Some Things to Consider
Does having a couple beers after work turn into drinking an entire 12-pack or closing down the bar? Do you have a line-item in your monthly budget dedicated to restocking your liquor cabinet? Does your paycheck barely (or maybe not even) cover your bills after you buy your alcohol?
You don’t need to have a “rock-bottom” moment to seek out a change and discover your own path to sobriety. If you have loved ones mentioning your drinking in a negative way or trying to deter you from drinking as much or as often as you usually do, there may be a problem you aren’t seeing. It’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
1. Is Alcohol Taking Up a Lot of Your Time?
Aside from the time actually drinking, there can be a lot of time spent that you’re not associating with your alcohol use. Keep a diary or journal of your activity for a few weeks and include anything that is related to or an after-effect of alcohol use.
Some surprising time-consumers are obtaining alcohol, dealing with hangovers, and the recovery period back to normal. If you don’t have a recovery time or return to normal, but drink again before you’re completely past the hangover stage, that in itself should be a warning sign that maybe your alcohol consumption is getting out of control.
2. Are You Drinking More Than You Planned?
Even if it’s only occasionally, having times where you drink more than you realize or stay out drinking for a longer time than you had planned to can be a sign that you have problems controlling yourself with alcohol. This warning shouldn’t be taken lightly, because it proves you’re susceptible to greater addiction issues.
3. Do You Have Cravings for Alcohol?
Many things can trigger a craving for something. Physical sensations, emotions, feelings, places, people, or even a certain time of day can trigger a craving. This is normal for things we enjoy or partake in often.
It becomes a problem when those urges and cravings get so intense that you can think of nothing else. Until you fulfill that craving, your perception of everything else is affected by your need for a drink. A social drinker’s brain will react to those triggers differently and in a much less all-consuming way than someone with an alcohol problem.
4. Has Your Tolerance Increased?
If you have noticed that you don’t feel the same buzz after your “usual” drinks, it isn’t just your imagination. Your body and brain chemistry adapt quickly, so you will periodically have times when your body evens itself out at that level of alcohol consumption and it will take more to achieve the desired sensation.
5. Do You Suffer Symptoms of Withdrawal?
When you use alcohol heavily over a long period of time, your brain adapts to compensate. You will experience discomfort when alcohol use is abruptly stopped because the brain will need to adjust to its absence. Some symptoms you may experience with alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, irritability, depression, trouble sleeping, restlessness, shakiness, sweating, or nausea.
6. Is Your Health Suffering Because of Alcohol Use?
If you continue to use or overuse alcohol despite the fact you suffer health problems from it, your dependence on alcohol—be it emotional or physical—could be causing your body serious damage. Alcohol can have damaging effects on your pancreas, liver, immune system, or brain. Alcohol use can also heighten your chances of suffering from certain types of cancer.
Aside from long-term problems with certain organs or the threat of major illness, alcohol can interfere with many medications by rendering them less effective or increasing the risk of harmful or painful side effects. Some health conditions can also be worsened with alcohol use. For example, many gastrointestinal problems flare up when alcohol is consumed.
7. Are You Neglecting Things and People in Your Life?
Many times, this can be a warning sign to those around you before you realize your own problem. If you were previously active in sports, volunteering, or special hobbies but haven’t participated in things you enjoy lately, it’s time to look at why.
These changes in your priorities aren’t just noticeable by your lack of interest in favorite pastimes, either. It can be seen in your work ethic, be it in your job or schoolwork. Getting behind or completely blowing off things, either intentionally or accidentally, can happen for a variety of alcohol-related reasons.
You can also be neglectful of your responsibilities around home and inadvertently avoid your loved ones. This not only alienates them, but it can lead to other problems if it’s a romantic relationship and/or there are children involved.
Alcohol may be preventing you from doing things because you’re too intoxicated to participate, alcohol isn’t allowed where the activities are taking place, or you’re too hungover to function.
8. Have You Nearly Missed Danger While Intoxicated?
When you are intoxicated, the possibility of dangerous outcomes is less likely to enter into your decision-making. The negative outcomes surrounding drunk driving, for example, aren’t even on your radar when you’re looking to go to the next party or the next bar.
The same problem masks the danger in taking a route home through a dangerous area, getting into a fight, or getting intimate with someone without proper protection.
9. Have You Had Trouble with the Law?
If you have been caught driving while intoxicated, being in a fight because you were drunk, or doing something ridiculous or dangerous that ended in the police getting involved more than once, it is likely a huge red flag that your drinking is at a problem level. The problems and long-term results from these incidents with law enforcement can haunt you for the rest of your life.
10. Do You Want to Stop Drinking, but Can’t?
Maybe you have already noticed some of these signs and considered the idea that you have a problem with using alcohol in excess. Maybe that’s how you found this post. It’s even possible you’ve tried quitting or cutting back on your own and weren’t successful.
If this is the case, do not feel upset or consider yourself a failure. Alcohol is a master of disguise. It disguises your feelings and emotions so you temporarily forget they exist. When you remove the alcohol from your routine, you again become aware of those feelings. If you don’t know how to deal with them, you’ll be tempted to drown them in a bottle again.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And, I promise it’s not an oncoming train!
Any one of these signs individually can signal an alcohol problem. There is no point at which you are beyond help. However, the sooner you get help, the sooner your path to recovery can begin!
The counselors and medical staff at Peak View are equipped to handle your emotional reactions to removing alcohol from your daily routine and the physical withdrawal you may experience. Let us help you help yourself!