Alcoholism is recognized by most people today as a disease, however not as many people recognize it as a progressive disease. This simply means that slowly over time, alcohol gradually gains control of the drinker’s life. It may have started in a subtle way, but it eventually takes over every part of the alcoholic’s life. Although the alcoholic does not always recognize the decline, it is obvious to others that his drinking has progressed and now negatively affects his work, his relationships, his decision-making and his general quality of life. He does not notice the gradual change from the occasional drinking binge to regular abuse and now full blown dependence on alcohol.
A classic example of the progression of the disease is the story of James, who worked for his father. Apart from his great salary, James got away with unprofessional behavior on the job due to being the boss’ son. He would sneak off early to the bar in the afternoons, arrive late for work due to being hung-over and sometimes smoked marijuana during working hours.
Poor Decision Making
James did not enjoy the work. He studied and got a degree in order to work in an environment that he would enjoy. However, after working in his preferred field, he soon discovered that he could no longer have the freedom to drink when he wanted to. He had to be far more accountable and could not pursue his substance abuse. He had to choose between doing what he enjoyed without the drinking lifestyle or doing what he hated with the freedom to drink at will. He chose to go back into the family business.
When his father passed away, James sold the family business and bought a bar, where he could drink to his heart’s content, however the bar soon went under. It was time to go back to serious work; however he refused to look for a job. Eventually, in despair his wife gave up and left him.
His wife did not realize that James could not change at this stage without help. His dependence on alcohol had progressed to such a strong level that he could not survive without drinking heavily and regularly. She didn’t know that each day he was drinking most of the day. She also had to try and cope with James’ denial of his problem as he hid the severity of his drinking from her.
After she gave up and ended the marriage James moved in with another woman, who is financially independent. Sadly, he is hiding his problem from her too and she does not realize how much he is drinking during the day.
James and his partner are still in the early “honeymoon” phase of their relationship so she does not recognize the dangers of his drinking. She assumes that he likes a few drinks at night to unwind, but does not see all that he is hiding from her. He also doesn’t realize how much of his life has been taken over by alcoholism. He manages to find an excuse for everything that has gone wrong, but never blames his drinking. He will not recognize the patterns in his life. He won’t see that he is using the women in his life to enable him. As his new relationship moves out of the honeymoon phase and reality kicks in, disaster is waiting in the wings.
Unfortunately the progressive disease of alcoholism often makes it difficult for the alcoholic to make the choice to seek help. The gradual decline creeps up on the alcoholic before he or many others realize it. Fortunately, it is never to late to obtain help.
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