“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober.
An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all.
You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that
he will be someone you never met before.”
– Raymond Chandler, “The Long Goodbye”
I sincerely hope this catches you in your window of opportunity, that space between being a social drinker, someone your friends and family like to be around, and, ultimately, the alcoholic who knows only the darkness of denial, the refusal to accept that your life, once so full of promise, has become a barren and unfriendly place to live. It simply creeps up on you and, before you know it, you become “it” – the addiction. Nothing more.
How can I speak so knowingly? Because I know, simple as that. I have been to that barren and unfriendly place. I lived there for many years. Until I was rescued by my family and friends, who saw, unlike me, that if I didn’t get professional help, therapy and rehab, I would just fade away and die. Sounds horrific, doesn’t it? That is the power of alcohol addiction.
This article is for you. Its intention is to catch you in that window, to see if you can identify with what is written below, and, if you do, then persuade you that the time is now – the time to take a different path. I have been sober now for just over 5 years.
It hasn’t been easy, be under no illusions, but I am now a person that has hopes and dreams, my body is clean and fit, my mind equally so, and, most importantly, my life is a good one. Let’s talk about those 6 ways you can know if alcohol (which you may regard as a friend) is, in reality, damaging and, subsequently, ruining your life.
- Mental Damage
Alcohol is a depressant and it will affect the way you function mentally. Our brains are a balance of thought processes and chemicals. Alcohol plays havoc with that balance. It will certainly affect everything from your thoughts and feelings to actions that you take should you be abusing it. Oh, and forget rational decision-making. That’s a distant memory now.
Alcohol will give you a comforting buzz initially (as it first affects the part of our brain which deals with inhibition), but, prolong your drinking, and the rest of your brain comes into play. It can lead to anxiety, anger, depression and aggression. Alcohol has also been linked to self-harm, psychosis, even suicide.
Furthermore, alcohol abuse will shrivel the size of your brain cells, quite literally reducing the size of your brain.
- Physical Damage
Apart from shrinking your brain (which you’re not going to realize is happening), alcohol abuse will hit you on a whole host of different levels. These are just a few:
- Liver Function: Our livers are there to do a job – to process nutrients and break down what your body doesn’t need. Every drop of alcohol you drink needs to be processed by it, and, in doing so, toxic products are created. These toxins will gradually damage your liver and it’s ability to work properly. Such damage has even been linked to certain cancers. So what happens when your liver starts to fail? Where do the toxins go? Simply put, straight to your brain; thus, causing further mental and physical problems.
- Regulating Body Temperature: Your body is going to have trouble doing this, possibly leading to obesity also.
- Co-ordination When Sober: You’ll become less coordinated when you’re sober, giving the appearance of being drunk when you’re not.
- Sleep Pattern: You won’t have one.
Before long, you’ll start to experience the following daily: hand tremors. The worst-case scenario? A potential coma and the possibility of not coming out of it.
Abstinence may reverse the issues listed above; however, only partially.
- Family Damage
I can surely testify to this one. Is your wife, husband or partner becoming less loving and caring about you? Are you arguing more than usual? Are the kids getting on your nerves? Do you disagree with what anyone in your house says or suggests? Are your family members distancing themselves from you? Is Mom less Mom? Dad less Dad toward you?
If you answered yes to any one of the questions above then, the damage alcohol is doing to you mentally is starting to become apparent. Moreover, if you’ve stopped caring about them, you are in trouble.
- Career Damage
You may work in a social workplace. You may socialize with your colleagues after the day is done. Drinks after a hard day’s grind become the norm. Then you wake up one morning with a hangover given to you by the Devil and you call in sick. Remember, people talk. One of your colleagues may be asked a question by your boss and respond with, “Yeah, more than a few. We literally had to put him in a cab. Again.”
Those regular hangovers and sick days are not going to help your career one bit. In fact, quite the opposite. I actually lost track of the number of good jobs I got kicked out of. If you recognize that your career is being affected to some level by your drinking, you’re drinking too much. Simple. And it’ll be one of the first things to disappear. Remember, the “Work Hard, Play Hard” analogy only works for certain types of people. Chances are, that isn’t you.
Put simply, eventually, you’ll lose your job.
- Diet Damage
If you’re drinking too much for your body to take, your diet is going to suffer badly. Nutritional deficiency is bound to follow. In addition, forget the idea that the calories in alcohol are going to do any good.
Alcohol actually limits the amount of nutrition your body can absorb, particularly, folic acid, vitamin B6, and thiamine. You are then looking at anemia and problems with your nervous system.
- Financial Damage
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American consumers spend around 1% of their salaries on alcohol for every $100 they earn. If that statistic is not true of you, and your spending is much higher because you’re drinking to excess, alcohol is dictating your life and putting you on that fateful path.
The Journey You Take Now…
I don’t want you to take, or wish upon you, the journey I took. I lost my wife and, for a long while, my kids (I still have to take a breath test before the screen door is opened, and all visits are still supervised). I was disowned for a long time by many who I thought loved me. Until that day where they stepped back in and got me the help I truly needed.
If any of the above resonates with you on some level, maybe it’s time you took a more realistic view of your drinking habits. In fact, I implore you to.
These 6 zones of damage – mental, physical, family, career, diet, and financial – are your guide. If you are unsure, seek professional guidance anyway. To be safe.
If there any other areas of life that you think are as important as these, what are they? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below. Hopefully, this is your window, and you can take positive action. And the better path.