To most people, the word Alcoholic evokes someone weak, past the point of being able to work or function, perhaps someone filthy and begging for spare change. An alcoholic is the guy who drinks mouthwash and gets behind the wheel again and again, endangering innocent people in the process. The problem is, alcoholism doesn’t always manifest in such extreme behavior. Alcoholism simply means physical or emotional dependence on alcohol.
Don’t Be Complicit In Alcoholism
It’s surprisingly easy to fall down the slippery slope from “normal” social drinking to an unhealthy relationship with booze, especially because it’s legal. To make matters worse, our media and the alcohol industry have helped glamorize—and normalize—patterns of drinking that can be not only dangerous but addictive. Culturally, we are complicit in this double standard; risky drinking is normal behavior, but not something we talk about. So where is the line between having a little fun and dangerous territory? Have you passed it?
3 Signs You’re A “Risky Drinker”
1Ballers & Weekend Warriors
In our high-stress world, “unwinding” after work on Friday is fairly standard behavior. The problem starts with the number of drinks it takes. The FDA’s guidelines on “healthy” amounts of alcohol are 3 drinks for an adult man, and 2 for women. Anything past this is technically bingeing behavior. Be honest: do you stop after 2 or 3 drinks?
Let’s look at two common examples we see in TV and movies all the time. Being a “regular” at the neighborhood pub may be okay, but are you regularly there 3 nights out of the week? If you’re on a first-name basis with the bartender, who happens to know your address from having to call you cabs, there may be a problem. Just because you’re not doing it alone doesn’t mean you’re not bingeing.
If you are more of the club type, getting inebriated is pretty much expected—in our society, it’s routinely portrayed as normal behavior. After getting dressed up and passing the velvet rope, you need shots at the bar to get ready for the dance floor, right? Perhaps strangers are sending drinks to you as an icebreaker. Or maybe you want to show off by getting bottle service, “Ballers”- style. Besides spending tons of cash, you’re literally drinking entire bottles of hard alcohol with your friends.
Even if you’re working hard during the week, Friday and Saturday binges can add up to decidedly unhealthy consequences, both physically and psychologically. If you spend every Sunday drinking gatorade and taking aspirin to treat your hangovers, then your drinking behavior has veered into “risky” territory. The line is crossed once it passes from being “fun” to being a regular occurrence, a behavior so normal that you can’t live without it. If you can’t imagine a month without going to the bar or club, you are dependent. You’ve entered the grey area between social drinking and alcoholism.
2Do You Drink Alone?
If Olivia Pope from Scandal does it at home—sits back after her long days with an enormous glass of red wine—it can’t be that bad. If you pour a wine, whiskey, or whatever drink of choice for yourself as soon as you get home, consider if it’s something you really need. If so, drinking every night has pushed you into the “risky” area. Having a few drinks after you get home from your stressful job doesn’t make it a healthy coping mechanism, even if TV characters do it all the time.
3Driving While Buzzed
Although most states have very stringent alcohol limits and ruinous DUI fines, studies have shown that many of us don’t consider ourselves “drunk” when we elect to make the decision to drive home from the bar. If you drink so often that driving after a drink or two becomes a normal means of transportation, you’re a risky drinker. Even a slight increase in blood alcohol can dull your reaction times and put other drivers and pedestrians at risk! Whether it’s due to an inability to admit that you’re inebriated or an unwillingness to pay for a cab, doing this at all indicates you have a “problematic” relationship with alcohol.
Risky Drinking: Are You an Alcoholic?
As we’ve seen, alcohol dependence exists on a continuum that could easily include behavior that our society considers pretty normal. If you’re engaging in any of the above behaviors, it’s time to consider whether or not you’re in territory that puts you at risk of more serious alcohol addiction. Unless you’re a maintenance (day) drinker, there’s an easy way to know if you have a problem. Simply stop for awhile. (Unless you need a drink to feel okay… If you’re a maintenance drinker, you’ll need detox to safely stop!) If you’re like most risky drinkers who exist somewhere in the grey area, attempting to stop drinking for awhile will show you how much importance you place on alcohol in your life, social interactions, and overall mental health. If quitting alcohol is a struggle, it may be time for you to seek outside help, or you may find that what started as a weekend problem can turn very quickly into full-blown alcoholism. Don’t be complicit in letting yourself become a chronic alcoholic.