Name: Jackie Len T. Patterson
From: St. Peter, Minnesota
Alcohol Addiction: Life After Recovery
Jackie Len T. Patterson
2020 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign
25 May 2020
Alcohol Addiction: Life After Recovery
Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they remember how you made them feel.” When I think back to my childhood, I don’t remember the content of my father’s drunken slurs as he yells at my mother. I remember how his thunderous sound instilled fear and sadness in the whole family. I remember being disgusted at his drunken demeanor as he struggles to walk. I remember, then, of how I thought this was normal. But it isn’t normal. These were symptoms of alcoholism, also known as Alcohol Use Disorder.
Alcohol Use Disorder, simply put, is the inability to manage one’s drinking habits. This disorder is placed into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Each category has its symptoms and is harmful nonetheless. Some of these symptoms include:
Feeling unable to function without alcohol.
Craving alcohol and always needing more.
Placing alcohol above responsibilities.
Loss of control when consuming it and behaving differently after.
Spending copious amounts of money on alcohol.
Many times, alcoholism and its symptoms go unnoticed. If an Alcohol Use Disorder is left untreated, it most definitely will spiral out of control (Galbicsek).
There are numerous reasons why someone can become addicted to alcohol. The reason is often a mix of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. While it isn’t always the case, children of alcoholics are 3-4 times more at risk of becoming an alcoholic themselves (Felson). For my father, his alcohol abuse stemmed from all three factors. His father, my grandfather, was a heavy drinker, often drinking more than he ought to consume. As a lawyer and businessman, his career demanded so much of him that he needed alcohol to manage his stress. And the people he surrounded himself with encouraged the addiction, in hopes of receiving his favor.
Many addicts share similar sentiments as to why they drink. Most of the time, people develop an Alcohol Use Disorder to cope with stress or anxiety. Whether it is an overwhelming expectation or an unfortunate circumstance, alcohol seems to be their only escape. Other times, people are led to alcoholism to help deal with loss and grief. And in some instances, it is because of trauma and/or shame—some of the most difficult emotions to cope with (Galbicsek) .
While there are individual motives for drinking, the overarching reason is to help them feel good. Seeking pleasure and happiness is not inherently bad, but it becomes harmful when the mode of obtaining it is through overconsumption. And it is certain that Alcohol Use Disorder not only harms the addict but also everyone around them.
On an individual level, Alcohol Use Disorder is a potentially fatal disease that kills 88,000 people in the United States every year. Moreover, 1 in 12 Americans are alcohol dependent or suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder. This high prevalence is attributed to the fact that alcohol is highly addictive. Once consumed, alcohol enters the bloodstream and increases the norepinephrine, the feel-good chemical in the brain. However, the body builds a tolerance to alcohol over time, so you would need to consume more to experience the same effect (“A Surprising Look at the Most Addictive Drugs in the World”).
But this feel-good effect comes with a myriad of complications. These complications range from mild mood changes to complete loss of coordination, vision, speech, and consciousness. Large amounts of alcohol in the blood can lead to impaired brain function and alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. If that doesn’t deter you from picking up the bottle, here are a few more reasons alcohol abuse can do more harm than good:
Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to liver cirrhosis (scarred liver). 1 in 5 alcoholics sustains liver damage.
A whole lot of diseases are more prevalent in alcoholics. These diseases include pancreatitis, chronic gastritis (which leads to stomach bleeds), heart failure, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, and high blood pressure.
Alcohol abuse increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus, liver, larynx, stomach, breast, and upper gastrointestinal tract (Felson).
My father experienced the majority of these diseases as a result of his alcoholism. Whenever he drank, he would go from the loving-silent-type to an angry, ferocious ghost of a man. He would swear, yell, and make hurtful remarks to almost anyone that crosses him. As the night continues, his ability to walk and make coherent sentences diminished.
Alcohol Use Disorder not only affects the addict, but everyone around them. From family and friends to innocent passersby, Alcohol Use Disorder will find a way to ensure everyone is within its reach. In regards to social and domestic disputes, spousal, or child abuse, alcohol abuse almost always plays a role. The overconsumption of alcohol contributes to more than half of the homicides, suicides, and traffic accidents in the U.S. In fact, almost 30 people die in drunk-driving incidents every day. That is 1 person every 50 minutes—10,000 lives every year (“Drunk Driving”).
And just like every family with an alcoholic, mine was never immune to its impacts. When he drove drunk, sometimes with my siblings and mother in the car, we all expected the worst. I remember the thought going through my mind, “I may die tonight,” which is a thought no 9-year-old should ever have.
While the prospect of experiencing Alcohol Use Disorder is frightening, it is treatable. It is wise to start with your doctor, as they can recommend the best possible treatment depending on the severity of your addiction. There is an increasing number of rehab facilities and treatment programs that specialize in alcohol addiction. Some are outpatient programs where you go to a center while living at home. Others require you to live in the center, these are called residential or inpatient programs (DerSarkissian).
Most programs follow a process of detoxification, rehabilitation, and maintenance. Detoxification is a vital step, as it is designed to stop you from drinking and give your body time to expel any alcohol in your system. This can take a couple of days to a week. Detox is best done under the supervision of health care professionals, as addicts can experience withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, seizures, and hallucinations. Rehabilitation provides recovering addicts ways to reconstruct their thinking and behavior around alcohol. This is through singular or group therapy, medication, and accountability. A good treatment center not only looks after the addict during the program but helps them when it is finished. This means regular contact, and helping the recovering alcoholic reintegrate into society (DerSarkissian).
In my father’s case, he was proactive in his health as he was an oral cancer survivor whenever he was sober. But his attempts to undo or prevent disease were fruitless. He never recognized his alcohol dependency as an addiction, much less disease. Sadly, he succumbed to an illness that was largely due to the overconsumption of alcohol and stress. Now, I look back and cannot help but regret not finding the help he needed. Alcohol addiction was normalized in my life and culture that treatment and recovery seemed to never be an option and death was the outcome. But there is hope for all suffering from this disease. There is help out there. There is life after recovery.
“A Surprising Look at the Most Addictive Drugs in the World.” Michael’s House Treatment
DerSarkissian, Carol. “Treatment of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism: How To Stop Drinking.”
WebMD, WebMD, 13 Oct. 2019,
“Drunk Driving.” NHTSA, 17 Jan. 2020, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.
Felson, Sabrina. “Alcohol Abuse and Dependence – Alcohol Use Disorder.” WebMD, WebMD,
10 May 2019,
Galbicsek, Carol. “What Is Alcoholism? – Learn about an Alcohol Addiction.” Alcohol Rehab
Guide, 19 May 2020, www.alcoholrehabguide.org/alcohol/.