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What are the Stages of Alcoholism?

Updated: Jan 27

What are the stages of alcoholism?

Alcohol is socially acceptable and always available in about any circle. While we tend to overlook the addictive properties alcohol has. Understanding the stages of alcoholism can help you spot an alcohol problem.

Alcohol use left unchecked can lead to dependence and abuse. Leading to the need for alcohol addiction treatment. Thousands of people around the world need help with alcohol addiction each year.

What is Alcoholism?

"Alcoholism is an illness. Alcoholism involves the persistent and excessive use of alcohol that causes significant impairment. Impairment may involve physiological, psychological or social dysfunction.” Alcoholism has less to do with “how much” you drink but more to do with what happens when you drink. If you have problems when you drink, you have a drinking problem.

How Common is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a complex disease, which has been misunderstood and stigmatized. Alcohol dependence and abuse are among the most common mental disorders. 8% of the adult population suffer from Alcohol Dependence and 5% from Alcohol Abuse.

The Progression of the Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease and follows several phases:

This is an illustration of the stages of alcoholism. It depicts the stages of most substances. You can prevent the progression of any addiction with early intervention. Contact us before the problem of drinking becomes a problem of alcoholism rehabilitation.

Alcohol use left unchecked can lead to dependence and abuse

1. Pre-Alcoholic

Occasional relief drinking. It makes you feel better about yourself. It helps with worrying or makes you forget about something troubling you.

Alcohol is often abused because it offers relief. With mild intoxication, many people become more relaxed. They feel more carefree. Any pre-existing problems tend to fade into the background. Alcohol can enhance a good mood or change a bad mood. Alcohol allows the drinker to feel quite pleasant, with no emotional costs. However excessive drinking can escalate into devastating consequences.

2. Early Alcoholic

Memory blackouts and excessive drinking. You start obsessing over the next drink. Lying about the amount you’ve been drinking or denying that you have been drinking.

Early alcoholism will begin to have an assortment of problems associated with drinking. A person may start to sneak drinks, begin to feel guilty about his or her drinking and become preoccupied with alcohol. Increased tolerance, drinking to the point of drunkenness, and blackouts are all early signs of alcoholism.

8% of the adult population suffer from alcohol dependence

An individual in the early stages will seek out companions who are heavy drinkers. Losing their interest in activities not associated with drinking. Family and friends may begin to express concern about the person’s drinking of alcohol. Work problems, such as missing work or tardiness, may also take place.

3. Middle Alcoholic

This is the obvious stage that you have a problem. Drinking and even not drinking affects your mood. You might have more noticeable physical signs of alcohol abuse.

By the time someone has entered the middle stages of alcoholism, his or her life has become quite unmanageable. The alcoholic still denies that he or she has a problem. At this point, the alcoholic will often drink more than intended. He or she will drink in an attempt to erase feelings such as anger, depression, and social discomfort. Drinking in the morning to relieve a bad hangover may also take place. The alcoholic’s health may begin to suggest that he or she should stop drinking. The alcoholic may try to stop drinking but without success. Job loss, medical problems, and serious family conflicts occur during this phase.

Drinking is a temporary fix

4. Late Alcoholic

Drinking consumed your life. Your drinking has affected your health and relationships. Trying to stop may result in physical withdrawal symptoms.

At this stage, the alcoholic’s life has become completely unmanageable. Medical complications arise. This can include liver diseases, acute pancreatitis, and high blood pressure. Bleeding of the oesophageal lining can also be a result of prolonged alcohol abuse. The heart and brain are compromised so that an alcoholic is at a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. Depression and insomnia and even suicide are more prevalent at this stage.

An alcoholic at this stage has become addicted to alcohol. Trying to stop can lead to seizures or delirium tremens (DTs) if he or she stops drinking. It is critical to seek out medical care at this point in the disease process.

5. Recovery

When most people seek help. Once stabilized through detoxification. Treatment starts and the maintenance phase of your recovery takes place.

Recovering from alcoholism can be challenging. Alcoholism, after all, is a diagnosable disorder that requires treatment. This means recovery is not as simple as only giving up drinking. Recovery is a process and has unique challenges inherent along the way.

The process of recovery involves going through different phases. Confronting specific challenges within each of these phases. Recovery is a lifelong journey.

Need Help With A Drinking Problem

We’ve gone through research and reports to help give you an idea of the scope of alcoholism in South Africa. We've summarised some of the most compelling facts and stats in an infographic for you.

If you’d like to know how we treat alcohol addiction, contact PRC Recovery Centre anytime. If you know a loved one in any of the stages of alcoholism don’t hesitate to start looking into professional help so they can experience the stages of alcohol recovery. It might help save his or her life.

Alcoholism Treatment

If an individual is dependent on alcohol, supervised detoxification may be required. Further treatment may include individual or group counselling.

Mental health professionals are trained to treat substance abuse problems. You can seek out individual treatment with a counsellor or enter an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program. Read more about choosing a treatment centre for your loved one or choosing a treatment program for your loved one.

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have also helped many alcoholics to stay sober, allowing them to live productive lives. Find out more about finding support systems in recovery.

After perusing the infographic, please share these images to help spread awareness. We also invite you to share this page or the image itself on your social media profiles. Seeing this information may be invaluable for those who come across it.

What are the Stages of Alcoholism Recovery?

The 4 Stages of Recovery Infographic

This is an illustration of the stages of alcoholism recovery. It depicts the stages for most substances. Professional rehabilitation for addiction can ensure better results in the future. Contact us if you need help with someone’s drinking problem, alcoholism or addiction.

