Alcohol Addiction Case Study: Steven's Story

Man in suit at work smiling

Meet Steven. He is a 30-year-old junior marketing executive, he’s single and he shares an apartment with his brother. He seems to be living a good life. However, Steven was in denial about his drinking problem.

He had a very active social life and could be found at a bar, club or restaurant every night of the week. He enjoyed his social life but alcohol is always present whenever he goes out. He joked that he looks like an alcoholic because he’s holding a drink in every photo of himself. In reality, it’s no laughing matter.

Steven met a woman that he liked. She also thinks he’s sweet and they had been seeing each other for a couple of months. She notices that every time she calls him he is drinking but thinks nothing of it. After all, maybe this man just enjoys a couple of drinks when he’s out with friends or colleagues. She doesn’t think that drinking every night makes him an alcoholic. She may also be wrong.

Warning signs of an alcohol problem

In fact, she thinks Steven is a really nice guy and they have spent time together, spoken on the phone scores of times and have grown closer.

A couple of months after they meet they decide to go out together for a night. She drops over to his place beforehand and while they share a bottle of wine Steven tells her his mother has asked him to promise not to drink. They laugh about how parents often refuse to view their children as adults. She still does not think he has a problem.

She’s not alone in not recognising the signs of someone with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It’s not always easy. High functioning alcoholics may hold professional jobs, work at the highest levels and not appear as chaotic or drunk. However, there does come a point when even the hardest drinker has too much. Steven may already be there.

Things go well for Steven that the night and his new love interest agrees to another date. A week later he picks her up and they start swapping stories on the way to their date. He starts to tell her some quite concerning tales. He woke up one morning after a big night of drinking and found his shirt was covered in blood. He doesn’t know how the blood got there, or what he did, he says with a laugh.

On another occasion, he was at a nightclub and a young woman knocked into him, spilling his drink. Enraged in the moment, he pushed her back and the woman careered across the room. This is when Steven admitted that – back then – he didn’t know what his alcohol limit was. Now, his new lady is becoming a little worried.

Why is it hard to stop drinking?

It’s important to note that Steven used the past tense in this conversation. Since this happened, a year ago, he had changed his drinking habits, he said. Right then, Steven pulls two bottles of strong alcohol out of his pocket. He offers them to his date but she is happy with the drink she has, and feels worried about his drinking tonight. He drinks the small bottle that he brought for himself – and the one for her.

Two hours later the couple were in a nightclub and Steven seemed to be holding his alcohol well. He was enjoying his night and had already had two beers and was ready for a shot of tequila. This was where things went downhill.

After drinking the powerful shot of alcohol he began to alienate the woman he arrived with. He spilt salt all over the bar, then began dancing sloppily and said insulting things. His behaviour is awful and embarrassing and the woman he likes leaves, saying she never wants to see him again. Despite his behaviour, Steven can’t understand why. She never calls him again.

Help for alcohol problems

Steven needed some help. He was in a state of denial about his drinking problem and there are a host of signs and symptoms of his alcohol dependence. Signs that his life is moving out of control could include:

  • An inability to stop drinking
  • An inability to see how drinking creates personal conflict
  • Spending so much money on alcohol that he is putting himself in a financially difficult position
  • Allowing his drinking, and his behaviour while drinking to, to jeopardise existing relationships and potential future relationships
  • A lack of understanding on Steven’s part so he doesn’t see the connection between his poor decisions and bad situations.
  • Not understanding why people around him are worried about him.

People were worried about him but Steven continues to drink excessively on an almost daily basis. He still argues that he doesn’t have a problem. That means he doesn’t need to seek help. He is wrong. he needs to have an alcohol detox first.

The terms “alcohol abuse” and “alcoholism” are used interchangeably in modern culture but there’s a clear and important difference. Alcoholism is an addiction or dependence to drink alcohol – it’s a compulsion that cannot be ignored. It is destructive.

Alcohol abuse is where someone drinks excessively despite knowing it’s not a positive force in their life. Both of these types of behaviour can be destructive. We don’t know where Steven sits on this spectrum.

Long-term effects

The barrier here is that Steven doesn’t think he has a problem. In the long term, he will never be able to find a more secure job position as his behaviour and health will become increasingly erratic. He may also struggle to enjoy a serious romantic relationship.

Meanwhile, his inability to stop drinking will eventually permanently affect the way his body works. His liver and kidneys are particularly at risk. When his health deteriorates the burden of his care will put financial pressure on him, his family and society.

Steven could also suffer from problems in his brain. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s connections and he may eventually find his mood and behaviour suffers. That’s damage he’s sustained thanks to his lifestyle. This makes it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

His heart is also at risk. He may have developed an irregular heartbeat, is at increased risk of having a stroke and may suffer high blood pressure. His chance of developing several cancers is also increased.

Steven’s story shows that there’s no concrete way to recognise drug and alcohol problems. You might be friends with, working with, or dating someone with an alcohol problem and not even know it. Alcoholism and drug problems, much like other chronic illnesses, can’t be diagnosed by just looking at someone, or even casually getting to know them. However, if you pay attention there are probably warning signs.

When to get help for drinking

If somebody has to drink in the morning, or has to sneak away often during the day (even while at work) to drink secretly, then they may be alcohol-dependent. They will rather hide and down a few drinks than go through the withdrawal symptoms. This isn’t a life you can can sustain forever.

There will almost certainly come a point when Steven realises that he wants, or needs, to stop drinking. However, that’s not an easy task. Unsupervised attempts to detox from alcohol can be life-threatening. Alcohol withdrawal can cause brain damage, seizures, heart palpitations, and other side effects which can leave you in need of serious medical attention.

We’re sharing Steven’s story in the hope that it might help you or someone you know get in to a alcohol rehab. If you see your situation in this story then please talk to someone that can help you. You only need to ask. Help is out there. Like Steven, after a string of wrong choices, make the right one with serenity was so important.

Attending Alcohol Rehab

Steven completed a 4 week programme and with the in-depth inner work we done with him. He is 7 years clean and sober with loving family all back and running his own new successful business.

He often pops in to say hi to the team and has a chat with some of the clients showing there’s hope going into alcohol rehab. The smile we see on his face every time he comes says it all.


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