Most people drink alcohol sometimes, and many such people drink more than the recommended limit multiple times each week. However, this doesn’t always mean that you should stop drinking entirely (in much the same way that eating too much sugar each week should not always be taken as a sign that you should cut all sugar out of your diet). This leads to the following tricky question: how do you know when you should just cut back and when you should quit entirely? Read on to learn about the top ten signs that you should cut alcohol out of your life.
1. You turn everything into an excuse to drink
Do you constantly supply yourself and others with reasons why each instance of drinking is excusable? You might realize that these excuses start to look inconsistent once you consider them all together. For example, one day the excuse could be “I’m off work tomorrow!” while the next it might be “I have to go back to work tomorrow.” In addition, you might find yourself using events in other people’s lives as your excuse of the day, saying that you’re drinking to celebrate a friend’s success (even if you are not with your friend at the time).
2. You feel you need alcohol in order to have a good time
You should be able to attend social events such as dinners and parties without drinking. This is not to say that you should always abstain from drinking at social events, but rather just that you should be worried if you feel that a lack of alcohol would stop you from going to these gatherings. If you have to work early the next day or are on medication that is incompatible with drinking, this shouldn’t leave you feeling like you can’t go to a bar with friends.
You should be able to enjoy yourself while drinking soft drinks, coffee or water. If no booze means no attendance at social events, you should reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.
3. You struggle to stop drinking
If you have tried and failed to stop drinking for a set period of time, this is an important warning sign that you have an unhealthy dependence on alcohol. You are reliant on booze to at least some degree if you find it hard to quit for a week or two, or even for a month. Alcohol should never be so important to you that you feel ill, panicked or depressed when you do not have it in your life.
If you find that you are shaking when it has been a while since your last alcoholic drink, this is a sign that you are physiologically as well as psychologically dependent. No matter exactly how being without alcohol makes you feel, if you have unsuccessfully attempted to stop drinking then you should consider seeing a counselor (or even discussing your situation with your doctor).
4. You look forward to drinking more than you do to the social interaction that comes with it
Be honest with yourself about the main reason why you are looking forward to going to a bar or to an event at someone’s house. Is it because you will get to spend time with close friends or family and are looking forward to that interaction, or is it because you can’t wait to get your hands on more alcohol (along with a good excuse for drinking it)? When your desire to drink is stronger than your desire for the companionship of people that you genuinely like, this is a sign that you should stop drinking.
5. You do not seem to know when it is time to stop drinking
If someone else has to tell you when you have had enough, or if you frequently wake up and realize that you had way more alcohol than you intended to have, this is a sign that your relationship with alcohol needs to be reevaluated. If you decide to go out for a couple of drinks, you should be able to have a couple without the night spiraling into an eight-hour bender.
Similarly, if you are starting to have problems walking or are feeling ill, you should be able to tell that this means you shouldn’t order any more drinks. If these sorts of decisions are difficult for you and do not become any easier even when you realize that your past behavior has been problematic, you may be better off if you stop drinking.
6. You constantly put yourself in danger or need to be looked after when drinking
If you either drink excessively or your tolerance of alcohol is extremely poor, you might always be the token member of your social group who needs to be carefully looked after on a night out. This could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your judgment becomes so poor that you are at risk of starting fights or stumbling into oncoming traffic, or maybe you frequently pass out whenever you happen to be sitting or standing.
You should be especially worried if you are prone to drinking a lot and then being violently sick, as without someone to keep an eye on you then you are at risk of choking on your tongue or your own vomit. In sum, if you realize that your friends are constantly looking after you just to keep you alive, you should consider whether it might be best to cut alcohol out of your life.
7. You are prone to becoming angry or violent when drinking
If you feel (or act on) angry and violent urges after having alcohol, this is a clear sign that you need to think about quitting drinking. However, note that many people who should stop drinking alcohol do not become violent when drunk, so if you are a cheerful and easygoing drunk then this does not necessarily mean that you do not have a drinking problem. On a related note, you should also be concerned if you find that you are irritable and short-tempered when you have not been able to have any alcohol for a while.
8. You frequently regret behaviors that you have exhibited while drunk
It should be obvious that you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol if you frequently wake up after drinking and realize that you have made serious mistakes the night before. Most people do things that are silly or embarrassing when they are drunk, but if your mistakes are more along the lines of cheating on your spouse or starting a screaming match in public then you may be better off without alcohol in your life.
9. You regularly drink alone
A lot of people who drink too much slowly develop a habit of drinking in private (where no one will comment on how much they are drinking or ask for reasons why they are drinking so much). What starts as indulging in too much alcohol in a social setting often slowly turns into a pattern of drinking alone most of the time. If this sounds familiar, you should consider quitting drinking.
10. You hide or lie about your drinking habits
One of the most common signs of a developing drinking problem is an urge to lie about alcohol (or a pattern of already having lied about alcohol). You might gulp down a few extra shots when no one is looking, hide bottles around your house, or tell your partner you only had a couple of drinks last night when you actually had nine or ten. If any of this sounds familiar, you have good cause to believe that quitting drinking may be the right thing for you.
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If any of these ten signs sound familiar, a good first step is to discuss your concerns with someone else. You might start with your partner or with a conscientious close friend, and simply ask whether they think you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If they are unsure, describe the aforementioned signs that have made you feel worried, and see what advice they have to offer.
If you are in the position of being certain that you want to stop drinking but you are worried about whether you will be able to do so effectively, you should try to see a specially trained substance abuse counselor or approach your doctor for advice about where to go for help.