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Do you know someone who has crossed the line from being an occasional drinker to what you would consider an alcoholic? Many of us have a friend, family member or spouse who we are worried about and feel uncomfortable around when they’ve been drinking. One drink leads to another and another, and before long, the person is incoherent, irrational, embarrassing and/or physically unsafe to be around. Maybe you’ve tried to bring it up with the person when he’s sober, but the fact is that one of the major symptoms of alcoholism is denial. The person declares that he only drinks on the weekends, at parties or while on vacation, or knows when to stop and abruptly ends the conversation. You know you are uncomfortable with the situation but don’t know enough about alcoholism to know if you should let it go or continue to push the issue.

To start, it helps to know what some of the symptoms of alcoholism are. Do you recognize any or some of these indicators?

1. Increasing irresponsibility. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, health conditions relating to alcoholism cost the nation’s economy about 185 billion dollars each year. This is due to lost days at work, hospital related visits and the increased cost of health care due to these employees physical and emotional needs. Look for your teenager missing school because of hangover type symptoms, or the adult showing up late to important events or work and/or not showing up at all.  A parent who starts to forget to pick up his/her child on time or is spending more time in bed.

2. Turning the conversation into a joke. When you bring up the subject, the person ignores the issue or makes excuses by making fun of himself or herself or the event surrounding the behavior. They don’t give you a direct, honest answer.

3. Not following through on promises. This is across the board in every part of their life. The person says he will be somewhere but doesn’t make it, or says he will take care of something, but never gets to it. Most importantly, the person promises to not have a drink, but can’t help himself and does anyway. This generally leads to 3 or 4 until the person is definably drunk.

4. Needing a drink to relax, have a good time, or forget their problems. The person looks to alcohol to help alter a depressed, sad or frustrated mood or enhance an event to have a better time (repeatedly).

5. Hiding the alcohol. The person doesn’t want others to know he/she is drinking so they mask it in a soda can or a coffee mug and hide the bottles in a closet or pantry that would otherwise not normally have a wet bar. They don’t drink the alcohol that is available or displayed for guests so that others in the family don’t see that the levels are going down.

If any of this sounds familiar and you are ready to have a discussion about alcohol abuse with a loved one but want to gain more knowledge first, try an online alcohol and drug education class. Affordable programs are available at your fingertips to take from the privacy of your own home. You will learn all the facts to prepare you for an effective, life-changing conversation.