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Alcoholism is a Choice. Or Is It?

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Diabetes. Parkinson’s. Cancer. These are probably the kinds of conditions you imagine when you hear the phrase chronic disease. You may have a loved one who has battled one of these diseases, or you might have first-hand knowledge of how vulnerable they can make you feel.

When you think about alcoholism, you might not feel like it’s comparable. After all, drinking is a choice, isn’t it? However, throughout the medical community, alcoholism is being recognized and treated as a chronic disease.

What is a Chronic Disease?

Older populations are most likely to develop chronic diseases or conditions, but depending on where you look, you might get some minor variations on the actual definition.

  • WebMD defines it as “a condition you can control with treatment for months,” and it may not have a cure. However, you can continue to live with it and manage symptoms.
  • The Mayo Clinic asserts that a chronic disease is one that progresses over time.
  • The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics considers diseases that last for 3 months or longer and cannot be vaccinated against as chronic.

Chronic diseases and conditions can also be influenced by genetic factors, as well as, environmental ones, including:

  • Poor diet
  • Lack of adequate exercise
  • Using tobacco

Without proper treatment, relapse and worsening of symptoms is probable with chronic diseases.

This Is Not Your Fault

Until relatively recently, the generally held opinion was that alcoholics brought this predicament upon themselves. After all, they chose to drink. If some people can stop anytime they want, why can’t everybody?

However, research shows that alcoholism shares traits with other chronic diseases.

  • Genetics plays a role. Tolerance levels vary, leading to stronger or weaker reactions for individuals.
  • Environmental factors can make it more likely. People dealing with stress, neglect or abuse may have more difficulty with alcohol abuse.
  • Without treatment, symptoms become worse and potentially life-threatening.

Alcohol use is widely accepted and even promoted in our society. It’s legal and easy to obtain if you’re over 21. Its widespread availability and acceptance fails to communicate the powerful impact the drug can have on your body and brain. Fortunately, some of the damage can be undone in recovery.

How Do I Know If I Have a Problem?

If you’re worried you may have a problem with alcohol abuse, consider these questions:

  • Do you often end up drinking more than you planned?
  • Does alcohol occupy your thoughts regularly?
  • Are you struggling in any personal or professional areas due to alcohol use?
  • Have you tried to abstain from drinking and found yourself unable to commit to the plan?
  • Do you regularly experience hangovers?

Answering yes to one or more of these could be a wake-up call about your relationship with alcohol.

You Can Make the Choice to Get Help Managing This Disease

Ignoring your current symptoms can lead to more pain for you and those around you. You might have started drinking to help loosen up in social settings or to deal with difficult emotions. Whatever the reason, it started you on a path where you felt less and less in control.

That’s because alcohol abuse warps your body’s natural reward, memory and motivation mechanisms and fuels a perpetuating cycle of use. The Design For Change Recovery Center in Lancaster, California is a safe space where you can get the help you need.

Recovery is not a pill you can take. There will be some hard work involved, and you’ll discover that this is a lifelong journey. But it’s worth it.

Our medical team and staff are here to support you during this pivotal moment in your life. If you have questions about how insurance can help with the cost of treatment, our admissions professionals can help. Don’t wait another day. Begin regaining control of your life now.

A man struggling with the disease of alcoholism slumps over a table.