder. But despite this, the body comes to depend on it.
When someone stops drinking, then, the body is expected to remember how to function without alcohol. Usually, this adjustment period is incredibly uncomfortable and even dangerous. This is the withdrawal period.
Not all of the possible symptoms will occur for all recovering alcoholics. However, all are possible.
Delirium Tremens, or DT, is a particularly extreme case of alcohol withdrawal. DT can be fatal, which is one of the reasons why getting professional help to detox from alcohol is so important.
DT is most common in those who have had a lot of alcohol consistently over time, or for those who don’t eat enough when drinking. It can occur as soon as 72 hours after the most recent drink. However, it can also happen up to 10 days after the most recent drink.
The symptoms of Delirium Tremens can include:
The symptoms of DT can be quite severe, and require medical treatment. Contact a medical professional if you suspect you are experiencing Delirium Tremens.
Another danger of alcohol use is the effect it can have when mixed with other drugs. Even those using alcohol without abusing it could face serious problems if they are using other drugs at the same time.
While these risks exist for anyone mixing drugs and alcohol, they may be heightened for elderly patients. Special care should be taken to lower the risk of injury in this demographic.
Additionally, these are only some of many drugs that can react poorly when mixed with alcohol. Always ask a doctor if you can drink while taking prescribed or over the counter medications you need for medical reasons. Never take over the counter or prescription medications outside of a doctor’s supervision.
“But not even he could have stopped me alone — I had to stop myself. And stopping has shown me a world of happiness that I didn’t think was possible.”
~ Daniel Radcliffe
Here's the deal - if you or someone you love has an addiction to alcohol, outside help is one of the best ways to ensure a successful recovery. Whether it's peer support through AA or professional support provided at a professional addiction treatment center, a recovery from alcoholism requires more than sheer willpower.
There are several parts of the recovery journey. These can include detoxing from alcohol, attending an alcohol rehab program, and alcoholism recovery aftercare.
“So when I woke up, my wife and daughter were standing there in the kitchen and I’m passed out on the floor. . . And they found a bed for me in upstate New York the very next morning. And I was in rehab the very next day.”
Alcohol detox, the first part of recovery, helps the addict to recover from their physical dependence on alcohol. It covers the entire time period during which the body gets rid of the alcohol already in its system.
Essentially, detox is the same process as withdrawal. The main difference is that detox usually implies that the withdrawal symptoms are managed or treated in some way. In a professional rehab center, this can mean a few different things.
A holistic rehab center will try to decrease withdrawal symptoms by increasing the overall health of the patient. A balanced and nutritious diet, solid hydration plan, good sleep schedule, and physical activity can all be parts of a holistic detox program.
Other rehab centers may choose to aid in recovery using medications. There are two main kinds of medications used in alcohol recovery. They include:
While you can likely find at-home detox kits or drug at the store or online, none of these have been approved by the U.S. FDA. That means that there is no guarantee that they are safe. It is always better to enlist professional detox help.
“He said, I don't drink
But sometimes I wanna pop that top
Take a swig and make the world stop
And watch it fade away.”
~ Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break”
For many people, the psychological side of addiction is much harder to crack than the physical side. Many alcoholics have become accustomed to turning to alcohol to cope with problems, have fun, or relax at all.
In a professional treatment center, or rehab program, professionals can help recovering alcoholics learn to live their lives without alcohol. While it may sound silly to need to relearn something they’ve almost certainly done before, this portion of recovery is vital.
During rehab, patients will meet with therapists and possibly other patients as they attempt to learn what to do instead of drinking. The goal of therapy is always to learn to cope without alcohol. There are different styles of rehab that work towards this goal in different ways.
Inpatient rehab is probably what you picture when you hear the word rehab. This treatment style involves the recovering alcoholic living within a treatment center during recovery. They will sleep, eat, relax, and attend therapy sessions all in one place.
Outpatient rehab is a little different. For outpatient treatment, the recovering alcoholic still attends therapy and other activities. Meanwhile, they continue to live at home, away from the rehab center.
Overall, inpatient addiction treatment is seen as most effective. This means that of all recovering addicts who complete a treatment program, those who opted for an inpatient program are least likely to relapse. However, both kinds of treatment can be successful. It’s important to think about what’s right for you and your alcoholism before deciding which to take part in.
Consider the benefits and detriments of each kind of treatment.
