Drinking alcohol is part of everyday life for many people, and some people suffer no ill effects as a result. They go out for drinks with friends from time to time, they enjoy wine with a nice meal, or perhaps they fix themselves a cocktail when they get home from work. They don’t drive after drinking; drinking doesn’t interfere with their work or other responsibilities, and drinking doesn’t cause problems in their personal relationships.
For other people, their drinking habit isn’t working out so well. They find that they are spending more time drinking. They occasionally call in sick when they have had a “few too many” the night before, and this is happening more frequently–alcohol is interfering with their responsibilities. Arguments with their spouse or significant other may be happening more often and might be about their drinking. They may have a few drinks thinking that they will be more relaxed and instead find themselves being less patient with their children.
Many people can probably relate to some of the examples described in the second paragraph. If you do, you may want to examine your drinking habits and your relationship with alcohol. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to determine whether or not we have a drinking problem, but there are some general guidelines to consider when making that determination.
Your Drinking May Be Problematic If…
If any of the following are true for you, it may be an indication that your drinking is getting out of control.
- You find that you are drinking more than you planned to with some regularity
- You are drinking more frequently than you did in the past
- You have trouble sticking to self-imposed limits–you decide that you are going to have three drinks and end up drinking more
- When you are going out to eat you will only choose restaurants that serve alcohol
- You feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking
- You make an effort to hide your drinking, like pouring your drink into a coffee mug
- The only way you can relax is with a drink
- You are spending more time drinking
- You frequently have five or more drinks at one time, which is considered “binge” drinking
- You are becoming more irritated with friends and family after drinking
- Family members and friends have told you that they are worried about your drinking
- You have been injured while drinking
- You have been arrested for your behavior while drinking, including driving under the influence
- It’s becoming more difficult for you to handle your responsibilities at work or at home
- You experience “blackouts” or “brownouts” while drinking–a full or partial memory loss where you still walk and talk and appear to be functioning
- You need a drink in the morning most days
- You need a drink to feel “normal” physically and mentally
- You can’t stop drinking, even though you have tried
If You Decide to Quit Drinking
If you decide that your drinking is a problem, you are not alone and help is readily available. If you want to stop drinking, depending on how much you have been drinking and for how long, you may want to detox under medical supervision. Check with your doctor or other health care provider because withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening.
You may want to enter a formal treatment program if you decide to stop drinking alcohol. Treatment facilities vary in what programs they offer–some offer treatment on an out-patient basis and some are residential programs. Some centers offer medically supervised detox while others are designed for patients to enter after they have completed detox. Centers vary in the treatment modalities they offer as well.
No matter what, after you stop drinking you will need a support system. Deciding to stop drinking is a major change and it will be easier for you to stick with it if you have the support of people who have been where you are now or who are going through what you are currently experiencing. Two well-known support programs are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery).
AA was founded in the 1930s. The organization describes itself as an “international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost anywhere. There are no age or education requirements, Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings are available online or in-person if local guidelines allow. For more information, visit https://www.aa.org.
SMART Recovery is a “global community of mutual support groups. At meetings, participants help one another resolve problems with any addiction (to drugs or alcohol or to activities such as gambling or over-eating). Participants find and develop the power within themselves to change and lead fulfilling and balanced lives.” For more information about SMART Recovery, visit https://www.smartrecovery.org.
If you are concerned about your use of alcohol, help is available. Enlightened Solutions is a substance abuse treatment center located on the New Jersey shore. We are also licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder, that often accompany or lead to substance abuse. We offer a range of treatment options tailored to the specific needs and goals of each individual patient. These treatment options include traditional psychotherapy, both individually and in a group setting. We also offer a number of holistic treatment modalities, including family constellation therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral treatment (DBT), art and music therapy, yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, equine therapy, and sound therapy. In addition, our life skills offerings include education about nutrition and wellness to aid in healing the body and mind. If you are ready to change your relationship with alcohol, call us at (833) 801-5483.