Worried about your drinking or a loved one’s? Without a doubt, it can be incredibly difficult to be objective when it comes to figuring out whether you or a friend or loved one has a problem with drinking too much. We may rationalize, justify, and deny to various degrees the situation at hand, which can lead to bewilderment and the decision to just continue with the status quo. After all, it can be overwhelming to draw the line between what’s acceptable and what’s going too far when it comes to “social” or “functional” drinking. We can also get lost in labels and lingo, such as, alcoholic, problem drinker, binge drinker, and so on. Take solace. Many people who find out they may be over-drinking ultimately discover that they don’t have a full-fledged addiction or dependence to alcohol, but their drinking may be starting to take affect or its toll on various aspects of daily life. When that’s the case, and considering that affected persons are at a greatly increased risk for becoming dependent later or developing the clinical diagnosis of alcohol use disorder or AUD, professional help like ours can help clients establish a change early to prevent things from getting out of hand.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a relatively new term, intended to replace the label of “alcoholism.” AUD better reflects the disease process and physiological neurochemistry changes in the brain that manifest in over-drinking and dependence. Over time, the change in terms and move away from lables should help to focus on the disease process that exists in individuals with AUD and create less negative stereotypes. After all, having an alcohol use disorder is not a moral failure and doesn’t mean the sufferer is a bad or immoral person for having AUD. Another reason that AUD is a better description of this malady is that problem drinking can cover a wide spectrum of severity. So many variations, in fact, that there is a lot of overlap with regard to severity, physical and psychological dependence, and identifying where you or a loved one may or may not fallat presentwith regard to that AUD spectrum.
Finding out where you stand can be a relief. Sometimes it is just good to know the situation. When we can know and understand what is going on, it is easier to get the proper guidance from a professional. Here are 10 of the most important things to assess for yourself or a loved one:
1. Drinking to Take the Edge Off, Feel Better, or Relax – Whether stress, depression, anxiety or anything else of that nature is present, alcohol use as a method of easing stress or to change the way you feel is risky business. That feeling you can get with a few drinks in the beginning can be fleeting and harder and harder to achieve over time. Almost all people struggling with substance use disorders, including alcohol abuse, or “addiction” start on the path by using their substance of choice for improving or changing the way they feel. If you drink to feel like you can relax or consume more alcoholwhen you’ve had a particularly stressful day, or find yourself at times “needing a drink,” these are big signs that you’re using alcohol as an emotional crutch or pacifier.
2. Hiding or Lying About Your Drinking – As mentioned earlier, denial is an extremely common characteristic among individuals who havetrouble with their relationship with drinking or who are heading for alcohol use problems. Experience shows us, individuals don’t have to be dependent or an alcoholic in the traditional stereotype to drink secretively or to lie or attempt to minimize how much they drink in an attempt to make it seem like a non-issue. Obviously, this can be a hard one to spot for anybody but the affected person, so if it is apparent to family members or others this warning sign may be a profound one.
3. Being Unable to Stop Once You Start – Do you hate to see a drink or beer left unfinished? Do you always finish a bottle of wine once it’s opened? Do you top off your drinks or the drinks of others before finishing the original amount? Traits like these can be another sign of loss of control of drinking behaviors and you may benefit from some guidance, tips, and recommendations to turn things in a new direction before an alcohol problem evolves.
4. Regularly “Blacking Out” – When individuals have episodes with no memory of what happened after over-drinking, it should be taken as a very significant red flag for a problem with alcohol or heading in that direction. When a black out happens there’s no ambiguity. You drank way too much, plain & simple. When you realize this is happening to you or someone you care about, ask yourself, what is behind the need to drink so excessively? “Social” or “normal” drinkers, as some refer to non-over-drinkers, do not black out to have fun, so what’s the real reason? A counselor or therapist who specializes in substance use disorders may be a good source for taking a closer look at causes and effects.
