- REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Statistics show there are 10 million alcoholics in the United States today. Despite the common acceptance of drinking in our culture today, the destructiveness of alcohol cannot be ignored.
Because of the social stigma, embarrassment and denial, families tend to keep the alcoholic’s drinking a secret. Alcoholism is a disease that is never cured, hence the term“recovering alcoholic.”
The addictive personality remains after the drinking stops. The potential for relapse is always just a drink away. Relapses are intense, since it brings the alcoholic back to their last stage of active drinking, not the beginning stage.
Other addictions like drugs, smoking, overeating, or gambling can easily replace the previous addiction.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health.
Some racial groups are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems.
Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate.
But, a new study reveals fresh information that too many hours at work can lead to alcohol abuse.
Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand took a fresh look at alcoholism and discovered that if you work at least 50 hours a week, you are three times as likely to develop alcohol problems compared to those who do not work as many hours.
University researchers observed 1000 people and found a statistical significant link between hours worked and alcohol abuse.
The study shows high-volume workers are 1.5 times more likely to develop problems with alcohol than those who work between 30 and 49 hours a week.
"Increased alcohol abuse among those who worked long hours might be an attempt to reduce stress associated with their jobs," said author of the study Dr. Sheree Gibb in a statement.
She suggests that, although this does not happen to everyone, social contact with workmates might make people more likely to abuse alcohol.
"Individuals who work longer hours may have more social contact with co-workers, and workplaces where long hours are commonplace may experience a more sociable atmosphere that involves a greater level of alcohol use," she said.
The study shows that this risk of alcohol abuse can be as dangerous for both men and women.
Gibb said the findings revealed the need for anti-alcohol abuse programs tailored toward workaholics and high-volume workers.
Drinking is woven into the fabric of many societies, sharing a bottle of wine over a meal, going out for drinks with friends, celebrating special occasions with champagne.
But because alcohol is such a common, popular element in many activities, it can be hard to see when drinking has crossed the line from moderate or social use to problem drinking.
Social experts say if you consume alcohol simply to feel good, or to avoid feeling bad, your drinking could become problematic.
Doctors Melinda Smith Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal of Harvard Health Studies and Publications say alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and take steps to cut back if you recognize them.
Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it.
Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking.
Harvard experts say the bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.
Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.
"Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism," the research team at Harvard said in a recent study.
"The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalize drinking, even when the consequences are obvious. By keeping you from looking honestly at your behavior and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships."
For example, they said, you may blame an ‘unfair boss’ for trouble at work or a ‘nagging wife’ for your marital issues, rather than look at how your drinking is contributing to the problem.
While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of trouble.
Do not battle problems with alcohol alone, abuse experts say. Understanding alcoholism is changing over the last century and more treatment options are available.
The best referrals to groups will come from someone you know who is already a member of a group. If you do not know of any church-based ministries, however, don't hesitate to start by phoning the larger congregations in your community.
Remember that a church which you would not consider attending regularly may nevertheless have a support group ministry which is well suited to your needs.
Most support groups are not affiliated with a larger network but are grass-roots ministries in local churches.
Other groups, however, choose to identify themselves with larger coalitions of groups.
Each of these networks has distinctive approaches to recovery. Some are based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, some use adapted versions of the Twelve Steps, and others use different strategies.
Abuse experts say there is a growing connection between alcoholism and workaholics - two social abuses that will eventually lead to a hopeless lifestyle if not addressed with immediate treatment and a support network.
Interminable and unrealistic deadlines, pressure from your boss to bring in results, pressure from yourself to deliver, putting in 60+ hours a week, constantly thinking about work, impatience with others who don’t share your work priorities, taking work home, and little or no personal life from which you derive pleasure – experts say watch out, you’re on the road to becoming a workaholic, if you’re not already there.
Finding out why you overwork is a start to a better life. Christian leaders often say, "Work to live, not live to work."
Start to slowly change your work schedule. This does not mean you are changing your work ethic- just the amount of time at work and thinking about work. Work smarter - not longer.
Examine roots of work addiction. Begin by asking who was your role model in childhood that instilled in you the idea that you have to push yourself beyond limits to succeed?
Compulsive work addiction always has its roots in childhood, often as a result of a controlling parent that the child desperately seeks to please. Growing up in impoverished circumstances can also lead to work addiction in adulthood, as the individual vows never again to be without.
Once the underlying causes are identified, one frequently finds that a strong characteristic of a workaholic is a deep distrust of others. This distrust masks a profound fear of relationships.
Become more effective – Instead of putting in 60 to 80 hours a week at work, take time out to relax, de-stress, time for yourself, family and friends, and most important time with God.
Start your day with God by inviting Him in to every conversation, every task, every decision you make and the blessings of healing will follow.
The workaholic will be able to accomplish work-related tasks in much less time. Those saved hours are now a bonus to the individual – time for them and God, not time for work.
Carving out personal time with yourself and God is critical to overcoming work addiction, which can lead to alcoholism or another substance abuses.
For referrals to Christian programs, a very good resource is:
Another possible source of referrals would be a local crisis phone line. The largest network of distinctive Christian help lines (26 different lines) is:
Christian Help Lines Inc.
Did you know?
Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders.
Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.
Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships.
Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress. Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss.
Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism (alcohol dependence):
You’ve lost control over your drinking. You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.
You want to quit drinking, but you can’t. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.
You have given up other activities because of alcohol. You’re spending less time on activities that used to be important to you (hanging out with family and friends, going to the gym, pursuing your hobbies) because of your alcohol use.
Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus. You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. You have few if any interests or social involvements that don’t revolve around drinking.
You drink even though you know it’s causing problems. For example, you recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.
(Amanda Winkler, reporter for The Christian Post, contributed to this report.)