Questionable drinking habits start in many ways, although many finish in the same negative direction.
You can only ignore problematic drinking for so long before it becomes less of a habit and more of a compulsion; a compulsion that could lead to treatment at a specialised treatment centre.
It’s important to check yourself, even if you’re certain that your habits don’t seem to put you at risk. Simply knowing your limits can help you in the future to continue to drink safely, stay healthy, and help others to do the same.
I don’t have a problem – or do I?
Statistics show that alcohol abuse affects a large segment of society. But, often, alcohol abusers and problem drinkers don’t think that they have issues, or they try to deny them.
Assessment is important if you suspect in any way that your drinking is impacting your life negatively—or if others have indicated that they’re worried about you. Here are some ways you can assess your drinking.
What do your friends say?
Your friends might be concerned about your drinking. This concern can come in different forms, for example, in relation to a specific incident – “Are you sure you want that beer, since you’ve already had so much that you’re standing on the couch singing the National Anthem?”
Concern could also stem from repeated incidents or even dangerous episodes. Maybe other people have noticed that you have been experiencing frequent hangovers lately. Maybe they had to pick you up after you woke up in a strange place with no memory of how you got there.
If you have friends telling you repeatedly about such incidents, there’s a good chance that you have a drinking problem.
How are your relationships?
Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse can isolate us from our loved ones at a time when we need them the most. Consider:
- How are your relationships with friends and family?
- Are you fighting more after you drink or have you stopped talking to your relatives and friends entirely?
- Do you find yourself hanging out with new people?
You could be sick of friends asking you about your drinking habits, and so you turn to other drinkers. You might feel that these new people understand you better than your old friends ever could, or at least they don’t hassle you like all the others.
What’s happening at work?
Drinking impacts more than personal relationships. It could also affect your professional life.
- Are you arriving at work late, or not at all?
- When you do arrive, are you distracted because you’re not feeling well or because you can’t stop thinking about drinking?
If these scenarios are true, your drinking habits could be hurting your career. If you notice that alcohol is interfering with your life, it’s likely that other people do too.
Having any fun?
Even if you think you can control your heavy drinking so it doesn’t affect your job or relationships (although it probably is), unhealthy drinking habits can harm other areas of your life.
Take your leisure activities. “But wait,” you might say. “That’s the reason I drink—to have a good time.” Take a closer look at your drinking. Are you really having fun?
- Has your drinking caused you to have accidents?
- Have you been assaulted when you were under the influence of alcohol? You should never be assaulted, no matter how much you have had to drink. However, moderating your drinking habits (and seeking treatment) can be a good way to limit accidents and other incidents that could hurt you and others.
Heavy drinking can hurt in other, less critical ways. If you’re drinking too much, you’re spending your time, well, drinking. You might be neglecting your hobbies because you’ve been so busy drinking, thinking about drinking, or recovering from drinking.
How do you feel? Or look?
We’ve all heard the jokes about hangovers, but the effects of heavy drinking are not funny. Heavy alcohol consumption can hurt our livers, our digestive systems, and our brains.
- Are you having headaches or feeling sick to your stomach?
- Are you kind of shaky or anxious?
- Do you wish that people would turn off the lights and LOWER THEIR VOICES, if they don’t mind, because everything is just so loud?
Heavy drinking can dehydrate us and causes our faces to bloat. It can produce rosacea, a condition that can make our skin redder or even cause our noses to swell.
Should I stop drinking?
It depends. There are different answers to that question. Is your alcohol use having a negative impact on many areas in your life? If that’s the case, maybe you should consider seeking help.
If you are drinking heavily, don’t go cold turkey, a term for ending all alcohol use immediately. This is extremely dangerous, because your body has become accustomed to alcohol and might react violently to such a sudden change. Instead, consider seeking professional help.
Alcohol might not be affecting all areas of your life, but you still might want to cut down. Maybe it’s interfering with your sleep or giving you headaches. If that’s the case, you could set limits for yourself. Consider limiting your drinking to a few days each week or a few drinks each night.
Eat more before you drink, because food slows down how quickly our bodies process alcohol. This is especially important for women, whose bodies typically cannot process alcohol as well as men’s.