Alcohol consumption can develop into a disease that can go unnoticed until something noticeably bad happens. Research data show that almost 90% of Americans over the age of 18 have engaged in alcohol consumption.
Kim Kinzie is a Las Cruces native who started drinking at a young age. She mentioned that in the early 1960s, there were times when family members would give children as young as 4 years old a sip of alcohol.
“Back in the old days, [family members] used to give kids sips of beer, sips of whatever and things like that. Half the time I think it was to shut them up,” Kinzie said. “I started having more drinks here and there at about eighth or ninth grade.”
It wasn’t until Kinzie reached her 20s, that alcohol became a problem.
“I was drinking very heavily, but I was also very depressed,” Kinzie said. “I drank to kill the pain and stuff like that.”
Alcohol addiction is when people cannot go a short period of time without having a single drink, and addiction can begin at an early age.
According to the CDC, 140,000 people die from excessive alcohol use in the U.S. each year. These premature deaths are preventable, and include deaths from alcohol poisoning, liver disease, suicides and car accidents. Alcohol is meant to be used in moderation, but if it becomes frequent, consumers could potentially pay a fatal price.
Cirrhosis of the liver is one of the most damaging side effects of excessive alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis of the liver causes inflammation, fatigue, and loss of appetite, and could result in the need for a liver transplant. If a transplant is needed, the possibility of death increases if the patient takes even one sip of alcohol.
Alcoholism as a disease is both physical and psychological in nature. Clifford Santillanes is a counselor who treats people with alcohol addictions.
“It begins [with] using for self-medicating and winds up affecting your neurological system, and it becomes a necessity to survive,” Santillanes said.
Santillanes said there are lots of mental behaviors that go on in the person’s mind and relapse is common among people fighting through addiction. “Relapse is part of the recovery process as it takes a long time to become an alcoholic, so it is going to take a long time to get it right,” he said.
Recovery does take some time, and there are many ways people overcome addiction. For Kim Kinzie, it was therapy.
“I needed the one-on-one, so that’s why I chose therapy over Alcoholics Anonymous,” Kinzie said. “I didn’t want a group situation … I needed to focus on me.” Kinzie said attending one-on-one therapy sessions met her needs and helped her to understand the reasons why she was drinking from the beginning.
While Alcoholics Anonymous may not provide a complete solution for everyone fighting alcohol addiction, it has clearly helped countless people achieve and maintain sobriety.
A local AA meeting attendee named Aaron said he started attending meetings after multiple DUIs and a car crash. “I started going to AA meetings in 2006,” Aaron said. “It’s a time process; you can’t give up on it … I thought my life was over when I got my DUI. Addiction is a killer and it’s hell.” Aaron has been sober for 15 years.
As for Kim Kinzie, she’s enjoying her life. Like Aaron, she has been sober for 15 years. She said after being sober for so long, she can’t tolerate the smell of alcohol. Perhaps most importantly, Kinzie said her years of therapy have brought her much closer to her family.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance or alcohol abuse, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline, use the online treatment locator, or call 1-800-662-help (4357).