A glass of wine now and then is fine. In general, a drink can be a great way to unwind. But there’s a big difference between the occasional relaxing drink and a harmful alcohol habit. The truth is alcohol can be very harmful to your brain and your body. You’re putting a chemical substance into your blood stream that affects teh way you think and even your emotions when you drink too much. You essentially surrender “your will” to the substance because it decreases your inhibitions and this can have destructive behavioral and physical consequences. (Photo via Visual Hunt)
Do you have a harmful drinking habit?
We live in a culture that frequently promotes drinking. From adolescence, drinking is made to look cool. Partying hard at college seems to be encouraged more than the actual learning. Even in adulthood, the pressure is there. Drinking after work with colleagues sometimes seems to be the only way to get to know the people you work with.
The line between drinking alcohol too frequently and the beginnings of addiction can be blurred. Drinking several times a week is unhealthy; drinking daily is the real danger zone. The former can turn into the latter quicker than you think.
There are several self-assessments available online if you wish to explore this possibility privately. DrinkAware.co.uk offers a relatively quick questionnaire. It takes into account your age, sex, and consumed units. These are all important factors. A more comprehensive set of questions is available at the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.
However, if you are really concerned, you may want to speak to a doctor. Online questionnaires can help, but they often rely on drink measurements. Measurements can be difficult to gauge because one drink could have more alcohol content than two other drinks combined.
How exactly is drinking too much alcohol affecting me?
Frequent drinking, even if it’s a few nights a week, will have noticeable health effects. Prolonged feelings of dehydration and fatigue will follow you throughout the day. It affects every organ in the body. It can contribute to weight gain, depression, and loss of concentration.
When people say “I need a drink”, they usually mean “I need to relax”. But what happens when “I need a drink” literally means just that? A discomfort in your body that only alcohol can help? That is a warning sign of oncoming alcohol dependence. Dependence on alcohol is the inevitable outcome of sustained alcohol abuse.
What can I do?
If you think you are developing a problem, you should reach out. Try speaking to a friend or a family member. They may be able to help you cut down, especially if they are your usual drinking companions. If any of them tell you your worries are ridiculous, be wary. If they encourage you to keep up with their own drinking, consider limiting contact with them
Perhaps the solution is more than talking to friends and limiting your intake. In that case, you should consider professional help. There are loads of facilities all over the country offering assistance. There’s A Fresh Start Sober Living in Chicago. A list of sober living homes is available for California areas. No matter what state you live in, help is available.
What if someone I know is affected by alcohol abuse?
If a friend or family member is abusing a substance and suffering from alcoholism, you should try speaking to them directly about it. Tell them your concerns; don’t lecture them. They may already be worrying about it. Hearing someone else raise the issue may be exactly what they need.
If they’re not as responsive as that, consider talking to their friends and family about it. Be careful with this step: privacy is still important, and you don’t want to push them away. At the same time, preserving their long-term health may be worth a short-term hit to your friendship. More information is available at the Betty Ford website.