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The Stages Of Alcohol Addictions

September 17, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

The Stages Of Alcohol Addictions
Amber Abbott


Take a look at Kasey and Karla Abbott's refrigerator and you'll see how proud they are of their children. There's a picture taken on their eldest daughter's first day of Kindergarten. Amber is now 24.

"Smart kid, 28 on her ACT, four-year letterman in track and cross country," Kasey said.

But the couple has had many sleepless nights, worrying about their daughter. They first started noticing a problem when she was in high school.

"It started with a party here and there and a break of curfew. I thought that's normal rebellion behavior; we all did that.  But there was a time her senior year, a friend of hers brought her home from a party and it was obvious Amber was not there just to have fun," Karla said.

Both of Karla's parents battled alcohol addictions so she knew the warning signs. She talked with her daughter about the problem before she started college, but it was not enough. Amber got in trouble for having cocaine four years ago. Since then she's been sentenced twice for drunk driving and tested positive again for drugs. Amber ended up going to TLC Tallgrass for treatment. Her story sounds like many others who have battled addictions.

"Many times I'm talking to people at work, and they're kind of surprised that I can say, 'I bet this has happened to you,' and it's because there's predictable things that happen with the disease," Dr. Luther Hegland said.

Some doctors refer to three stages of an addiction: early, middle, and late. During the early stage, it's difficult to detect there's a problem.

"You might see some unreliable behaviors or people doing goofy stuff. Guess what anybody who over drinks can do goofy stuff. It doesn't mean they're an alcoholic," Avera Behavioral Health Outpatient Services Director Craig Kindrat said.

The second stage begins when a person becomes physically dependent on alcohol. Drinking for a buzz is replaced by drinking to fight the pain. During the late stage, a person's body starts to become damaged by the toxic effects of alcohol.

"It will progress. It's a progressive condition," Kindrat said.

While there are certain stages to alcohol addiction, doctors say people react differently, as with most diseases. Sadly, those treated for addiction can relapse. That's the case with Amber, who was recently sentenced to prison for using drugs while on probation.

"I'm an engineer. I'm used to solving problems. Can't solve this one," Kasey said.

"I'm very hopeful someday Amber is going to be without chemicals and live on her own," Karla said.

For more on how the community can face alcohol addiction together, join us Monday night for Face It Together, a KELOLAND News Special Report.  It begins at 7 p.m. CDT on KELO-TV.

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