Everyone’s heard the cliche line “The first step is admitting that you have a problem.”
For a lot of people, they may feel like their drinking habits aren’t ideal, but they aren’t sure if they’d necessarily count as an alcoholic.
There comes a point where anyone who drinks fairly regularly may ask themselves, for one reason or another, do I need to stop drinking?
When you picture an alcoholic, what do you see?
The visual that you get from this prompt will probably be heavily influenced by any alcoholics that you may have known, by tv and movies, and by the media. The truth is that alcoholism can look very different from one person to the next, and that’s why a factor in determining whether or not you should seek support and treatment for alcoholism, or whether it’s something you’ll be able to cut back on by yourself, and how serious the problem is, is determined by how much of an impact it’s having on your life.
In other words, Person A could drink every day and never miss a day of work, have a great relationship with their family, eat very clean and healthy and exercise daily, and the alcohol isn’t really having any adverse impact on their life. On the other hand, there could be Person B who binge drinks on the weekends, crashes their vehicles, is always hungover, is blackout drink a couple of times each week, gets into fights with people they care about, misses work or misses out on social obligations, and generally just isn’t doing great.
Even though Person A is drinking more frequently, and perhaps even a greater volume each week, it’s Person B who is having their life damaged by alcohol in a significant want. If alcohol is a decent size part of someone’s life, it can be a tough sell to convince them to stop but it’s probably easier to convince them to reflect on the question: Do I need to stop drinking?
First Question: Is alcohol having a negative impact on my life?
If you can pinpoint specific ways in which alcohol is having a negative impact on your life (including your health, your career, your relationships, and anything else), and you aren’t able to stop drinking to solve those problems, then you have an alcohol problem. The degree to which this is a problem can vary depending on how much you’re drinking and how much harm it’s causing you.
It’s one thing to have a couple of drinks on the weekend on a night out, to have a bit of a headache the next day, then to carry on with your life. It’s another story if you’re losing half of every day to hangovers and constantly drinking every single night. Again, the damage can vary from person to person, so while there are some objective signs of alcoholism, some of it is also based on you as an individual, which requires a lot of honesty and reflection.
If you feel like your drinking has crossed over from casual towards potentially being a problem, this is when it’s time to get proactive before things get too out of hand. If you still feel like you could stop drinking with some effort, and you’re starting to notice some negative consequences in your life, this is a very important moment where you’re at a crossroads, and the choice you make here can either save you a ton of struggle in the future, or it can lead you towards even more severe consequences of drinking.
Second Question: Have you considered quitting drinking, or tried?
Do you ever stop and think to yourself that you should probably drink a bit less?
Here is another one of those subjective ways to help determine how you’re doing. If you know you should drink less, that means you’re right – you should drink less. The counterpoint here is that it’s also possible for somebody to be an alcoholic without knowing or acknowledging that they necessarily have a problem, even if they probably do know it deep, down inside. The human brain is capable of some absolutely fascinating things, but it’s also great at protecting our own egos, so sometimes you have to be very careful about having a bias.
If you think you might have a drinking problem, you should start to act as if you have a drinking problem, which means getting your drinking more under control or deciding if you would be better of if you were to quit drinking altogether.
You can have a minor drinking program, and decide to correct course. Some people are able to reign it in and still drinking occasionally here and there in a responsible way, whereas others will end up on a severe bender if they ever try to drink again.
Third Question: Have people ever asked you about your drinking or expressed concern, and have you ever concealed it?
If people have asked you about your drinking or if it feels like people will make little comments out of the sides of their mouths from time to time, this means that they’re concerned about you and they may not know a better way to bring it up. Even if it annoys you, understand that they’re approaching this from a place of love.
It’s possible that people are overly concerned and that you’re all good, but realistically if you’ve had someone, or multiple people, comment on your drinking then there’s a good chance that you should really think about what they’re saying.
If you felt like you couldn’t be upfront in your answer to them, this is also a pretty big sign that you’re feeling ashamed of how much you drink, or you feel like you need to keep it a secret for whatever reason. This is an example of a sign that you’re giving yourself to let you know that something is off when it comes to your drinking.
Third Question: Do I need to stop drinking?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, we really hope you’ll use that as a sign to reflect a bit on your drinking. Maybe start tracking when you drink and how much you drink and how you feel afterward. If you’re thinking “That sounds like a lot of work,” then maybe that’s a hint that you’re drinking a bit much.
For another perspective and more things to consider, check out “Should I stop drinking?“
Whether or not you feel like you should stop drinking will depend on a lot of factors, including your perceptions about what it means to be an alcoholic, or how much of a negative impact that drinking is having on your life.
We’re realistic here and we’re not saying that nobody should ever drink, but there are many people whose bodies and minds simply don’t react to alcohol in a way that can be kept under control. Whether you fit that exact category, or you’re somewhere on the line where you enjoy drinking and you’re having fun and the negative consequences haven’t fully set in yet… but you still know that there’s a bit of a problem or potential for a problem, then it’s always worth keeping tabs on your drinking and making sure you don’t let it slip past the point where you lose control.
The thing is, unless you’ve actually tried to stop drinking for a decent period of time, how can you be so sure that you would be able to?
Many people think they have everything under control when in reality that’s just something that they’re telling themselves because they’re in denial.
We can’t tell you whether you fit into one of these groups or not, that’s something that you’ll need to think about on your own, and hopefully, these three questions have helped offer you some prompts to think about the next time you’re wondering “Should I stop drinking?”