Why You DON’T Need to Be an Alcoholic to Have a Drinking Problem

Three Questions to Stay Aware of Where You Stand.

Photo by Zach Kadolph on Unsplash

I think that’s the most important thing you can do to be a real person — is to be honest with yourself. — Mike Dirnt

Most people tend to look at people’s relationships with alcohol as being in either one of two camps — either you can control your liquor and have no issues with drinking at all or you’re an alcoholic and are on your way to getting several DUI’s and ruining your life.

Before most people would typically be willing to put themselves in the category of an alcoholic, they are looking for certain behaviors as warning signs. These are things like starting the morning out with a shot of Jack to get them going, blacking out and doing things they don’t remember each time they drink, or scaring their friends with the amount they drink.

If someone doesn’t do these types of things, then they generally feel they are fine as it relates to needing to worry about if they have a problem or not.

What many don’t understand about drinking, however, is that alcoholism is a severe form of alcohol dependency that only the most hardcore drinkers will reach.

In 2017, the U.S. population had an alcoholism rate of about 12.7%.

However, there are many more people who would still fall on the spectrum as it relates to alcohol abuse, and one has to be very careful when you’re drinking to ensure you’re not in the danger zone.

Here are a few of the warning signs that you should be cognizant of to ensure that you are staying conscious of your drinking and not putting yourself in danger of moving along the spectrum to the danger area.

DOES EVERYTHING YOU DO INVOLVE DRINKING?

Some people when they first read this first one are going to automatically discount themselves because they’ll say of course EVERYTHING they do doesn’t involve drinking.

But what I mean by this is not every single thing you do but rather most things that you do with your FREE time.

Our free time is typically what is the best indicator of what is important to us because it is when we will do what we truly desire. This is why sometimes people say that love isn’t what you say but what you do. What you spend the majority of your time doing when you can do anything is the best indicator of what is most important for you.

Therefore, if most of your decisions to attend events or do certain things on the weekend and at night are geared around whether you are going to be able to drink or not, then you could potentially have a problem with alcohol.

This was something that I didn’t realize while I was in it, but now that I’m able to look back, I can see how this decision affected so many things I did.

Birthday party for a friend…How far is it and can we uber there?

Work event at night…Will they be serving cocktails?

Baby shower for my girlfriend’s college friend…Is it BYOB?

If the event allowed me to drink without too much hassle, then I typically was in, but if there was a chance that I couldn’t drink or it was going to be a bit inconvenience to do so (e.g. a long and expensive uber ride), I would typically find a reason not to do it for something involving drinking at home or close to home.

DO YOU THINK ABOUT DRINKING CONSTANTLY WHEN YOU’RE NOT DRINKING?

For me, drinking became the event to which I was always looking forward. Whether it was going to be later on that night or if I was decided to abstain until the weekend, whenever I made the decision to not drink for any length of time, the thing that I typically thought of was when that time was going to be over.

This is a surefire sign that alcohol may have a bit more control over your life than you realize. It’s a sign that alcohol has worked its way into your physiological makeup, and your body has begun to crave it when you’re not having it consistently.

As shared in The Science of WHY You Should Quit Drinking Alcohol, the dynorphin/endorphin cycle created by alcohol has pre-empted the need for you to drink.

Therefore, on the days that you decide to not drink, it’s almost like your body is hungry for alcohol and it is asking you to satisfy it by having a drink to release the endorphin spike.

This feeling stays with you until you have a drink to make it go away and will actually get stronger and stronger with time. Your body will continue on this cycle and encourage you to drink each and every day unless you abstain long enough to make it go away.

The catch-22 of this decision will be the more often you drink, the stronger the urges become, as well as the frequency with which it appears. This is why when someone is in full blow alcoholism, they have to drink in the morning to “calm their nerves.”

While you may think you are fine now, this constant thinking about and need to drink daily can eventually turn into that need for a morning drink with a bit of time.

WHEN YOU START, IS IT PRETTY MUCH IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO STOP?

For most people, this is the one test that will pretty much rule you in or out in regards to having a problem or not. This is the simple test that I shared in How to Truly KNOW If You Have a Drinking Problem.

Some individuals have the ability to stay within the daily and weekly recommended maximums with no problems. For me, on the other hand, the thought of only have one or two drinks at a time sounded absolutely ludicrous.

Drinking two drinks was barely enough to get me “started,” so to think that I would stop after that was not in my consideration set. Therefore, I knew that if I started to drink, then I had to have the ability to go all out.

Often, this would lead to me not making the decision to drink at all at company events because I knew I could not trust myself to only stick to the minimum and not put myself in a situation in which I embarrassed myself or my co-workers in any way.

Most people seem to automatically know if they fall into this category or not, but if you’re questioning it, there is one question to ask yourself that will probably make it easy for you.

Do you drink with the goal to get drunk each time?

If the answer to that is yes, then there’s a very good chance that you may have a problem.

The reason relates to the increased amount of alcohol it’s going to take overtime to continue to get this drunk feeling.

When you first start drinking, there is a chance that one or two drinks may get you that feeling of serotonin needed to enjoy it, but over time, this will typically increase as your body builds up a tolerance to alcohol.

Over time, those one or two drinks will eventually turn into three or four. Therefore, if your goal is to get drunk each time you drink, then you will inevitably put yourself on a downward slope that will cause you to need more and more alcohol each time for the same feeling.

And it’s this chasing of that dopamine spike with more and more alcohol that leads to dependence and could eventually turn into full-blown alcoholism.

Once you’re in this situation, it is much harder to get out of it, so use these three assessments to know if it’s time to rethink your relationship with alcohol before it might be too late.