If you think you might have an issue with alcohol consumption, or might even struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) – then that might be the case (1). Only you can decide if your drinking is something that you need to address. These 4 questions to ask yourself can help you identify whether alcohol has become a dangerous issue in your life.
1. Has Alcohol Caused Problems for You?
One of the major signs you might have difficulty with alcohol is if drinking has created serious problems in your life. These include:
- Legal Issues – Such as being arrested for drinking and driving, getting into fights while intoxicated, or faced charges of public intoxication.
- Relationship Disturbances – If you repeatedly find yourself in conflict with the people you care about most, your drinking might be a problem.
- Work and Responsibility Troubles – If you go to work with a hangover or call out due to drinking then it’s interfering with your ability to function normally.
- Financial Concerns – If you’re unable to pay for your rent, mortgage, food, or vehicle because of spending related to alcohol.
- Health – High blood pressure, digestive issues, learning and memory problems, depression and/or anxiety, as well as problems with your liver or kidneys.
- Withdrawal Symptoms – These can include shaking, vomiting, sweating, and nausea. They are all warning signs your drinking might be excessive.
2. Can You Control Your Drinking?
Lack of control over alcohol consumption tends to be a major hallmark of AUD or alcohol abuse. (2). If any of the following apply to you, then drinking may be taking control of your life:
- You are unable to stop drinking or manage how much alcohol is consumed once you start.
- You have strong cravings to drink.
- You wish to stop drinking but find yourself unable to do so.
- You have sacrificed other activities in order to drink or to recover from drinking.
- You have an increased alcohol tolerance, requiring more to attain the same level of intoxication, either in the frequency of use or amount.
- You drink even at times when it is unsafe to do so, such as when engaging in physical exercise, swimming, driving, or operating dangerous machinery, including firearms.
3. Is Your Drinking Excessive?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) identifies moderate drinking as being one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men (3). Heavy drinking is identified as 8 drinks or more per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. If you are drinking more than this, you could fall into the category of a destructive drinker.
You may also engage in binge drinking, which is defined as consuming more than 4 drinks during a single occasion for women, and 5 or more for men. The more regularly you consume more than this amount, the more likely it is that drinking is problematic for you.
4. Do You Have Blackouts?
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to temporary memory loss, known as “blackouts.” These indicate you are drinking an amount damaging to your brain. Any loss of memory is a sign you consumed an amount that is risky to your health.
What to do About Your Drinking
If some or all of these indicators apply to you, then you may need to address the role alcohol has in your life. Luckily, there is tremendous help available for anyone who wishes to decrease the amount they drink. The following steps can aid you in reducing your alcohol intake:
- Consult with a Physician – There are medical interventions or Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) options that can help you on your path to recovery.
- Speak with a Mental Health Professional – They can provide a thorough diagnosis and suggest coping mechanisms you can use to stop drinking.
- Self-Help Recovery Programs – Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, LifeRing, Rational Recovery and many others are good options to consider, and won’t cost you anything to attend. These are filled with people who have learned to live free of alcohol.
- Treatment – The more serious your drinking is, the more assistance is required to stop it. There are multiple levels of care depending on your circumstances:
- Residential Treatment – Provides a safe, sober living environment devoted to recovery.
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP), Intensive Outpatient (IOP), or Outpatient (OP) – These can help without needing to live at an in-patient facility.
The key to slowing down or quitting drinking is support. It’s always easier and more successful when you have a community to help you along.