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Alcohol Counselling | Signs of Alcohol Abuse

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Am I drinking too much?

Most of us don’t think twice about treating ourselves to that bottle of wine after a hard day’s work. But what we might not realise is that our seemingly harmless moment of indulgence roughly makes up our entire weekly recommended intake of alcohol.

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) now advises that both men and women drink no more than 14 units over the course of 3 days or more - with a standard glass of wine equating to just over 2 units (175ml).

We all know excessive drinking is bad for us, yet many of us feel comfortable turning a blind eye anyway. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because drinking has become so firmly entrenched into our culture that it’s hard to consider a moment of relaxation or a weekend’s activities without it... Simply looking at the number of phrases in the English language for our favourite ‘sauce’, ‘tipple’ or post hangover ‘hair of the dog’ is enough to illustrate our love of getting ‘on the wagon’.

We’ve long been informed of the health benefits of the occasional glass of red wine. And it’s true - indulging in the odd glass here and there should never be cause for concern. But when that occasional glass turns into a bottle, or you find yourself drinking more days than not, or you’ve become reliant on alcohol for a boost of confidence… Then it might be worth taking a closer look.

Contrary to what many of us think, alcohol abuse doesn’t always look the same. We tend to bracket ourselves into two basic categories: the slurring alcoholic roaming the streets or a social drinker with everything perfectly under control... But there are varying stages to alcoholism and it’s not always as clear-cut as we might think. Here’s a look at three of these stages:

You abuse alcohol. The abuse of alcohol can take many forms... But it might include binge-drinking, feeling like you behave differently when you’ve had ‘one too many’, drinking because it’s the only way you can feel comfortable around new people, driving under the influence, or drinking despite knowing that it is causing you harm.

You’re addicted to alcohol. This can be defined as the inability to stop drinking even though it comes with negative consequences. Alcohol addiction might entail cravings or preoccupation with drinking (getting through the day only for the reward of a drink at the end of it). Setting yourself limits to how much you drink but consistently failing e.g. saying you’re not going to drink this week but lapsing come 6pm. And finally, the recognition that your drinking habits are causing you physical, psychological and social harm but continuing all the same.

You’re dependent on alcohol. Alcohol dependency can cause something called Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. This happens when a chronic drinker attempts to stop drinking. The symptoms can range anywhere from mild to severe. Mild might involve feeling anxious, tired or sick. Severe symptoms can be as extreme as suffering seizures or hallucinations.

It’s thought that around 15% of people who drink will end up developing a dependency to alcohol.

Am I an alcoholic if I drink every night?

Everyone who drinks has a relationship with alcohol. The main difference lies in how or why we drink rather than alcohol itself. There’s obviously nothing wrong with sharing the odd glass of wine when we catch up with friends, or slightly over-doing it on the champagne at our best friend’s wedding... People who develop a dependency on alcohol usually do so because alcohol has enabled them to hide from something else. One example might be a person with social anxiety who drinks to keep up the pretence of confidence. Or someone who drinks to stuff down overwhelming emotions or memories.

What causes someone to turn to drink is rarely about alcohol alone. Alcoholism typically co-exists alongside other conditions; a means of disguising painful memories and emotions. This means that recovery often involves tackling the root of the issue.

Signs you might have a drinking problem

  • You find it hard to stop once you've started.
  • You behave outside of character when you drink.
  • You can't stop thinking about drinking.
  • You still choose to drink despite knowing that it is harming you.
  • You feel guilty after drinking.
  • You self-medicate with alcohol i.e. you drink to feel better about yourself.
  • It takes more drinks to get you to that tipsy feeling.
  • The people around you have suggested that you drink less.
  • You find yourself drinking where nobody can see you – drinking alone at home or hiding bottles when people are around.
  • The majority of your plans involve alcohol.
  • You wake up with a hangover more days than not.
  • When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, a drink is the first thing you turn to.
  • You try to limit yourself but frequently fail and then feel bad about it afterwards.
  • You rely on alcohol to make you feel confident.

Alcohol recovery: how can counselling help?

It’s difficult to change ingrained habits without the right level of support. And if you think you’re drinking too much, it’s important to remember that you are not expected to go through this alone. A qualified alcohol counsellor can support you in your recovery in a number of ways:

  • Teach you behavioural techniques to change your drinking behaviour and relationship to alcohol.
  • Formulate a recovery plan to cut down your drinking.
  • Identify the underlying reasons for your dependency on alcohol.
  • Provide encouragement and support to keep you on the straight and narrow.
  • Treat co-occurring conditions and get to the root of the issue.
  • Teach you ways to detox from alcohol safely.

Alcohol abuse: when to seek help

Only you know yourself best. If you think your drinking habits might have become a problem, try asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Have your drinking habits started to impact how you live the rest of your life? e.g. causing problems in your relationship, your performance at work, you’ve stopped meeting up with friends or family who don’t drink.
  2. Does one drink always turn into a second?
  3. Do you wake up after a night on the booze feeling remorseful?
  4. Do you keep trying to cut down on your drinking but always fail?
  5. Do all of your plans involve drinking?

Finding alcohol counselling near me

If you think you’re drinking too much, it is never too late or too early to get help. The earlier dependency is caught the easier it is to make amends. If you're concerned about your drinking habits or the drinking habits of a loved one, we have a range of accredited alcohol counsellors that can help. Speak to one of our team to get help to find a therapist.