Knowing when, or if you’ve crossed over the line from moderate or social drinking to problem drinking can be a challenge. However, if you are drinking to cope with the difficulties in your life or maybe just to avoid feeling bad, you’re moving into potentially dangerous territory and could be at the tipping point. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you so you need to be aware of the warning signs and take the necessary steps to cut back if you recognize them in your behaviors and drinking habits. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it.
Denial is the biggest obstacle to getting help for drinking
Some people have more potential to develop an abusive drinking problem. Unlike alcohol abuse, alcoholism involves physical dependence on alcohol. High alcohol tolerance is a major warning sign of alcoholism. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can affect every aspect of your life.
Do you have a drinking problem?
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many related factors, with genetics playing a significant role for some people. How you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health all play a major role in alcohol abuse. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are also more likely to develop drinking problems. And then there are those who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. They are also particularly at risk, because alcohol is a self-medication…
Is your drinking a problem?
Knowing if you have a problem is sometimes hard to determine but, there are factors that play into addiction that can help you to know if you have a drinking problem. Some of these factors include the following:
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
- Lying to others or trying to hide your drinking habits.
- Having friends or family members telling you that they are worried about your drinking.
- Feel that you need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
- Black out or forget what happened while you were drinking.
- Regularly drink more than you really wanted to.
Because drinking is a common practice in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from one person to the next, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking.
The bottom line is this:
If your drinking is causing problems in your life, or is affecting the lives of those you love and care about, then you have a drinking problem.
Other Common signs and symptoms of Alcoholism include:
Neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking can be a sign. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
Using alcohol in situations where it’s dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery, or even mixing alcohol with prescription medications.
Having legal problems because of your drinking such as getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct is also a sign.
Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress like getting drunk after a stressful day or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss.
The path from alcohol abuse to alcoholism
Not all alcohol abusers become alcoholics. Sometimes alcoholism develops in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup, or retirement. Sometimes it creeps up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you’re a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater.
Symptoms of alcoholism (alcohol dependence)
Holidays for Recovering Alcoholics Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking. Alcoholism involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, but takes another step and includes physical dependence on alcohol. If you have to have alcohol to function or feel physically that you cannot go without a drink, then you are alcohol dependent and, as such, an alcoholic.
Warning Signs of alcoholism
Tolerance: The 1st major warning sign
Do you have to drink more than you used to in order to get a buzz or to get to that place of feeling relaxed? Do you drink more than other people without getting drunk? If so, these are signs of developing a high tolerance, which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism.
Withdrawal: The 2nd major warning sign
Do you have the shakes and need a drink to steady your hands in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag. Your body gets used to the alcohol when you drink heavily and then experiences withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop drinking.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous, if you are experiencing them, you need to talk to your doctor and get into a treatment program for alcohol.
Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism
You’ve lost control of your drinking. You drink more than you intend to despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.
You want to quit drinking, but can’t. You want to cut down or stop drinking, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.
You’ve stopped doing other activities because of your drinking. Spending less time on activities that used to be important to you may be cause for concern. Examples are hanging out with family and friends, going to the gym, or pursuing a hobby because of your alcohol use.
You drink even though you know it’s causing problems. You recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, your job or other important relationships. This makes your depression worse and is causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.
Drinking and denial
Effects of Alcohol on the Brain Denial, by far, is the biggest obstacle to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds numerous ways to rationalize drinking. By not looking at the issues of your behavior and its negative effects honestly problems are exacerbated and alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships continue to plague your life.
Denial comes in many forms including:
- Drastically underestimating how much you drink
- Downplaying the negative consequences of your drinking
- Saying that family and friends are exaggerating the problem
- Blaming your drinking or the associated problems on others
For instance, you are blaming your boss for trouble at work or blaming your wife for your marital issues, rather than looking at how you’re drinking contributes to the problem. While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others can be a real sign of trouble.
If you are rationalizing your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject with concerned family and friends, take a moment to consider why you’re so defensive. If you truly believe you don’t have a problem, there should be no reason for you to cover up your drinking or make excuses.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol abuse is only one part of reclaiming your life. You must first and foremost have the desire to stop drinking. You are the first line of defense, but you are not alone. Find a rehabilitation center that works for you and your family. They will work with you and help you to ensure a successful long term recovery.