Top Warning Signs Your Drinking Is Out Of Control - And What To Do About It
Cover Photo Ivan Cortez
It's a subject that none of us really like to think about, but alcoholism is a widespread disease that has the power to destroy lives and families. As one of the entirely legal addictive substances, what starts as a crutch to cope with the stresses of daily life or to help you socialise can quickly spiral into a compulsion which takes precedence over everything else. The progress of the disease is highly insidious, and as part of it has the effect of making the victim less self-aware, it can be incredibly hard to realise that what started as a fairly harmless indulgence is now a huge problem in your life. But with alcohol such a rite of passage and an ingrained social ritual for adults, what is a life of active sobriety really like? What does it feel like to make a conscious decision to become teetotal and place more value on your health, happiness and wellbeing for the longer term? What are some of the practical ways to cope with pressure without drinking and to tackle social occasions where alcohol consumption is not only expected, but actively encouraged?
Pleasure Or Addiction?
The chances are, you will know someone whose life has been affected by alcohol - either through a personal struggle, or as the friend or family member of someone affected by it. In fact, we can barely open the papers without seeing news of some celebrity or another who is seeking treatment for their recovery to the addiction. And yet, alcoholism remains the shameful secret of many, possibly due to the fact that the lines between normal consumption and over-reliance are extremely blurred and can shift so gradually over time. A struggle can be silent, or it can sometimes be more public. Either way, the statistics from the Addiction Science Research and Education Centre at the University of Texas show us that around 15% of regular drinkers go on to become alcohol-dependent - which shows starkly how widespread this addition is. And little wonder when our rituals of celebration and commiserations as adults all seem to centre on it.
Early Intervention Is Key
Recognizing the problem early is pretty fundamental to undergoing a successful rehabilitation and treatment for your addiction. After all, if you have self-awareness to realise that alcohol is becoming a destructive force in your life, you have the self-awareness to do something about your problem before the situation escalates further. Recovery, however, is a process and certainly not a one stop shop. It can be a very hard road full of challenges, testing circumstances and slip-ups, and often, real addicts will make several attempts at regaining their sobriety, perhaps even looking into a women's sober living home as a way forward. However, recovery from an addiction to alcohol is absolutely possible, and there are many success stories to show that when you truly make a decision to change within yourself, anything is possible. Learning to practice mindfulness can help us along the way by tuning us into what we're really feeling and the messages our bodies are sending us. Bear in mind that there may also been a need to deal with other underlying issues though therapy and other mechanisms. Quite often, alcohol is used to numb painful feelings and situations, and these as a root cause will need to be examined and dealt with properly in order to avoid future relapse. But how do you know if you've simply overindulged a couple of times, or if you have a bona fide problem? The warning signs do vary from individual to individual, but they will be there in some form. If you answered yes to more than one of the red flags below, it could well be time for an honest conversation with yourself about your options.
Failing At Self-imposed Limits
We all have an idea of how much alcohol consumption is reasonable in our lives, and this will vary from person to person. But a sure warning sign that you may be out of your depth is when you fail to live up to your own self-imposed limits. For example, if you promise yourself to alternate alcoholic drinks with a soft drink or water on an evening out, only to find you've downed three cocktails without thinking, or deciding on a glass of wine in the evening with dinner, knowing it's certain you'll be finishing the bottle. These things may seem trivial, but they are actually incredibly important as it's the first sign that you're losing control. Over time, you may find that you're resetting boundaries further and further away from your original limits, or breaking more and more of what you would have considered the hard boundary on your behaviours with alcohol before - things like drinking in the morning before a big meeting.
Work Out Your Triggers
In this situation, it's incredibly important to work out the triggers for your need to drink. For some it may be the prospect of a weekend alone, while for others it will be big social occasions or pressure at work. It could even be certain people, who may well have borderline problems of their own and put pressure on you to join them. A drinking analyzer card can help you work out why you're feeling the need for alcohol, and what people or situations you'd be better placed to avoid. Of course, it's not always possible to completely cut out people or scenarios that trigger us, so it's also worth looking into calming breathing techniques or even meditation you can use if you feel the need for a drink coming on, as well as keeping a list of reasons not to have it on your phone, and the number of a trusted friend who can talk you down if you need it.
Developing Coping Strategies
There are many ways to tackle the triggers for drinking which you may be experiencing. A key one is learning how to manage stress effectively - through finding a confidant to give you perspective to taking up a form of exercise as a natural destressing mechanism. With a little application and presence of mind, you can find new coping techniques which can help to nip a potential problem in the bud before it takes hold.