HealthStyle: Recognizing a drinking problem
If you had a drinking problem would you recognize it?
Many people believe that they would. However, a number of people have learned to function just enough in their daily lives. If you still have a job, don’t put beer on your cereal in the morning and it has been a long time since you got that last DUI, there can’t be a problem. Right? Not necessarily.
The best way to determine if there is a problem is to notice if alcohol use is resulting in adverse consequences in your life. These consequences can be legal such as DUI convictions, disorderly conduct or domestic violence charges. They could come in the form of relationship problems such as one or more divorces or multiple failed relationships. Maybe you now experience physical problems whenever you stop drinking, such as tremors or chronic stomach problems. How about those low moods or anxious feelings you are having? Could they be related to your drinking?
Your employer may suspect that you are drinking too much based on your attendance problems, mistakes, missed deadlines or declining job performance. And those bills you have will get paid but maybe a little late, even though you make enough money.
Perhaps alcohol use has become so routine that it seems normal to drink large quantities for every occasion including celebrations, social gatherings, business meetings or for no reason at all. Have you noticed that all of your activities seem to revolve around drinking?
People who care about you have tried to discuss your drinking, but you get angry and defensive, even when you are sober. Sometimes you have behaved so badly that you are ashamed, apologize to the people you have hurt and promise to quit drinking. You really mean it. But you have made that promise many times before. You have never kept it for very long. Even your friends who do not drink or who are light drinkers now avoid you. They can’t handle your foolish or aggressive intoxicated behavior when they are around you.
At times your guilt about the damage you have done may be so great that you drink to feel better about yourself. At other times your defenses get so rigid that you deny the problem or blame your wife, boss, friend, neighbor, police or life for your drinking. Denial that you have a problem is one of the main defenses for alcohol problems. Sometimes you use rationalizations that your excessive drinking was appropriate because you were stressed, depressed, worried or just because you like the taste.
Recovery begins the day you acknowledge the problem, admit that your life has become unmanageable, and ask for help. Mental health professionals and Twelve Step programs are all waiting for you to take that first step.
David Gannon, Ph.D., Psychological and Family Consultants, Canton, Ohio.