5. Drinking in Dangerous Situations – Drinking at atypical times, like before work, in the middle of the night after you’ve been asleep, mornings, or on lunch breaks, and the like can be important indicators of problem drinking. Drinking and driving, whether a lot or a little, and other risky behaviors while under the influence are another thing to get honest about. Even if you believe there has been no trouble or consequences associated to these actions, every time you do dangerous or illegal things while drinking you run the risk of serious consequences. When you risk consequences, including risks to your safety or the safety of others while drinking, it is one of the strongest indicators that alcohol is already or is becoming the main priority of one’s life.
6. Neglected Responsibilities – Has your drinking ever, now or in the past, caused problems with your relationships at work or school, with the legal system, or with your ability to properly attend to your kids or family, household maintenance, or other responsibilities? If the answer is yes and you are continuing to drink as much or more since the last incident, you have a problem. Your over-drinking has likely crossed the proverbial line from an occasional benign activity practiced in moderation to something that seriously impacts your activities of daily living and personal responsibilities.
7. Relationship Troubles – To expand on one aspect mentioned in the last point, relationship trouble between you and others is a significant indicator. When drinking is causing problems with family, close friends, your significant other or people at work or school, it essentially indicates that your alcohol intake has become a priority over these individuals. When alcohol is prioritized above the special people in your life, alarm bells should go off. Another big warning sign is if you have started to isolate to avoid the relationship issues that have been caused or exacerbated by your drinking.
8. Being Able to Drink More Than Before – Some people are pleased when tolerance first presents, like a badge of honor of sorts. Have you ever heard anyone brag about his or her tolerance? Such braggadocio is ironic considering that tolerance to alcohol or other drugs is another key sign of substance use disorder. If you find yourself able to drink more than you used to, needing to drink more than in the past in order to get buzzed or intoxicated, or continuing to drink after friends have left the party or event or stopped drinking, beware. Any of these alone is a strong indicator that you’re well on the way to an alcohol use disorder. Your liver, where alcohol is metabolized, and your neurochemistry centers have adapted to compensate for your over-indulgences with alcohol. Left unchecked and over time these changes can lead to acceleration of scarring and other organ damage and many associated health consequences.
9. Experiencing Withdrawal – Do you ever start to feel irritable, tired, nauseous, depressed or anxious at “wine-thirty,” or as happy hour approaches? When you haven’t had a drink in a while, do your hands ever tremble? If you have felt any or all of these symptoms, there is a distinct probability you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms at times. Other more generalized signs of withdrawal include having trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, decreased appetite, hot and cold flashes, or increased sweating at intervals without a change in environmental temperature or your activity. If you are having withdrawal symptoms between drinking episodes, seek help for impending or present alcohol dependence. Professional help with alcohol withdrawals is very important because alcohol cessation and the withdrawal from it can lead to life-threatening medical situations.
10. Being Unable to Quit On Your Own – Did you already know before taking this self-assessment that your drinking or the drinking of someone else in your life is a problem or fast becoming one? Have attempts to cut down or quit been attempted without success? If this sounds familiar, we implore you to seriously consider finding additional help. Deciding to change drinking behaviors or quit altogether (abstinence) shows that you understand the impacts it’s having on your life, and you are ready for commencement of behavioral change. However, the fact that self-directed attempts have not worked means you or the person you are seeking information for likely could benefit from help and guidance.
If you are experiencing one or more of these signs or if you have read these 10 items and still aren’t sure where you stand related to a potential alcohol use or substance use disorder, free no obligation screening and assessment is available at Serenity Grove or Athens Addiction Recovery Center. Experienced and qualified members of our clinical team are available to help you get answers. Remember, seeking guidance or recommendations doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a problem drinker, alcoholic, or that you have an alcohol or substance use disorder, but if you’re experiencing one or a few of these situations (or you see signs in a loved one), there is a very strong possibility the drinking or use of other substances has gone too far.
Discretion is assured. Call or contact us today. 706-389-5157