Everyone starts drinking at different times. Sometimes it begins as an innocent sip at a party or family gathering, others dive head first into a bottle and have trouble getting out again. There is no real rhyme or reason why some people become alcoholics while others do not. Many factors can play a role in addiction, a dangerous and sometimes lethal disease.
Peer pressure can often be the touch point for individuals to begin drinking in the first place. It may have also been watching family, friends or others drink (sometimes to excess) and modeling dysfunctional problem-solving behavior. Regardless of how a person began drinking, there comes a point where it is necessary to stop when it becomes an issue. It may be difficult to understand when it crosses the line from a casual experience to an addiction. Knowing the risk factors can be important to this end.
Alcohol blocks out emotional as well as physical pain. This can be a strong draw for teens, especially, who are sorting through confused feelings associated with looming responsibilities of adulthood. Unresolved childhood trauma can also push individuals to drink to numb the pain. The more a person drinks, the more dependent individuals become on the substance to cope with everyday life.
Genetics play a role in approximately half of the risk for alcoholism. Genes alone do not determine whether a person becomes an alcoholic, rather environmental factors also play a role in how genes are expressed and a person then experiences alcohol. The following are key factors to remember when considering the role of genes and environment on alcoholism:
- If alcoholism is in a person’s lineage, there’s a strong risk of becoming dependent on alcohol
- If one or both parents modeled use of alcohol as a way to avoid coping with problems in life, it may end up being passed down
- If some kind of unresolved childhood trauma exists, alcohol may be used to mask the pain
Where to Get Help
There are things an individual can to find help for alcoholism. Below are five ways consider getting started:
- Take a self-assessment of drinking.
- Seek out support groups such as AA, SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery for starters. Try a few meetings to find the best fit.
- Seek out one-on-one professional help. Talk to a therapist or counselor for help.
- Look into treatment centers that focus on alcoholism and addiction. Many mental health centers provide intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) for individuals seeking help for alcohol and substance use disorders.
- Make sure family receives treatment. If an individual is drinking, attend Al-Anon for support or seek family counseling.
The path back from addiction is not always clear but it is available to those who desire help. If a problem is suspected, it is never too late to seek treatment. Start locally and with trusted individuals (therapists, counselors, physicians) who can provide guidance in finding a program which best suits the individual’s needs.
Addiction is best fought alongside advocates and professionals who understand how to help. The Villa provides resources and tools for the journey of recovery. Call us to find out how we can support you in getting started.