1. The Withdrawal Stage

If you've struggled with chronic alcohol abuse. If you've consumed large quantities of alcohol over time. Then it is likely that you will go through withdrawal after you give up drinking. Withdrawal symptoms begin 6 to 48 hours after a person stops drinking. Alcohol withdrawal can include any of the following symptoms:

  • Headaches

  • Tremors

  • Sweating

  • Nausea and Vomiting

  • Agitation and Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Difficulty Concentrating

  • Sensitivity to Sight and Sound

In severe alcohol withdrawal, some people may experience brief hallucinations. Others will also experience withdrawal seizures. The most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include delirium tremens. This condition occurs in about 5% of people who withdraw from alcohol.

Withdrawal complicates recovery from alcoholism. Not only is it uncomfortable, but in severe cases, it can be fatal. Professional guidelines warn us that without treatment, delirium tremens can result in death. Detoxification will occur in a hospital setting. People with severe symptoms must complete some form of substance withdrawal management process. This will ensure that the person receives the needed medications to manage their withdrawal symptoms.

2. The Abstinence Stage

Getting through alcohol withdrawal is only the first stage of treatment. People then enter into the abstinence stage. Where they should continue with professional treatment if they want to recover. There are several tasks associated with alcohol addiction treatment in the abstinence stage. These include accepting that you have an alcohol addiction. Learning to cope with alcohol cravings without drinking. Distancing yourself from friends who are still drinking. Practising self-care and healthier alternatives to drinking. Learning about relapse, and beginning to attend self-help groups.

One challenge is that people may experience what experts call “post-acute withdrawal.” Unlike initial alcohol withdrawal, this phase doesn’t produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. They rather result in psychological and emotional challenges. People may experience depression, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, poor concentration, and sleep problems. Post-acute withdrawal can last for the first year or two of abstinence, and sometimes it will come and go. This may discourage them but it is important to recognize that this is a part of recovery. It does get better with time.

The abstinence phase lasts for two years and begins once a person stops drinking. It is still important to note that withdrawal is a phase of its own, given the potential severity of this stage. Once you move from withdrawal to abstinence, it is critical to stay engaged in treatment. Developing positive coping skills. Gaining support from others during group sessions. Learning about relapse triggers and how to avoid them.

3. The Repair Stage

Following abstinence comes the repair stage, which lasts two to three years. People begin to make amends for the damage they caused during the years of addiction. This can involve addressing financial problems, relationship difficulties, or problems at work.

This stage can be difficult. People may begin to feel guilty, ashamed, or hopeless as they face the consequences of their addiction. Cognitive therapy may be useful to help overcome guilt and negative thinking patterns. During this stage, people need to practice self-care and engage in support groups. Prioritising a healthy lifestyle and repairing their relationships. It is where they start to recognise that they are not their addiction.

4. The Growth Stage

After completing the repair stage, those recovering from alcoholism enter the growth stage. This stage begins three to five years after a person stops drinking, and it is a lifelong stage. At this stage, a person is ready to process and heal from family issues. Dealing with past traumas that led to their alcohol addiction.

Recovering from past trauma is an important part of many addiction rehabilitation programs. Processing trauma can be difficult. This phase should not begin until a person has the necessary coping skills and support. People begin to identify the negative patterns that contribute to their addiction. They continue to challenge negative thinking patterns and enforce healthy boundaries. They even begin to give back to their communities.

5. The Relapse Stage

It is also worth noting that relapse can be a part of the recovery process from alcoholism. After all, the relapse rate for people in addiction treatment is as high as 40-60%. Instead of feeling that you have failed if you encounter a relapse. You should view the relapse stage as a part of the recovery process.

Relapse occurs because people begin to isolate themselves. They often start to deny that they have an addiction. They stop going to support group meetings. Convincing themselves that their addiction wasn’t that bad. They tell themselves that they are strong enough to have a drink or two without losing control and falling back into alcoholism.

It is important to re-engage in treatment if you experience a relapse so you can continue on your journey. It is also helpful not to view yourself as a failure but rather to use the relapse as an opportunity for growth. The best outcome of relapse is that it can teach you how to avoid them in the future.

Get help for your Alcoholism

Whether you’re in the relapse stage, the growth stage, or in earlier stages of recovery. The fortunate truth is that there is help every step of the way. You can receive treatment for every problem associated with alcoholism recovery. Ranging from withdrawal management services to ongoing therapy to help you. It is important to develop healthier ways of thinking and coping. If you’re struggling, reach out for support today.




Embark on a comprehensive exploration of the stages of alcoholism, unravelling the progression from occasional relief drinking to recovery and growth. Understand the complexities of alcohol addiction and the vital role of professional treatment. Navigate through withdrawal challenges, abstinence tasks, repair efforts, and the lifelong journey of growth. Recognize the possibility of relapse as part of recovery and discover the continuous support available in South Africa. PRC Recovery Centre offers insights, resources, and assistance to those seeking help for alcoholism.

Understanding Alcoholism:

Definition: Alcoholism is an illness characterized by persistent and excessive alcohol use leading to significant impairment, affecting physiological, psychological, or social functions.

Identification: The focus is on the consequences of drinking rather than the quantity consumed. Problems arising from alcohol use indicate an issue.

Prevalence of Alcoholism:

Progression of Alcoholism:

Alcoholism Recovery Stages:

Relapse in Alcoholism Recovery:

Seeking Help Throughout the Journey:

Understanding the stages of alcoholism, recognizing the progression, and embracing the recovery journey involves various challenges. Seeking professional help, engaging in support groups, and addressing mental health aspects are vital components. Each stage demands unique interventions, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive approach to alcoholism treatment and recovery.



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