Recognizing an Unhealthy Relationship with Alcohol

Figuring out whether you or someone you know has an issue with alcohol can be complicated.  After all, we receive a lot of mixed messages surrounding alcohol use.  On one hand, alcohol is a legal substance that is regularly featured in most adult’s lives.  On the other hand, we’re educated on the risks of consuming alcohol, even in moderation, from a young age.  

Developing an issue with alcohol doesn’t happen over night.  It usually develops slowly and the signs can be hard to spot if you aren’t sure what to look for.  Here are some common signs of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol – and what to do if you think you or someone you know may need help. 

  1. Drinking More than You Planned

You’ve experienced times when you continued to drink after you planned to stop. Or, you feel the need to continue drinking until you finish the whole bottle or become highly intoxicated.  While these might not seem like a big deal if it happens infrequently, a lack of control over consumption is a key indicator of an issue with alcohol. 

  1. You’ve Tried to Stop or Cut Back, but Couldn’t

Have you promised yourself, or others, that you are going to cut back or quit drinking, but the temptation got the better of you? Sustained alcohol use causes a physical dependence which can make discontinuing use much more difficult.  The inability to stop drinking on your own is often one of the first signs of problem use. 

  1. Spending More Time on Drinking

In addition to the time spent with the glass, bottle or can in your hand, are you spending increasingly more time on alcohol related activities?  This includes the time it takes to purchase the alcohol, activities centered on alcohol consumption, and recovery time from the effects of your drinking.  

  1. Your Tolerance has Increased

Over time, the brain adapts to the effects of alcohol and becomes less sensitive to its effects. This means it takes more alcohol to reach the desired result. While experiencing fewer signs of physical impairment may seem like a positive thing, tolerance to alcohol can actually be dangerous. Developing a physical tolerance to alcohol can lead to higher levels of alcohol consumption, which increases the risk of developing a dependence on alcohol. 

  1. Experiencing Alcohol Cravings

There might be times when all you can think about is your next drink.  Or, you find yourself fantasizing about drinking in inappropriate situations. Cravings are a range of thoughts and feelings that result in an urge to drink – even when you know you shouldn’t. People, places, emotions, and a variety of situations can trigger cravings.

  1. Spending Less Time on Other Activities

Did you used to enjoy exercising in the mornings, but have given it up in favor of a nightcap? How are you spending your free time?  If you notice that most of your down time is spent on alcohol-centric activities, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol. 

  1. Alcohol Use is Interfering in Your Relationships

Is your alcohol use causing friction in your relationships?  If so, this could be an indication that your alcohol use is more severe than you may think.  Those close to us can provide an objective view of our habits, including our alcohol use.  If you find that continuing to drink is more important than significant relations, it may be a sign you’ve developed a problem. 

  1. You’re Having Trouble Maintaining Responsibilities

When alcohol consumption has crossed the line from social use to something more serious, it inhibits your ability to maintain your day-to-day responsibilities.  Have you been showing up to work late or hung-over?  Are your finances suffering because of your alcohol use? If your alcohol use has prevented you from keeping up with your responsibilities at home, work, or school, it’s a problem. 

  1. High Risk Situations 

Drinking and driving, blacking out, or experiencing alcohol poisoning are all examples of high-risk situations involving alcohol.  Alcohol impairs your decision-making abilities. When your alcohol use is putting you, and those around you, in danger, it may be time to seek help.   

  1. You Have Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical dependence to alcohol develops from consistent use.  Withdrawal occurs after you stop drinking. Some common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, tremors, insomnia, irritability, and sweating.  Alcohol withdrawal is a serious medical issue.  If you notice these symptoms, it is time to seek medical attention. 

What to Do

Experiencing any of these things could indicate a potential issue with alcohol.  The more items you identified with, the more important it is to seek help.  Greenbriar Treatment Center offers comprehensive care for alcohol use on an Inpatient and Outpatient basis.  Our dedicated staff is available for free, anonymous consultations if you are concerned that you or a loved one has developed an issue with alcohol.