Understanding the Mind of an Alcohol Addict

by: Mike Miller

Often when I teach alcohol awareness classes students ask, “How can I tell if I am an alcoholic.” This is the second in a series of articles where we look at “The Mind of an Addict.”

Beware of Your DNA!

Research has conclusively shown that your DNA and genes make a significant contribution to whether or not you might be addicted to things such as alcohol. If your parents or other relatives suffer from addiction, you are more more likely to become addicted to something at some point during your life. It's similar to other ilnesses like heart disease, cancer and depression. So why should addiction to alcohol be any different?

Let’s say your grandmother and father were alcoholics and your mother was a compulsive gambler.  Does this mean that you are guaranteed to be addicted to something during your lifetime? Absolutely not!

Does it mean that you have to be super careful about becoming “addicted” to a substance or activity? The answer is, "Absolutely!"

With respect to addiction, genes play a big role, but even if you have this DNA burden, you can stay addiction free!  We all are blessed with the power of free choice.  Choose not to be addicted.  It’s that easy! Well in theory at least... sometimes practice is more difficult.

The Mind of An Addict

I want to clarify that my definition of “Mind of an Addict” is fundamentally a person’s ability to rationalize their drinking behavior.  Take a moment to take in the power of our mind.  This is not “psycho-babble”.  Our brains are very powerful and combined with our ego can create powerful and persuasive reasons to justify our actions. 

I’m Just Like Everybody Else – The Beginning

The most common form of denial starts with, “I am no different than anyone else.”  If you are drinking more than two drinks at a time,  if you are getting intoxicated often, if you drink every day, if your friends and coworkers are consuming just as much be advised – you all have a problem!

The Time Component of  “Mind of an Addict” Thinking

Even if you are not like everyone else, or even if you are drinking daily, by yourself, your mind can find ways to justify your behavior. In this stage of what I coined “Mind of an Addict” thinking, we use time as the component used to justify behavior.

In my alcohol awareness classes it is not uncommon to hear students say, “well I have been going through a rough patch and have really only been seriously drinking for the past three months – or six months – or it has been only a year.”  This is common but it is a sign that addicts are trying to justify the fact that they have been drinking in perhaps a problematic pattern for a  “short” time.  This "short time frame" varied among my students from 2 weeks to 5 years.  Of course those justifying five years of aberrant behavior can relate to those who have a “lifetime” of problematic, alcoholic drinking. 

Don’t Become A Statistic

Participation in a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous can be a huge help in an addict beginning and maintaining abstinence from alcohol. There are also online alcohol classes and alcohol awareness classes that can be taken from home that can be of help.  The alcoholic's body does not "forget" alcohol, and induced enzymes formed from years of drinking remain ready to continue their metabolic actions if alcohol use resumes.