The benefits of inpatient treatment can include:
The benefits of outpatient treatment can include:
The potential drawbacks to inpatient rehab can include:
The potential downsides to outpatient treatment can include:
Outpatient treatment can be broken down even further, too. Intensive Outpatient Programs, or IOPs, are outpatient programs that require the patient to spend much more time on campus than traditional outpatient programs.
Unfortunately, the disease of addiction isn’t easily beaten. Most alcoholics will continue to struggle against their desire to drink for the rest of their lives. For some, this is easier than others. But for everyone, this is a daily decision.
Thankfully, there are a few ways that those who have completed professional detox and recovery programs can continue to hold themselves accountable for sobriety.
Many people leaving professional rehab programs choose to live in sober living homes. These houses are transitional living spaces for those still recovering from an addiction. Most are democratically run homes that function according to an agreed-upon set of rules. These rules usually include a ban on all drugs and alcohol as well as a curfew. Normally, the residents of each house attend group therapy together. This living situation can be helpful for those who don’t have a pre-existing support system or who often find themselves thinking that no one understand their struggles.
Others will find support via groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or similar groups provided by local churches and community centers. Alcoholics Anonymous is a group for recovering alcoholics to come together and find support. The group helps participants to work their way through the 12 steps to recovery, guided by a mentor.
The 12 steps to recovery are:
The goal is that eventually, participants become mentors to newer members. This way, those new to recovery are always guided by someone who’s been around longer.
The communities that recovering alcoholics build in support groups such as AA can be instrumental in setting them up for success.
In fact, many celebrities have found help for alcoholism through AA. They include Lindsay Lohan, Liza Minnelli, Demi Moore, Mel Gibson, Kate Moss, Glenn Beck, Naomi Campbell, Al Pacino, Ozzy Osbourne, Owen Wilson, Gary Oldman, Kelsey Grammer, Anthony Hopkins, Carrie Fisher, and Geri Halliwell.
As equally as important to these groups are those geared towards those who love alcoholics. The two most common of these groups are Al Anon and Alateen.
Al Anon is a support group for the friends and families of alcoholics. Al Anon groups meet regularly and discuss topics such as healthy coping mechanisms, the difference between supporting and enabling, and other important things. Discussing shared experiences is often very useful to attendees, as many people who love an alcoholic blame themselves for the disease. Al Anon works to help participants know that a loved one’s alcoholism isn’t their fault.
Alateen is an offshoot of Al Anon, and is very similar. However, Alateen is designed with older children and teenagers in mind. These young people are often hit hardest when someone they know has a drinking problem. Alateen groups can help them learn to acknowledge and address a loved one’s problem. They usually cover similar topics to those covered by Al Anon. There is also a great emphasis based on learning methods to help break generational cycles of addiction. This works to keep the children of alcoholics from becoming alcoholics themselves.
Perhaps, as you’ve read this page, you’ve realized that you or someone you love has a problem. Well, by realizing this, you’re one step closer to fixing it!
If you find out that you do have a problem, think through the options we’ve outline above. If you decide that an intensive outpatient recovery program is right for you, consider Ashwood Recovery.
Ashwood Recovery is an outpatient addiction treatment center. We have locations in both Nampa, Idaho and the Boise and Meridian, Idaho areas. At Ashwood Recovery, we specialize in treating both adults and adolescents. We treat addictive disorders, co-occurring disorders, eating disorders, codependency, and trauma. We are accredited by the Joint Commission for National Quality Approval.
But you don’t have to take our word for the fact that we provide high-quality care. Consider these Facebook reviews from some of our former patients:
“Ashwood has been vital in my recovery. Amazing counselors, friendly staff overall, and everyone is always committed to each patients well-being. My sobriety is stronger because of this place.” - Zach Roney
“Ashwood Recovery has been more than a blessing to me. I thought I could conquer my 20 yr alcohol addiction all by myself, and did for 2 yrs. Until I relapsed..... Ashwood has saved my life. Besides genuinely be amazing, the staff has and still does continue to encourage me to be the best person I can be. I have never been happier in my life as I am today!! THANK YOU ASHWOOD RECOVERY FOR MAKING ME BELIEVE I AM TRULY WORTH IT!!!” - Julia Saunders
We are proud of the part we can play in the recovery of so many alcoholics and addicts. We want to play a part in your recovery, too.
Decide to get professional help for you or your loved one now. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it. You owe it to yourself to reclaim your life from the jaws of alcoholism.
Contact us today to get started.