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Early signs of alcohol dependency
Alcohol dependency is a problem that can sneak up on you without you even realising. Perhaps it starts as just a social activity that gets out of hand over time, or maybe a stressful time in your life leads you to look for some kind of temporary escape from reality. Whatever the reason, it might take a considerable period of time before you begin to suspect you are becoming dependent on consuming alcohol on a regular basis. It could take even longer before you are willing to admit it out loud, either to yourself or your partner, and perhaps longer still before you are willing to actually act on it. Part of the problem is that most of us actually enjoy a drink, it is relaxing, sociable, a good way to remove inhibitions, gain confidence etc.
The reason I have decided to write this hub is because I now fully believe I have gradually fallen into this exact same category, and my own dependence on alcohol has become too much to ignore. Although I am not an extreme case, I am still not happy with the way alcohol has become a vital factor in my day to day life, and this hub is partly to share the signs I have recognised that made me realise this, as well as other well known signs that I personally don't exhibit, but many other people do.
In my case I can actually recall when my problem truly began. It was after an Esso forecourt / petrol station franchise I had, failed, (largely due to Esso doubling the rent within 6 months of me taking on the franchise). I ended up in tens of thousands of pounds of debt in spite of having worked 65 plus hour weeks for the entire time I had run the franchise. In the end I was forced to declare myself bankrupt, and although there was nothing the authorities could take from me in terms of property etc, I still had to deal with the emotional aftermath. In fact to this day I also believe this may be where my problems with long term depression really kicked in.
I was already a smoker at the time, (although I have since quit smoking for over two years), so smoking more probably wasn't really going to help me much. Additionally my Husband and I smoked a certain amount of recreational cannabis at the time, but the stress of my business failing made me want to find a further crutch, a means to forget my recent experiences and the anger I was feeling towards Esso for putting me in this position. This is when I started to drink a bottle of German medium white wine on a daily basis, (usually the cheaper types like Liebfraumilch or Niersteiner which I actually liked). 'Only a bottle' you might say, well this was a 1.5 litre bottle at about 11% alcohol volume. As if this wasn't bad enough I started to order a pint of white wine at a time in the local pub, often having two of these per evening.
It wasn't long before I would start to get worried when I got below half a bottle in the fridge at home, and would buy two bottles at a time so I always had one in reserve. I was blissfully ignorant of the fact I had a problem developing, and bearing in mind that was back in about 1997, it clearly took me a very long time before I woke up to it, i.e. realisation starting to finally dawn in 2010.
Over the years that followed many things happened to me, the loss of my three year old Doberman Odin, closely followed by Husband's sudden death from bowel Cancer, my then suffering immense cruelty at the hands of his sons and his ex-wife who confiscated his car (long story), and additionally stole a very expensive camcorder from me that I had bought for him previously. I was forced to give up our rented home because I couldn't afford it alone, this in turn causing me to have to give up my own new business growing flowers and vegetables for resale, bouts of my own depression, returning to Guernsey, and then ultimately going off to Tenerife with a long lost first love of mine, who then turned out to be a complete control freak, all contributed to the building problem I had with alcohol.
Golly, this all sounds really bad when I list it like this, but really, I am not looking for sympathy, this is purely to illustrate why my alcohol dependency never really got a chance to fade away on its own. Even after I came back from the terrible relationship in Tenerife and met my current Husband, I had loads of debts, as did my new Husband, and this put us under stacks of pressure that was compounded when I got pregnant when it wasn't supposed to be possible for me. We made a desperate and hugely regretted decision to have an early termination, and wrongly assumed we might get another chance in the future when our finances were better. As a result of this termination I lost my job (another long story), and although I soon got another job, I was terribly upset to have lost the previous one which I genuinely loved.
In the years that followed we discovered I had completely messed up internal reproductive organs, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, adhesions, virtually no egg reserve etc. Essentially the IVF clinic said it would be waste of money for me to even attempt using IVF to have a baby.
It was around then when I was due to start a new job that the panic attacks started happening, (even during my final weeks in the previous position). I started to feel sick at the thought of going into work, I began to have severe mood swings, need loads of sleep, suffer memory loss etc. I went to my own Doctor and he confirmed what I already suspected, the depression was back, and with a vengeance! To cut a long story short, he signed me off work, and this has now been the case for over two years. I never did start in the new job, and as medications for depression made no difference, I ended up staying home, growing vegetables and generally continuing to drink on a daily basis. Over time the drinks changed, from white wine to red wine, and then from red wine to cider. In the last couple of years I have mostly drunk three to four cans of cider (each containing 2.6 units of alcohol), per night if at home, or the equivalent in pints in a pub, plus possibly a couple of glasses of red wine each time I visit my mum and Step Dad's house. This is what I now need to change.
