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How to Spot an Alcoholic Even Through Rose Tinted Glasses

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

It is human nature to want to think the best of family members and friends. Unfortunately, such a rose-tinted lens can make it difficult for us to accept the fact that someone we love has a problem with alcohol. But continuing to view life through those rose-tinted glasses can only make things worse. It is far better to come to terms with an alcohol problem than to continue to deny it.

You may be thinking of someone right now whom you suspect has an alcohol problem. Perhaps the person is in the early stages of alcohol abuse; perhaps you suspect full-blown alcoholism is already present. What you need most right now is information explaining how to spot an alcoholic so that you can honestly assess your loved one's situation. We can help. Below is a set of guidelines that you can use to determine, with a fair amount of accuracy, whether or not your loved one is truly an alcoholic.

Should you determine an alcoholic condition exists, it is important to begin considering how to best get treatment. Treatment is available through the NHS, private alcohol rehab clinics, independent counsellors, and alcohol charities. You can also contact us for free advice and treatment referrals as well.

How the Alcoholic Views Alcohol

Throughout the remainder of this guide, we explain various signs and symptoms that you can look for to identify a serious alcohol problem. All of these signs and symptoms can be placed into one of three categories, beginning with how the alcoholic views alcohol.

To people without an alcohol abuse problem, alcoholic beverages are included on a long list of beverages an individual has to choose from. Alcohol is not considered a 'must-have' that one cannot do without. Things are different for the alcoholic. His or her view of alcohol is jaded due to both psychological and physical dependence.

As you learn how to spot an alcoholic, keep the following in mind:

  • The alcoholic tends to view alcohol as a solution to problems rather than the cause of them.
  • Alcoholics consider drinking to be an essential part of social engagement.
  • Alcoholics tend to view alcohol is one of the most important things in life.
  • The alcoholic tends to not understand the seriousness of persistent drinking.

The reality is that alcoholics fail to see the danger associated with the drinks they are consuming. Psychological dependence on alcohol has convinced them that their drug of choice is not as bad as everyone else makes it out to be. Therefore, they take alcohol consumption very lightly. They are more likely to be binge drinkers, more likely to centre their lives around alcohol, and more likely to be judgemental of those who do not drink.

How the Alcoholic Views Him/Herself

The next category of signs and symptoms is directly related to how the alcoholic views him/herself. In this regard, it is important to understand that alcoholic behaviour changes as the condition progresses. In the early stages of alcoholism, an individual sees nothing wrong with what he or she is doing. There is no recognition that a drinking problem is present, nor is the alcoholic likely to have any idea how drinking is impacting who he or she is. Things change as time goes on.

The longer a person persists in alcoholism, the more likely he or she is to start experience feelings of loathing and self-hatred. Alcoholics eventually find themselves embarrassed by their own behaviour, leading them to do a number of things that are easily recognisable:

  • Alcoholics tend to withdraw themselves from social situations.
  • They increasingly drink alone in the hope that no one else will know.
  • Alcoholics tend to hide alcohol in various places at home and work so no one sees it.
  • They tend to abandon old friendships and establish new ones with fellow drinkers.
  • They tend to get very defensive when others show concern about their drinking.

It is not uncommon for alcoholics in the late stages to also exhibit signs of certain mental illnesses such as depression. It is all related to how alcohol affects the brain. With the brain functioning abnormally, alcoholics begin to loathe themselves and their behaviour to the point of eventual despair. This can sometimes manifest itself in an increased tendency to anger and/or violence.

How Alcohol Affects the Mind and Body

Learning how to spot an alcoholic includes learning how to detect the physical and mental signs associated with the condition. Make no mistake; persistent alcohol abuse has very definite effects on both the mind and body. The further advanced alcoholism is, the easier it is to spot the physical and mental symptoms.

When looking for the physical symptoms of alcoholism, look for the following:

  • Unexplained weight gain or loss (most alcoholics lose weight because they don't eat)
  • Redness in the cheeks and nose; redness and swelling of the palms of the hands
  • Development of liver problems (e.g., cirrhosis)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms between periods of drinking
  • Physical cravings that can only be satisfied by alcohol
  • An increasing need to drink more to enjoy the same amount of pleasure.

When looking for the mental symptoms of alcoholism, look for the following:

  • A psychological attachment to alcohol or the act of drinking
  • An unreasonable belief that one cannot live without alcohol
  • An unreasonable obsession with drinking-related activities
  • An inability to maintain positive family or romantic relationships
  • An inability to cope with daily responsibilities
  • A willingness to continue drinking despite knowledge of adverse consequences
  • An unwillingness to admit a drinking problem exists.

We have given you a lot of information that you can use to determine whether or not a family member or friend is struggling with alcoholism. Please bear in mind that every alcoholic is different. Some will exhibit all of the symptoms we have listed while others may only exhibit a limited number of them. Exhibiting more than a few is a good indication that you might be dealing with alcoholism.

What to Do If You Suspect Alcoholism

Now that you know how to spot an alcoholic, you need to know what to do about it. At the top of the list is understanding that you cannot change someone else no matter how hard you try. Only the alcoholic can make the decision to seek treatment and stop drinking. You can encourage, advise, and even set boundaries to protect yourself and your family, but you cannot force sobriety on an alcoholic.

With that said, it is a good idea to consult with a professional counsellor or an alcohol charity for advice on how to proceed. Your loved one may be a candidate for an intervention involving a group of close family members and friends. Likewise, your loved one might do better just by you encouraging him or her to get help.

The one thing you should not do is continue to look at life through rose-tinted glasses. Alcoholism is a devastating condition that destroys families, consumes finances, and results in terrible physical harm. It can even kill if it is ignored long enough.

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is an alcoholic, feel free to contact our 24-hour helpline for free advice and referrals. We can help you get pointed in the right direction. We can even refer you to family counselling that will help you cope with living with an alcoholic until your loved one seeks treatment.

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