Understanding The Difference Between Behavioral and Chemical Addictions
Again I'll use simple terms to describe the differences. Very roughly it is estimated that it can take 7 or 8 years to reach alcoholism, that is a full blown chemical addiction. But what happens in the years preceding that? In my case the Alcoholism Stages were something like this:
- First alcoholic drink at the age of 13. A half-pint can of Watneys Pale Ale.
- First drunkenness at 16 at a wedding. 7 small cans of beer, or 3.1/2 pints
- Got married at 20. My wife was very homesick initially, and I started to drink more to try to cope with it.
- First child, a daughter, at 21.
- Second child a son at 25, and by this time drinking spirits regularly
- Pressure of work. An excuse for heavier drinking, and started getting objections to it from my wife and parents which I ignored.
- Aged 28-29. Stopped drinking for 12 months.
- Restarted drinking and back on it full blown within 2 weeks. Becomes a way of life.
- 29-39 Alcoholism
- 39-52 Dry
My estimate, or reckoning, is that my behavioral addiction turned to chemical addiction around the age of 29.
This is when a drinker's use of alcohol becomes a habit, then a way of life. At this stage it is reversible because if the drinker reforms, or cuts back they are still able to take alcohol, but in moderate quantities and still be in control of it.
For example, one may go to the pub every evening to enjoy the social atmosphere with other drinkers, or may enjoy a drink with company in one's own home. Nothing wrong in that you may say, but beware when you believe that you need drink to make a social gathering work. Alcoholism Warning Signs are when it becomes a habit initially, say to have a drink at lunchtime, another when coming home from work, then one or two in the evening. It becomes part of your life, part of your routine, and you find that it becomes a way of life. At this point you may even kid yourself you need a drink in the morning to help with facing up to the day ahead, and so on. You'll find that you are making the day revolve round drinking opportunities - and opportunities there are, but by this time you beginning to get devious. Hiding the bottles or receipts, disguising the alcohol in the glass with coke. Eating strong mints and so on. As this becomes full-blown,the change comes. You won't know exactly when it happens, but you find out the results later. The behavior dependency facts can be corroborated by any honest alcoholic.
This is the stage from which there is no return. Quite simply there is a chemical reaction that occurs in the brain, an imbalance of chemicals that is like flicking a light switch. You have now become dependent on alcohol. You are unable to stop at one drink, and your drinking spirals out of control. You have one, then another, then another. Weekends and bank holidays stretch out endlessly, punctuated with drinking/sleeping/drinking. Weekdays not so bad because you can crash out into bed, until the next morning when you've got the Physical Effects Alcoholism brings: you feel nauseous, your head pounds, you shiver and sweat... You realize how bad the drink is making you feel, the terrible Effects of Alcohol, so you make a promise not to touch it for a day or a week. As soon as that time is up, your straight back on it.
My point is this. Most observers cannot understand why you can't control it, but when this stage is reached, it is literally impossible to stop at a single drink. And I mean literally. You have to have another, and another... It's a vicious illness, and that's what it has become, and you have to have the guts to face up to it that you're caught, trapped.
Kindly, well-meaning friends and family may try to help by offering to control your drinking by keeping the bottles out of sight and pouring you a drink at an agreed time. It never works, it can't do. The drinker goes underground with his own supply of liquor and drinks surreptitiously, deceitfully. Hiding places are found which only someone with experience of alcoholism could relate to. Toilet cisterns, inside the vertical vacuum cleaner, mixed with lemonade and left on a shelf in the garage, concealed in cans of cola to name a few.
What Do Behavioral Addiction and Chemical Addiction Have In Common?
Both are slowly killing you. You'll know about it from pain around your liver and kidney areas. You start vomiting and feeling nauseous even without the drink. You get shaking hands, your body shrieks at you to stop. You can't think clearly or concentrate, and you are wracked with guilt as you realize you made a fool of yourself again in front of friends. But very importantly, both behavioral addiction and chemical addiction bring out the base human traits of deception, deceit, lying, deviousness, cunning and so on. You become a very difficult person to live with. These chemical dependency facts are confirmed by my own experience.