Alcohol Abuse - Giving Up Alcohol - How To Stop Drinking

 Most people enjoy drinking alcohol, and within most societies that's quite normal.  However, there often comes a point in a person's life when they think about how much they're drinking and whether they should stop. But, how much is too much alcohol?

On the one hand, there's a simple answer to this question.  The 'safe' number of units for a man is 3-4 a day, whilst for a woman, it's 2-3 units.  However, this doesn't factor in any 'days off' in the week, so that your liver can take a rest.

The real questions about what is a safe amount should include:

How much do you drink (how many units)

How long have you been drinking (most children are introduced to alcohol in the home)

What is your pattern of drinking (any days off?  Binge drinking?)

Alcohol Abuse - Giving Up Alcohol - How To Stop Drinking

There is good evidence to suggest that people who are considered 'social' drinkers are now developing liver disease. These are people who drink within the 'safe' guidelines of 2-3 units a day for a female, but maybe they have 'no days off,' or maybe they've been drinking for a long period of years, and that consistent intake of what is a very pleasurable poison takes it's toll.

Here in the UK, we used to be a nation of beer and tea drinkers. If guests came to the home, there would be a cry of 'put the kettle on' and we'll have a nice cup of tea. Possibly the men would have a glass or two of beer. Couples might visit the pub occasionally, but the pub was no place to take the kids. Drinking in this way it was very difficult to get anywhere close to the weekly number of alcohol units that can cause physical damage. OK, there were always problem drinkers, but not on the scale that there are today, and 'ordinary' social drinkers did not develop liver disease.

Something changed. At some point over the last two decades we began to develop a taste for stronger and stronger alcohol. When guests arrive at the home we're much more likely to offer them a glass of wine than a cup of tea, and families can now afford to have wine with dinner most evenings. It has become socially acceptible to drink much more, and it's very easy to drink up to and beyond the safe limits.

What is A Unit of Alcohol

 A small glass of wine is one unit, BUT small means 125ml, which constitutes the old fashioned Paris glass (shaped like a small goldfish bowl), pubs no longer serve this size.  A small glass of wine from a pub is 175ml - already just over 2 units.  A large glass is 250ml, or three units.

Many red wines are left on the vine longer now to develop a really full bodied flavour, and consequently a high alcohol content.  Traditionally, wine would have a strength of around 8-10%, but it's not uncommon for white wine today to be up to 13% and red wine to be as strong as 15% (I've yet to see 16% without it being a fortified wine, one which has spirits added).

Beer used to be around 4-5%, but strong lagers and bitters are now up to 6%, so a pint of beer can equal three units.

 Taking this into consideration it's easy to see how social drinking can provide liver-curdling amounts of alcohol very easily.

The length of time a person has been drinking must also be taken into consideration. Most drinkers have their first taste of alcohol in the home as a child, possibly on special occasions such as Christmas, or celebrations, and often a 'weak' or watered down version of an adult drink, in order to get children used to drinking sensibly. 

There is no evidence that this type of exposure helps kids to drink sensibly, and I wonder if you substitute the word alcohol for heroin, whether the scenario would still seem as sensible. - "There you go kid, have half a wrap of heroin.  You're gonna be offered it when you're older, so we want you to learn about it in the safety of your own home."

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol Abuse - Disease Progression

 Some of those kids who were exposed to alcohol at an early age will progress to being alcohol abusers quite quickly, often by the time they are in their teens.  The majority will just become social drinkers over a long period of time - still a big risk.

Think I'm exaggerating?  Let me tell you a little story:

Alcohol Abuse - My Story

 Until I was five and  a half years old, my life was that of every other kid.  My parents were kind, caring and we did normal family stuff.  They got me ready for school in the mornings, brushed my long, blonde hair and made sure I ate well.  My experience of alcohol was that my Dad occasionally went to the pub, and sometimes we had a drive out to a pub as a family, and while my parents were drinking indoors I sat in the car with a packet of crisps and a bottle of coke (this was acceptible in 1960's UK).   When I reached five and a half that all changed; my parents took on a traditional village pub.

We moved to our new home at the begginning of the six-week summer school holidays.  Running a traditional pub at that time, meant that opening hours were very lax.  The local 'Bobby' would warn my parents if his Sergeant was coming through the village and they needed to stick to opening times, but this was infrequent, so the pub was pretty much always on the go.

The Cycle of Alcohol Abuse

By the end of the six-week summer holiday, my father drank a crate (24 bottles) of Double Diamond (strong beer for those times) a day and my Mum drank a bottle of gin a day (luckily we didn't have litre bottles in the 60's!). My parents drank alcohol first thing in the morning. My Mum took a lot of 'naps' in the afternoon.

