Alcohol is probably the most acceptable, yet dangerous drug known to societies around the world. People have imbibed for thousands of years, it is a rite of passage for teenagers and college students. We drink in celebration and we drink to help ease the pain of grief.
However, millions of people have found themselves caught up in the disease of alcoholism. They didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I will become an alcoholic today!” In most cases, it is a gradually progressive disease. Here are 10 warning signs that you may be on the way having serious problems.
1. Lying About or Hiding Your Drinking
Denial is common with people having problems with alcohol, so both problem drinkers and alcoholics might drink secretively or lie about how much they drink to make it seem like less of an issue. This can be hard to spot for anybody but the individual, due to its very nature, but it’s an important sign of a more serious problem.
2. Drinking to Relax or Feel Better
Almost all people struggling with addiction abuse their substance of choice for emotional reasons. Whether it’s stress, depression, anxiety or anything else, using alcohol as a method of easing negative feelings is a risky habit—the “relief” it provides is only temporary and it ordinarily makes things worse in the long run. If you drink more when you’ve had a stressful day or need a drink to feel like you can really relax, it’s a big sign that you’re using alcohol as an emotional crutch.
3. “Blacking Out” Regularly
Drinking so much that you have no memory of what happened is another red flag for a problem with alcohol. Simply put, it means you drank way too much. If you find this happening to you (or notice it happening to someone else), you have to ask what is driving you to drink so excessively? You don’t need to black out to have fun, so what’s the real reason?
4. Being Unable to Stop Once You Start
If you always finish a bottle of wine once it’s opened or drink all the beer in the house once you’ve had one, it’s another sign you aren’t in full control of your drinking and you may have a problem.
5. Drinking in Dangerous Situations
Drinking when you really shouldn’t—like before work, before you have to drive somewhere or drinking against your doctor’s orders when you’re on medication—is an important sign of problem drinking.
Even if something hasn’t gone wrong yet, every time you do something like this you run the risk of serious consequences. Regularly taking those risks strongly implies that alcohol is the main priority in your life.
6. Neglecting Your Responsibilities
If you’re having problems at work, school or with your household responsibilities because of your drinking, you have a problem. Alcohol has crossed the line from an occasional indulgence to something that seriously impacts your day-to-day functioning.
7. Having Trouble in Your Relationships
This is closely related to the last point, but it’s in many ways more important. If your drinking is causing problems with your closest friends, your significant other or your family, it’s an indication that alcohol is a bigger priority than even the most important people in your life. These last two symptoms are general signs of any addiction, and might mean that your issues are going beyond the problem-drinker stage.
8. Being Able to Drink More Than You Used To
Tolerance is another key sign of addiction, so if you can drink more than you used to and need to drink more than you did before in order to get drunk, it’s a strong indicator that you’re becoming an alcoholic. It means your body is exposed to alcohol regularly enough that it has adapted to cope with it better.
9. Experiencing Withdrawal
Withdrawal is different from a hangover; it’s the reaction to the lack of alcohol rather than too much alcohol. If you start to feel irritable, tired, depressed, nauseous or anxious when you haven’t had a drink, there’s a possibility you’re going through withdrawal. Other signs include having trouble sleeping, losing your appetite and experiencing shakiness or trembling.
10. Trying to Quit but Being Unable to
If you have realized your drinking is becoming a problem (or someone who cares about you has) and tried to make a change but have been unsuccessful, you should seriously consider finding additional help.
Deciding to quit drinking shows that you understand the impacts it’s having on your life, but the fact that you’re unable to mean there’s a big chance you’re struggling with alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism is a disease and there is no cure, all you can do is abstain from it completely. It is nothing to be ashamed of and there are many treatment options available in most places. Whether it is an out-patient program, in-patient, 12 Step, or alternatives like Rational Recovery, if you find yourself relating to one or more of these signs, I urge you to take the proper steps necessary to address the problem.
Alcoholism is not only detrimental to your health, but it slowly kills everyone around you that loves you too. It is important to note that the last five signs are signs of addiction, rather than problem drinking.
It won’t be an easy road ahead, but one day you’ll see that deciding to get help, was the day your life started to change for the better.