I am a married female, age 29. I recently married in October, and I am very happy in my current relationship. I work in the social services field.
I need to know if I am an alcoholic. I tell myself every night that I am going to take a break from drinking. But the next night I always go to the store and buy more. I know that I drink too much in one sitting. I consume about a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine in one night. Sometimes more. I really try to stop but every night I find myself drinking again. Do I need help?
Lou Lou, 19-year-old woman
Hello Lou Lou,
The fact that you have asked the question “Am I an alcoholic?”ť suggests that there are aspects of your drinking which are causing problems. But this in itself does not suggest you are an “alcoholic“ for that label you would need to be experiencing the following, amongst others:
1) Craving - A strong need or urge to drink
2) Loss of control - Not being able to stop once you have started
3) Physical dependence - Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, confusion, depression, irritability and anxiety
4) Tolerance - The need to use greater amounts to be satisfied
However, it is not so much a case of black or white, alcoholic or not, but more a shade of gray somewhere in between. What aspects of your drinking concern you? Are you thinking that drinking alcohol every night is just something you “shouldn’t “do? It might help if you consider the specifics of your alcohol use. What are the negative consequences of your drinking, in terms of your relationships, your work, your own mental health, your physical health? On the other hand, what are the positive things about drinking for you? How does it help you or relax you etc.? Are the negative costs worth the positive effects? Consider the following questions:
1) How often do you find that you drink more than you intended?
2) How often have you phoned in sick at work due to a hangover?
3) How often do you do things whilst intoxicated that you regret later?
4) How often have you offended or hurt someone close to you whilst drunk?
5) How often do others in your life complain to you about the amount you are drinking?
6) How often do you drink because it's the only way to have a good time?
7) How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with a drink?
8) How often do you find yourself anticipating when you will next drink again?
9) How often do you try to hide how much you've been drinking?
10) How often are you unable to refuse a drink when they are offered to you?
Don’t panic if you found yourself thinking that these things are happening quite often - undoubtedly most of the adult population who drinks has experienced some of these situations on occasion. However, if you decide that you really do want to make some changes, then set yourself some realistic goals - don’t expect to solve the whole problem straight away, do it in small steps. Maybe wait until slightly later each evening before you have your first drink. Perhaps you could schedule some other activities incompatible with drinking on a couple of nights each week? If your partner is supportive, I suggest you make sure that he is aware of your decision to make some changes, so that he can help without feeling like he is nagging you. But remember that you will undoubtedly make some mistakes along the way and end up drinking too much again every now and then - don’t judge yourself too harshly, just keep at it.
Good luck with any changes you choose to make.