Mum always managed to cook a meal in the evening and my parents ate this in shifts to keep the pub running. Other meals were whatever I took from the fridge, or more often crisps and chocolate from the bar, as I was always 'in the way' and it was easy to pay me off with treats.

More worryingly my bedtime drink became a bottle of stout, as someone told my Mum it was good for you, which then became two bottles of stout. Treatment for a belly ache was a pint of bitter. So, you could say I began drinking at the age of five and a half, when I was drinking on a daily basis!

No-one brushed my hair, or made sure I washed. I ran wild over the village all day, until late evening (my Dad whistled for me to come in to eat the evening meal). I did not have to change my clothes. I did not have to brush my teeth. Bedtime stories stopped. I became terrified at night in bed. I started pushing two armchairs together in the kitchen to sleep on, until my parents closed up shop in the small hours. On my first morning at my new school, to find may way there I was told to "follow those boys next door" - well you can guess how that went.

My parents' hygeine standards dropped dramatically - no-one washed up, or cleaned the house. Papers piled up everywhere. Dirty plates were simply rinsed and re-used. I kept myself entertained in the evening watching TV and by playing with the mice that came out of the walls.

My parents earned lots of money, and drank most of the profits.

My parents became violent. There were rows between them which ended in physical abuse. I saw my Mum attack my Dad with the carving knife on more than one occasion.One night she threatened to kill him with the axe when he was asleep, so as soon as they'd finished fighting and all was quiet, I unlocked the door, ran down the yard in the dark and buried the axe in the garden (using a spoon to dig with!). My Dad was furious the next day when he had to chop the wood for four coal fires and the axe was no-where to be seen.

My mother became violent towards me and my half sister. There was daily violence in the household, and as kids we walked on eggshells, so as not to be noticed.

My half sister came to live with us when she was 17. Within weeks she was a heavy drinker, and her alcohol problem continued until she died at the age of 36.  I was working in the Emergency Room, tending the walking wounded, whilst unbeknown to me my sister was being resusced in the room next door.

My Drinking

 By luck, we moved away from the pub when I was 13 years old.  I did all the teenage drinking and student drinking that society finds acceptible, but now, I drink very little.

I include the above simply to show how quickly the disease develops - literally within a matter of weeks - and the effects it has on those around the drinker(s).

Lovely, Lovely Beer

How do I Know If I Have an Alcohol Problem

Many people think they are safe, social drinkers and that they can't be at risk from alcohol, because they don't fit with their idea of what an alcoholic should be like. They may say:

I can't be an alcoholic because I always drink socially.

I cant' be an alcoholic because I never drink in the mornings/during the day/until after 6pm/8pm

I can't be an alcoholic because I only drink at weekends.

I can't be an alcoholic because I don't drink alone.

Well, guess what, you can have any of the drinking patterns above and still be abusing alcohol!

There are some great questionnaires designed to help someone to assess whether their drinking is dangerous - check out the link in the boxes - take the test and see. No-one knows the answers except you,

Nine Types of Drinker

The NHS Choices site lists what researchers consider to be the nine types of drinker. Are you one of these?

De-Stress Drinker: Who hasn't done this in their drinking career?

Conformist Drinker: Those who drink to belong and to have structure in their lives.

Boredom Drinker: Typically males age 30-50, who drink to pass the time.

Depressed Drinker: Those who crave comfort from alcohol, often drinking alone and heavily. However, this is a double edged sword, as alcohol abuse can cause depression.

Re-Bonding Drinker: Who drinks to keep in touch with others, typically most evenings.

Community Drinker: Those who drink to belong - often lower middle class males or females who drink in large friendship groups.

Hedonistic Drinker: Those who crave stimulation and attention, often drinking 3-4 times a week.

Macho Drinker: Those who almost live in the pub. They are mainly men and may use their drinking to control others.

Border Dependents: Those who drink regularly every day, or evening, weekdays and weekends.

Drinkers can move from one category to another throughout their career.

Health Problems Caused By Drinking Alcohol

Unfortunately the first time a drinker has an inkling that anything is wrong is usually when they visit their family doctor for another reason. Liver damage is a 'silent disease' unnoticed until severe damage has occurred.

