There’s no denying it. Alcohol is an integral part of everyday life for many of us. We joke about our intake and the need for alcohol to get us through stressful situations. Mostly, we don’t even consider alcohol to be a drug, in the sense of marijuana, cocaine or heroin.
Albeit in the back of our minds we might harbour some concern about our intake, more often than not, we sweep the thought aside, because why would we want to give up?
This scenario can be especially prevalent for people with high powered careers who turn to alcohol as a stimulate to push further, or as a relaxant to calm nerves and feel less anxious in highly stressful situations.
Is alcohol really the answer?
Alcohol is a sedative and as such can reduce stress.
When we drink on a casual basis, alcohol helps us to unwind and forget our problems. If you are shy or introverted in social or work circles, alcohol can help you to lose those inhibitions and relax in company. It acts similarly to anti-anxiety medication.
If we keep alcohol intake low, then yes it can be the answer to reduce stressful situations.
Unfortunately, alcohol is also a depressant and after long periods of heavy drinking, it will negatively affect our central nervous system, causing us to feel more anxious.
Why do we turn to drink?
A survey carried out by the UK’s Mental Health Organisation reported that 74% of us have felt completely overwhelmed with stress or unable to cope. And in a high percentage of cases, that stress is work-related.
When faced with difficult challenges, long hours and high levels of responsibility, we feel stressed, and after a prolonged period of time can lead to chronic stress.
In our article on coping with chronic stress and anxiety, we discussed how we often turn to self-medication at times of stress.
Heavy alcohol use has a huge impact on our work and home life. It can hugely impair our focus and critical thinking skills and has the power to strip us of our goals and ambition. It also wreaks havoc with our emotional, mental and physical health.
We suffer from frequent hangovers and symptoms of withdrawal, and gradually our tolerance against stress and ability to withstand pressure is depleted. It’s hard to function at full capacity when every morning we wake up with these symptoms:
- Low blood glucose (sugar)
Stress coupled with alcohol dependence can lead to severe anxiety and depression, and potentially the loss of a job, business or personal relationship.
If we want to stay top of our game, alcohol is not the answer.
When stress leads to alcohol dependence
Stress is one of the greatest triggers of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). In its most severe form, AUD can lead to alcoholism and other substance abuses. Unfortunately, stress is on the rise, especially in work-related scenarios.
When we start to use alcohol as a support to get us through stressful periods at work or to make us feel comfortable in social situations this is alcohol dependence. There are several signs to watch out for:
- Drinking five or more alcoholic beverages per day
- Drinking heavily four or more days per week
- Needing a drink at every social event
- The inability to stop drinking
- Needing a drink to get going in the morning
Alcohol dependence or addiction?
The line between dependence and addiction can be confusing. We use the term ‘addiction’ to characterise excessive behaviour, even though addiction is a very serious mental health issue.
So when do we cross the line? There is some interaction between the two, but it’s important to understand the differences.
We define substance dependence when a person develops a physical tolerance – whether that be to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or any other substance.
The dependency can be broken by slowly reducing the amount taken. The user may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop completely.
Addiction is diagnosed when extensive alcohol or drug use causes a person’s brain chemistry to change. An addiction manifests as an uncontrollable urge or craving to use the substance. The addict will continue using despite the fact they are harming themselves and those around them.
The only way to overcome an addiction is through recovery treatment and rehabilitation.
Overcoming alcohol addiction
When a person gives in to an addiction such as alcohol, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to quit on their own. Seeking professional help is the only option.
White River Manor is a 5 Star Addiction Treatment Centre in Mpumalanga, South Africa, just 17kms from the Kruger National Park.
This is the ultimate recovery destination combining the highest standards of addiction treatment with the latest therapeutic techniques.
We look at the individual case of each client and tailor the program and treatment plan around the specific needs. Identifying negative thought patterns and emotions that may trigger harmful behaviour.
When deciding to undertake treatment for an addiction, it’s essential to step away from the routine of daily life and the environment where your addiction has manifested. South Africa is an excellent recovery destination.
Here you can enjoy an exceptionally high-quality treatment at a fraction of the cost of European treatment centres. More importantly, the warm climate, stunning natural landscape and vibrant climate provide the best tonic for your recovery.
During the stay, we encourage clients to partake in the myriad of outdoor activities on offer in this stunning region: Day safaris, horse trail riding, cycling, hiking, and trips to visit some of the iconic sites and cities of South Africa.
Admitting you have an alcohol or drug problem is difficult, especially when it’s affecting your career. You might put off getting professional help, worried that taking time away from work and personal relationships is going to cost you your business, job or family.
Actually it’s the opposite.
Admitting you have a problem and deciding to get professional help is the first step to a better and more successful life. A life where you’ll wake up feeling great, work more productively and enjoy better relationships.
What’s stopping you?
Call us today for a confidential, no-obligation conversation with one of our professionals.
Whether you’re calling for yourself or someone you know, you needn’t suffer alone.