There are really three stages of alcoholism. In some cases alcoholism can take years to develop. Alcohol addiction begins when drinking starts affecting the physical and mental health of the drinker who at some point crosses the invisible line from a problem drinker (alcohol abuse) into actual alcoholism.
In the early stages of alcoholism the drinker may drink to change his or her mood or drink to help daily stress or a more specific problem. At this point friends and family don’t know he or she has become an alcoholic. Chances are neither does the drinker.
In the intermediate stage the drinker no longer needs a reason to drink. They may even fabricate reasons to drink. The drinker is now way over socially acceptable limits, until they reach a loss of control point or blackout. The drinker may have a DUI. Family and friends are likely aware that there is a problem and the drinker gets angry when the alcohol abuse is mentioned. The drinker thinks he or she can stop drinking at any time. This is no longer the case. The alcoholic will promise “I will never drink again!” and sincerely mean it. They are shocked to find that when they stop, the cravings for alcohol are all but unbearable.
The advanced stages of alcoholism include friends and family of the alcoholic being distressed at the self destruction the drinker is engaging in. There may be damage to internal organs and the body and mind is under the weight of constant drinking. Anyone who tries to talk the drinker into quitting is wasting his time. These efforts are falling on deaf ears. At this point it is going to take a catastrophic event to get the alcoholic to decide he or she really wants to stop drinking. At this advanced stage when the drinker makes a sincere attempt to stop drinking, he or she will find out that the addiction has completely taken hold, and the withdrawal symptoms will be more extreme.