Lets start with the worst - Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD). This may include:

Fatty Liver (where fat is deposited in the liver, leading to inflammation. This is reversible if a drinker quits drinking alcohol)

Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, from chronic inflammation. This may only be partially reversible, or not at all and may lead to death)

Oesophageal varices (essentially varicose veins in the gullett from 'back pressure' of blood flow due to cirrhosis. These can rupture and cause severe bleeding or death)

Bowel cancer

Oral cancer

Oesophageal cancer

Breast Cancer

A threefold increased risk of Cerebro-Vascular Event - A 'stroke'

Increased risk of heart disease

High blood pressure

Stomach problems such as ulcers

Risk of acute alcohol poisoning

Increased risk of violence or accident

Mental health problems including depression

Thinning of the Bones

Facial thread veins

Reddened, dry skin

The good news is that most of these symptoms can be reversed if a drinker quits, and cirrhosis may be reduced to some extent if caught in time.

 

Benefits of Drinking Alcohol

 It's pleasurable

It eases social relationships

It's relaxing

There is evidence that two units a day may offer a small protection against heart disease to men and post-menopausal women.

How To Stop

GET SOME HELP

The site in the link box has loads of information about stopping drinking, and agencies who can help you with quitting. Don't worry that your problem isn't 'bad enough'. If your alcohol drinking is a problem to you, then it's a problem - GET SOME HELP

One of the most well known self-help groups has to be Alcoholics Anonymous, their groups are free to join, and you can just go along to meetings.

Find another counsellor - there are numerous agencies listed in the Yellow Pages, such as AdAction. Or find a private counsellor. It will cost, but not as much as a lifetime of alcohol abuse will cost.

See your family doctor. they are not there to judge you, but to help. you should have blood tests taken, and possibly a liver scan. Your doctor can then decide whether or not to refer you to a specialist liver doctor.

They may also be able to help with the alcohol withdrawal process. Certainly, whilst quitting alcohol you will need extra vitamins, vitamin B compound and Thiamine, which your doctor can prescribe.

If you are a heavy drinker you may feel physical withdrawal effects from quitting, so it's important for your safety that these are dealt with correctly. Your doctor may want to treat you in hospital on a quick detox programme, which involves a few days treatment with a reducing dose of a drug such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium), to ease the body's dependence on alcohol, and to manage your symptoms, which can range from the unpleasant to the serious.

There is a list of withdrawal effects below.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

 Headache

Nausea/Vomiting

Sleeplessness

Tremor

Sweats

Anxiety

Agitation

Confusion

Hallucinations - Tactile, where you feel things crawling on your skin.  Auditory, where you hear things.  Visual, where you see things, or a combination of all.

This collection of symptoms used to be called  delirium tremens, or the DT's, and it's really important that they are managed medically.  so GET SOME HELP

                      

 

For most of us, alcohol is a pleasurable thing, but it's soooo easy to drink over the recommended number of units.

If you're worried about your health and alcohol, then click on the link and take a questionnaire, then check out some of the info about stopping.

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Comments 34 comments

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

Great hub, very informative and some great advice.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Putz Ballard - Wow you were quick to comment. I'm still adding bits and pieces. Thanks.


janiek13 profile image

janiek13 6 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

Wow, it sounds like you had a rough time of it. It is good that you knew enough to change your drinking habits. I have seen most of this being a bartender off and on for 20 something years. It is sad that some people drink so much that they destroy their lives. Great hub!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Janiek, This is an absolutely excellent with a wealth of good information. I think it may open the eyes of some people because alcoholics typically live in denial but you've listed some very important symptoms and facts. Outstanding job!


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Pamela99 and janiek13 - Thanks for the positive feedback. Working part time as a senior nurse means that I'm caring for people in their forties with ALD, so it was a hub that needed to be writ. hope it makes a difference to one or two.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

You are such a fantastic writer and this is definitely an eye opener. I think there is not enough written about it because the amount of alcohol young people drink is unbelievable. Gosh you had a terrible childhood and can be proud of yourself not to go on in this way. Congratulation.


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

I loved reading your article. It's great to hear success stories. I know quite a few people who drink more than they should. When I try to talk to them about it they make excusses. My father-in-law was a depressed drinker. Then one day he just decided to quit. He didn't get help he just quit cold turkey. Then he started seeing things and hearing things that wasn't there. He ended up being put in the hospital. So far he hasn't drank any alcohol in 4 years.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Excellent hub, I loved the videos, they were funny. However, I understand my mother was an acholic, and the worse part is that I have no memory of her sobbor, ever. Very sad, she was a sweet lady and died young. Thank you so much for sharing.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Darlene, Nancy_30 and Hello hello, the alcohol problem in the UK is rising and rising. I'm seeing people younger than me dying, and plenty more people waiting in the wings in local pubs. Darlene, it's such a destructive illness; I have few memories of my sister sober either, and the 'drunk' memories of my parents always outweigh the others because they are so powerful, so I understand what that's like. nancy_30 - It's great that your father in law stopped - that takes courage, but I did want to stress in my article that cold turkey can be dangerous. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff.


cashmere profile image

cashmere 6 years ago from India

I have to give material on Alcoholism for a talk in our net community meeting. Thanks for all the information here!


online scam check profile image

online scam check 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Thanks for sharing your experience, and offering different ways out.


JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

Beautiful hub I was moved I can relate.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Glad I helped you out cashmere - I have lots more info on alcoholism if you ever need any help. Thanks for the positive comment JannyC - alcohol abuse touches a lot of lives, and thanks for becoming a fan online scam check.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

It's not easy to comment on such life experiences. But your life could be a good example to all those who think they had a bad childhood because they couldn't wear fancy dresses or buy an Ipod or things like that. I think that the problem is not only in alcohol, as you said the majority of people drink all their lives without becoming an addict. The problem, which is the same with drugs, is that some people have a kind of black hole inside that must be filled and so they try to fill it. Happy people usually don't use drugs at all and if they drink they do not become addicts.

Very beautiful hub, it makes thinking and reflecting about the topic. Rated and stumbled. :)


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Thanks hypnodude. I consider myself very fortunate in life to be happy, healthy and loved by my family. I'd agree that some people are just needy in that way, but it's startling how quickly the illness can take hold.


HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 6 years ago from Utah

Great hub. I know a lot of people who need to read this.

I know a little about the liver and the effects on your health. Alcohol is often a major contributor. It's important to get to the bottom of the reasons WHY we drink to really let go of the bottle.


malonge profile image

malonge 6 years ago from Western New York On Hubpages

A very well written article that makes the reader want to keep reading. Life experiences are often the most interesting reading material. Your story is bittersweet. You have gone through so much but have most likely helped scores of people just from this one article. Keep up the good work.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Absolutely HealthyHanna. I think people need to know why they drink, and also having looked after many alcoholics they need to get to their own 'rock bottom' to make them want to give up. If an alcoholic can manage their life and still drink, then that's what they'll do.

Thanks for the positives.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Thank you malonge. I'd like to think I'd made a difference to someone, somewhere - you never know.


shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

I noticed that I was starting to become 'regular' at drinking. Christmas is a time that breeds alcholics... it is the season to gain lots of new members in its sordid horrid little club!

I thought, my behaviour is changing... Im feeling depressed.. im gaining weight.. the evils of alcohol was starting to claw its way into my new normality..

Good job I could see sense to stop! Thanks for your hub xx


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

shazwellyn - It's pernicious stuff and it's so easy to become a regular drinker, then heavy drinker and then be unable to stop - glad you nipped it in the bud.


kev 6 years ago

I have viens on my checks and a red face,I,m going to cut right back on my drinking.....does anybody think this will help my complextion?


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

It is likely to make a significant difference. As the liver becomes healthier, blood flows through it more easily, and there is less 'back pressure' on the circulation, so facial veins become less swollen and obvious. However, it's unlikely to get rid of them entirely - you could have them lasered.


kev 6 years ago

thanks for all your advise,I will let you know how I get on....


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

You're welcome Kev. Hope all goes well


kev 6 years ago

been dry for 4 days now, it,s been quiet hard beacause I was drinking over 100 units a week.I still look like a drunk but things will take time to heal...


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

WEll done, Kev! Are you getting any help from your doctor? The body's great at healing itself, it just takes a little time.


kev 6 years ago

no help from my doctor,just going to keep at it... got to get past the weekend yet.Iam not going to say I will never have another drink beacause I will, I just wanted to prove to myself I can lay off it and give my body a rest. The main problem I had was I was bored and Iam begining to think I can be more sensible in the future. Thank you for being so supportive


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

You're welcome. Every time you take a holiday from drinking, your body has time to recover. Sounds like you gotta find a different way to tackle your boredom, though.


jaybob217 profile image

jaybob217 6 years ago

Great story and hub, thank you so much for sharing. For myself, when I started qualifying myself with the statements of why I was not an alcoholic, I had already pretty much passed the point of choice when it came to drink. But it would be years and a lot of pain later before I finally surrendered and entered recovery.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Glad you made it, jaybob 217. It's a long ol' road for some, and others never make it.


MakeMoneyGoal profile image

MakeMoneyGoal 6 years ago from Edinburgh

Great hub Georgina - voted up, really made me stop and think. Keep on hubbing!!


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 6 years ago from Dartmoor Author

Thanks MakeMoneyGoal


qed profile image

qed 5 years ago from England

What a lot of good information. Alcohol is so enticing and so attractively packaged... The danger creeps up on people.

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