“I can’t live without champagne. When I win, I deserve it; when I lose, I need it.” Words that are attributed Winston Churchillare reminiscent of the excuses of people who drink alcohol. They do not consider themselves addicted people, let alone alcoholics. spoke with Gestalt therapist Andrey Inozemtsevto understand what lies behind the habit of drinking a little for appetite or mood.

Alcohol is one of the drugs that almost no one takes seriously. It is not much different from other narcotic drugs, except that, by some coincidence, alcohol is allowed for free sale. Availability creates the illusion that alcohol is safe. However, this only makes alcohol a common legal drug. Different strength levels of liquor blur the understanding of the seriousness of the situation. The deception is that society says: “Cannabinoids, opiates and something else is not allowed, alcohol is allowed.” However, alcohol has the same characteristics as illicit drugs. Firstly, addiction, that is, the need to increase the dose to obtain the desired result. Secondly, the withdrawal syndrome, a complex of body reactions to the withdrawal or reduction of the use of a substance that causes a desire to repeat.

I’m not an alcoholic!

People who regularly drink alcohol and cannot do without it are alcohol dependent. When we call a person an alcoholic, we stick a label that stigmatizes the person. This is an attempt by society to divide people into alcoholics – “lowered, finished”, that is, who have lost social functionality, and all the rest who “sometimes drink good alcohol”, but at the same time “successful, saves family, work, prosperity”, that is, this functionality preserving. But according to the psychologist, the presence of alcohol dependence in a person is not determined by this.

I can control!

There is a myth in society: there are “normal people” who can control the amount of alcohol they drink, know their dose, can stop in time, and “alcoholics” who cannot control it. From this we can conclude: there is something so attractive, but dangerous, which is important to use, but must be controlled. If a person at least once in his life thought about how much he controls alcohol, this indicates that he is developing an addiction. Consider: why does the task of controlling the use of something arise? You do not need to control the amount of lemons eaten. You either want it or you don’t.

For the company, or How most of us have tried alcohol

Often this happens in youth and under the influence of the environment. One of the dangers of alcohol is that almost 100% of the people in our culture drink it. At the same time, many people know about the existence of alcoholics, but they think that this will never happen to them. So, it is safe to experiment with alcohol. Such a conviction increases the chance that a person will “get involved”, since alcohol first causes the effect of mild excitement in most people, and then relaxation.

These effects can be pleasing in their own right. At the same time, sometimes they help to cope with the existing emotional stress. It can arise due to an unsatisfied psychological need, which manifests itself in different ways, for example, a state of anxiety. If a person chooses to solve his inner experiences with the help of alcohol, addiction arises. This is a very simple way: it was anxious, took a sip, it became not anxious. Try to deal with anxiety so quickly in some other way. A drug is always a quick and easy “solution” to a complex psychological problem. The more accessible the drug, the more convenient it is to use. And here alcohol is out of competition.

How is addiction formed?

Recall the common excuse: “I get tired and drink to relax.” A woman or a man “relieves stress”, at the same time fixing a dependent pattern: tension arose – drank – relaxed. What kind of tension is unknown. A person does not reach emotional experience. But from time to time the behavior is repeated and the pattern is fixed: tension – drank – relaxed. The amount of alcohol you drink matters more for the liver. For the formation of dependence and change of state, the dose is not so important. If a person for some reason cannot drink alcohol – for example, because he is driving and buys non-alcoholic beer, he still reinforces his addictive pattern. Non-alcoholic beer is a marker that means I need to drink alcohol but I can’t.

point of no return

At some point, a person comes up with the idea that he drinks a lot: he no longer has enough money, his working capacity has decreased, a hangover has appeared. A person begins to understand that it is necessary to reduce the amount of alcohol or completely stop drinking, but cannot do this. He knows no other way to change his tense state to a relaxed one. If some time ago a simple method had not been chosen (clap – and kings, and there are no problems), there would probably have been another, more resource-intensive option (talk with loved ones, read, take a walk, go in for sports, go to a psychologist) . But by this time, addiction to alcohol had formed, and it was not clear how to do without it: “How will I live? How can I unwind after a hard day at work? At this point, it is found that the point of no return has been passed. A person understands that he should stop drinking alcohol, but he cannot. It remains to say something like: “Everyone drinks. Think you went over it once.”

After what glass does addiction begin?

There is no such moment where a person says: “I have decided. I’ll be an alcoholic.” Most alcohol addicts imperceptibly integrate the substance into their lives and cannot imagine their existence without it, thus solving some kind of their problem. And there is no exact way to determine whether a person is addicted or not. Sometimes this can be seen in human behavior. Let’s say at dinner people choose drinks. For some, there is a choice between water, wine, tea and something else. And for some, only between types of alcoholic beverages, if there are no external restrictions, such as a steering wheel. The illusion of choice persists, and at the same time it is not there, the alcohol has already been chosen.

Stages of alcohol addiction

Alcohol dependence does not fall immediately, let’s try to describe certain stages:

  • the person does not see the problem. He drinks and is fine. This stage can take quite a long time. A person explains the need to drink for any reason: joy, grief, closed the project, opened the project.

  • the person notices the problem but prefers not to see it. It can drag on indefinitely, sometimes to death from use. The addict may never want (be unable) to see his problem.

  • if there is enough courage to meet her, then the person sees the problem and tries to solve it on his own. This, unfortunately, is not possible in most cases, because some part of the personality wants to stop drinking, and some wants to continue. And “victory” passes from one to another.

  • a person begins to understand that he cannot cope on his own, and asks for help. This is an important shift in the mind of the addict and the first step towards recovery. It is important to try to find any help that will fit. At this stage, people see themselves as the task of “stop drinking.” However, this is only the first step, because a person ceases to be in use, but does not cease to be alcohol-dependent. Alcoholism is a kind of mental disorder. This is a fatal, incurable, progressive disease: once it has arisen, it will not disappear anywhere. But a long-term remission is possible. It’s not enough just not to drink, you need to learn how to live (and cope with life) sober.

  • an endless process of recovery. The stage at which you need to constantly pay attention to the dependent part of your personality in order to continue to live a full, rich life. Actually, as with any other chronic disease, from which a person does not die, but is forced to devote part of his attention, strength and resources to its prevention, otherwise it will again take over.

Alcohol and socialization

We remember that alcohol first excites and then relaxes. From the side it may seem that a drunk person becomes turned on, warm, relaxed, sociable. This is not entirely true. He can endlessly pour out his experiences on another, but in fact he does not notice this other. In alcoholic intoxication, everyone speaks about his own. Emotional contact, where you can share your experiences, notice the experiences of another, share them, express your sympathy, empathy, is impossible. Alcohol intoxication is an illusion of socialization, communication and intimacy.

The notorious question: “Do you respect me?” arises in part from this. A sober person more or less understands who respects him and who does not. He is in emotional contact with other people. A drinker does not discover and feel himself very well, and even more so the other, and can endlessly clarify. Another reason for this question is the desire to regain self-respect, to avoid meeting with shame.

Alcohol and relationships

What about relatives of addicts? Those who remain functional, whose families are “in order”, and whose children are dressed and fed. But this does not mean that the children are well. Unfortunately, these are often very lonely, undiscovered and unnoticed by their parents children. Physically adults are present, but sensually absent. Children grow up without emotional contact with their parents. They are incomprehensible and unpredictable for them. The same event may be followed by the opposite reaction, depending on the state of the adult at the moment. As much as it seems to the drunk that he is with his spouse, friend or child, so the sober spouse, friend or child understands how far he is from him. It seems to drunk people that they have warmth and they can give it. But relatives do not have a single chance to get it.