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The first important element of beginning treatment for any type of addiction, including alcoholism, is to arm yourself with the facts. One of the best places to begin with the book, "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," 4th Edition (more affectionately known as the DSMIV). This book is the go-to manual for all professionals dealing with any mental disorder. In other words, this book lists all the facts and symptoms regarding every single mental illness in existence. Alcohol Intoxication, Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Abuse are each listed and defined in this book.
A person who has trouble with their drinking or cannot stop drinking despite a strong desire and his/her best intended efforts can begin here. Notated symptoms, such as "a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking" ( symptom of Alcohol Dependence) can lead an informed decision about whether or not you need help with your drinking.