Drinking alcohol is such a part of our culture that not boozing seems odd.
Turn down a glass of wine or ask for a soft drink at a pub and you’ll quickly be questioned on your sobriety.
But we don’t have to buy into such all-or-nothing extremes.
Total sobriety is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t work for everyone. That doesn’t mean, though, that all-out boozing is the only other option.
More of us are now exploring the in-between areas of the spectrum, whether that means simply being more conscious of the units consumed each week or occasionally choosing a mocktail in place of the G&T.
A big part of this more moderate approach to imbibing is recognising when your relationship with alcohol has become problematic.
You might have a picture of what an alcoholic looks like, and think that as long as you don’t match up to that, you’re all good to keep drinking.
But the truth is that there are many levels below addiction that can suggest your relationship with alcohol isn’t healthy.
The key is to think more deeply about your drinking habits, and recognise when things aren’t quite right.
Ahead, the team at wellness coaching brand Totiuss share seven signs to watch out for. If you’re nodding along, it’s time to make a change.
You use alcohol to avoid certain emotions
‘We’ve all heard of the phrase “liquid courage” in relation to alcohol,’ the experts at Totiuss tell Metro.co.uk. ‘It has become somewhat of a norm to have a shot of something to calm your nerves, but if you’re using alcohol to avoid uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, anger or stress, it’s a big sign that its use isn’t healthy.
‘This can lead to an over-dependence on alcohol that can be difficult to shake, due to not wanting to face your unwanted feelings.’
It can help to keep a drinking diary if you’re worried about your alcohol habits. Look at when you drink and why. Do you down rum and cokes when you’re feeling lonely? Are you trying to block out dissatisfaction in a relationship with pinots? Keep an eye on how your emotions line up with your drinks.
You use alcohol to get through social situations
If you use alcohol to open up, to chat, to have fun at social events, to calm your nerves, to feel like ‘yourself’ – these are all signs that you’re using alcohol as a crutch for deeper issues, such as social anxiety.
Feeling like you ‘need’ to drink to have fun or get on with people isn’t a marker of a healthy relationship with booze.
People around you are concerned
‘There are some people that are so high functioning with their toxic relationship with alcohol that the issue isn’t obvious to others,’ say Totiuss. ‘However, if people have come to you raising it as a concern, you should take it seriously as something you need to address.’
You feel like you need to be secretive about your drinking
Okay, so you might not be hiding a bottle of vodka under your desk. But are you ever less-than-honest about your alcohol consumption?
If you ever feel the need to lie about being tipsy, ‘sneak’ in another drink while your mates aren’t looking, or downplay how much you’ve had, this can be a sign that something’s not quite right.
Drinking is a higher priority than other responsibilities
If you’d rather stay out drinking than go home and get enough rest for a big day at work tomorrow, it’s time to reassess your relationship with alcohol.
The same goes for any time you blow off work (such as leaving early to hit the pub), commitments, and relationships in pursuit of booze.
When you’re dependent on alcohol, you’ll ignore any negative outcomes your drinking might bring on and ignore the knowledge that you shouldn’t really be doing shots right now – your focus is just drinking more.
You make up excuses to drink
The Totiuss team say: ‘If you’re making up reasons for drinking such as the fact it’s Friday, because it’s the weekend, because it’s been “one of those weeks”, and you’re in the mindset that you “need” or “deserve” a drink, it could signal a much bigger issue that you have with alcohol.
‘If your time is becoming structured around alcohol, or you’re making deals with yourself such as “I can only drink on weekends” or “I can only drink after 7pm or when the kids are in bed”, you should take the time to re-assess how healthy your relationship with alcohol is.’
You give yourself a pat on the back for having a light evening
When you’re so used to getting hammered that a night when you only have two drinks is worthy of congratulations, you may need to question your habits.
You should feel in control of how much you drink.
‘If you have nights where you only drink one or two glasses and you feel proud of yourself for doing so, it’s time to admit that there is an issue,’ say Totiuss. ‘Having to reward yourself for not binge drinking is another red flag that you need to address before your relationship with alcohol deteriorates even more.’
If you’re concerned about your relationship with alcohol, you can find support through Drinkaware.
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