The problem with both drinking and depression is that one compounds the other to a large degree. You end up in a typical 'Chicken and Egg' situation, the alcohol causes the depression, and the depression causes alcoholism, the question being which caused which in the first place? To this day I am not sure which applies in my case, as both go back to such a long time ago.
Well I guess if you have read this far and not got bored, you are probably keen to know what signs to look out for that you too might be alcohol dependant, or that you think might indicate a friend or relative of yours is developing a dependency on alcohol. The following list is based not only on my own experiences, but also on my further research into the signs to look for. I hope they help others to avoid ending up in the same situation.
The Early Signs of Alcohol Dependency
1) Needing to have a drink every day without being able to miss a day.
2) Always having to have alcohol in the house.
3) Sudden mood swings towards the people around you.
4) Short term memory loss on a day to day basis (this can happen even without having had a drink first).
5) Checking what time it is to make sure you get to the bar in time for opening.
6) Sleeping lots of hours but still waking up exhausted.
7) Being overly emotional, crying very easily, getting depression.
8) Lying to your partner about how much you have drunk or where you have been, i.e. the pub.
9) Receiving warnings from your employer for attending work smelling of alcohol.
10) Oversleeping for work or important appointments due to excessive alcohol the previous night.
11) Getting into fights when socialising.
12) Incurring injuries from accidents that happen after alcohol has been consumed, e.g. falling downstairs, cutting or burning yourself whilst 'after pub' cooking etc.
13) Taking lots of sick days from work due to hangovers.
14) Receiving a high Gamma GT count (Liver Count) on routine blood tests from your doctors.
15) Gaining a beer gut, (even women can get these although not always as obviously). Naturally this depends on if you drink drinks such as beer, cider, Guinness etc or if you drink wine and spirits. A beer gut is usually associated with the beer/cider drinker.
16) Neglecting personal hygiene in favour of drinking.
17) Not eating in favour of drinking.
18) Loss of libido / sex drive.
19) Intending to only have one drink, but once you start you have to continue with further drinks.
20) You continue to drink even though you are aware it is causing you problems in relationships, jobs, your health etc.
21) You get the shakes (DT's or Delirium Tremens) in your hands before you have your first drink each day.
22) You don't seem to 'get drunk' any more, even though you might still forget things the next day, in other words your physical tolerance for alcohol increases.
23) Redness or broken blood vessels on the face.
24) Your social life consists mostly of alcohol related activities, e.g. the pub, the night clubs, playing for pub darts or pool teams etc.
25) You drink your drinks very fast in order to become intoxicated as soon as possible.
26) You get angry and defensive if family or friends suggest you might be developing an alcohol problem.
27) Your attention span is reduced and your train of thought quickly wanders.
28) You struggle to retain information such as names, dates, conversations etc, even a very short time after receiving it.
29) See swelling, redness or even white spots on the palms of your hands.
30) Drinking first thing in the morning.
31) Wetting the bed, or peeing in inappropriate places in the night, (men think wardrobes etc).
32) Sleeping for a few hours, then waking up unable to get back to sleep (usually because the alcohol effect is wearing off).
Some of the above symptoms also cross into the realms of severe alcoholism, so if you are experiencing a large number of the above you are probably a potential candidate for having a major problem, if not now, very soon. At this point I personally only experience a relatively small element of the above symptoms, but enough to realise I need to make some changes now. I intend to hub further on my progress as I start by attempting to get my own blood Gamma GT level back down to healthy levels. To achieve this I need to begin by cutting the nights of the week I drink down from seven to four, and at the same time reducing the quantities I drink on the nights I am allowing myself to have a drink.
You might ask why I don't try stopping altogether or join a support group locally such as Alcoholics Anonymous! Well, the answer to that is that firstly I don't want to stop completely, I do enjoy a glass of wine with a meal out, or a social pint or two in the pub and I don't want to be sitting there sipping a coke all night. I want to get myself to a level where I am drinking safely, having a good time, but am able to say 'stop' when I am at the limit that is still healthy and safe. Even assuming I did want to stop drinking alcohol completely, joining Alcoholics Anonymous locally would be crazy. We live on a small island where gossip spreads incredibly fast. The odds are high someone at the support group would either know me, or would know someone else who did. In other words the correct name here for the group would have to be 'Alcoholics Not So Anonymous'. In a matter of days it would be all over the island that I was registered in the group and had a problem, soooooo not good!
As I said before. I shall be hubbing further on this as I reduce my own alcohol intake (hopefully) and reduce my own blood Gamma GT level. I hope you will follow my journey (through future hubs) as I attempt these lifestyle changes. At time of writing I just took two days off alcohol for the first time in about a year. Yes I struggled to sleep as a result, but on the plus side I ate better, drank loads of healthy Guernsey milk and felt a huge sense of achievement that I can actually miss days if I really try.
Look out for the next instalment in the weeks to come.