Problem drinking is easy to miss. You may not get drunk, but you need a drink to relax. You try to cut back, only to slip back into your daily drinking habits. Do you wonder if you’re an alcoholic?
Studies show that about 5.8% or 14 million adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder or AUD. If you have severe drinking problems, in the past, you were labeled an alcoholic, but today scientists use the term AUD because it’s a better description of the problem. AUD is a chronic recurring brain disorder marked by the inability to control your alcohol despite known health risks, social issues, and issues at work.
Signs of alcoholism or AUD
Problem drinking doesn’t happen overnight. It grows over time, gradually controlling your day and life choices. Here are 15 signs that you or someone you love may be an alcoholic.
Drinking more than you planned to drink.
You’re at a party and have a few drinks. Afterward, you go with a group of friends to your favorite bar. Before you know it, you’ve consumed more drinks than you can count. You didn’t plan to overdrink; it just happened. But this seems to be a habit every weekend.
Unplanned over-drinking is one of the early warning signs of alcoholism. Losing track of drinks means you’ve thrown caution to the wind with no thoughts of the consequences. It’s a huge red flag that should catch your attention.
You’ve tried to stop, but couldn’t.
You realize you’ve got an alcohol problem, so you try to stop drinking. You’re okay for a few days, but when the weekend hits, you go to the bar with friends. You decide to only get one drink, but you end up getting drunk.
These patterns of drinking, trying to quit, then giving up are common. Don’t stop on your own. It’s too hard. Find a group of people who have quit drinking and get their help. There are lots of organizations that encourage and can help you successfully stop drinking.
You plan your next drink.
You plan your day thinking about your next drink.
Indeed, you may schedule your drinks, with a morning pick me up, a cold one after working outside, a few afternoon drinks, two glasses of wine before and dinner, and then a nightcap in the evening before bed. Or you may drink all day randomly losing count of how and what you drank.
Either way, you think about that next drink. You tell yourself drinking helps you relax, and one cocktail isn’t the end of the world. If you’re planning your next drink, there’s a good chance you have an alcohol disorder.
You need to drink to relax.
Who hasn’t heard the age-old excuse that drinking helps you relax? It’s the first line of defense when someone suggests you have a drinking problem. If you feel this or are telling your family or friends this, stop saying it. It’s not true.
Drinking doesn’t help you relax. You’ve chosen to relax with alcohol. Let the reality of saying this sink into your mind and realize this it’s an excuse to hide a drinking problem. There are many other ways to relax that aren’t addictive, like exercise, yoga, walking, painting, reading, listening, or listening to music.
Drinking has interfered with your plans, your job, or your family.
If your drinking interferes with your ability to do your job or your family activities, that’s a big red flag that you’ve got an alcoholic disorder. It means you aren’t controlling the alcohol, it’s controlling you, and it’s now affecting the other people in your life.
You drink even though friends or family have asked you to stop.
When friends and family member share their concerns about your drinking, you ignore their observations. You may get mad at their interference or tell them they’re overreacting. Perhaps you feel you have everything under control. But try to step back and listen to what they’re saying. Their concerns are a sign you could be missing your problem with alcohol.
You end up in dangerous situations because of drinking.
You end up driving drunk, getting lost on the way home from the bar, or having sex with someone you don’t because of heavy drinking. These are dangerous red flags that your alcohol use is out of control, and you need help. Don’t wait until you hurt yourself or someone else before you get help.
You have a high tolerance for alcohol.
Because you drink so much so often, you brag that you can “handle your alcohol.” But in reality, you’re not handling alcohol. It’s handling you. Bragging rights at the bar don’t mean a lot. Your body is experiencing the slow damage typical for alcoholic-red bloodshot eyes, flushed skin, and a big stomach.
You hide your drinking.
You know your family is concerned about your drinking, so you hide it from them. You stop by the bar after work every day to grab a couple of beers. Then you pop breath mints on the way home to hide the alcohol smell on our breath.
Your drinking causes you to do things you never thought you would do like lie to your family. But you know if your family finds out your drinking, you will have a price to pay. The lying and sneaking around is worth it to you because alcohol has a hold on you, and you can’t do without it.
Signs of withdrawal when you don’t drink.
When you stop drinking, you feel awful. You experience insomnia, irritability, shaking, and feel depressed. Some people feel as if they have the flu. You can’t quit drinking because you feel so terrible when you stop, so you drink to ease the side effects.
Loss of memory.
Drinking affects your memory by depressing your nervous system, which affects your cognitive abilities. Over time, alcohol can lead to memory loss and even brain damage. If you’re experiencing memory loss, talk to your doctor about your drinking and ask for help. Drinking isn’t worth getting dementia.
More than one drink isn’t enough anymore.
One drink doesn’t help you relax anymore. You need more to feel the effects. You’re spending more money and more time on alcohol. You joke that it’s your hobby. But drinking isn’t just fun anymore. It’s a way of life and necessary to get through your day.
You don’t go to places because of alcohol.
Your family heads out to the movies. You know that the theater they’re going to doesn’t serve alcohol, so you decline because you know you can’t make it through the film without a drink. When drinking prevents you from joining your family for outings, this is a sign you have an alcohol problem. Your drinking is controlling your life. Don’t let it control you; seek out help right away.
Physical cravings for alcohol are common when you over drink. You may feel excited to have a drink, or you may have a bad day and feel you need a drink. Sometimes you’re craving the sugar in beer or wine. Alcohol is addictive. You may need to fight these cravings and find other things to drink that aren’t alcoholic.
Financial problems, legal problems.
If alcohol is causing you to experience financial problems or legal problems, this is a sign you are an alcoholic. Your ability to control your life is waning, and you need help right away. Don’t wait till things are so bad you can’t fix them, get help today.
Al these symptoms are cause for concern, and the more symptoms you have, the more urgent it is to get help. Contact your doctor. They can suggest a group or treatment facility where you can get help. Don’t wait until you end up hurting yourself or someone you love. Sadly, studies show that only 10% of people with an AUD, seek any kind of help.
Long-term illnesses stem from drinking alcohol.
Alcohol consumption links to many diseases. If you see those signs of alcoholism, you may experience other conditions, as well. Here are a few of the primary complications:
Alcohol is viewed as a carcinogen and a known cause of several types of cancer. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk you are for getting cancer. Cancer of the mouth, throat, liver, colon, and breast link to alcoholism.
Alcohol can affect your memory and your brain’s ability to function correctly, causing you to have
- Hard time walking
- Blurred your vision
- Slurred your speech
- Slow reactions
- Poor memory
Over drinking can lead to heart attacks, stroke, blood clots, and heart failure.
Cirrhosis of the liver
Heavy drinkers are susceptible to cirrhosis of the liver, and that condition is irreversible and deadly.
Inflammation of the pancreas is painful and deadly. Long-term, it leads to cancer and other complications.
Damaged immune system
Drinking heavily weakens your immune system making you susceptible to illness like pneumonia and viral infections.
If you see the signs of alcoholism in yourself or a loved one, do not wait to seek help. Only by confronting this disease can you beat it. Support is out there. It is time to ask for that assistance.