Talking about drinking is not always easy. As a recovering alcoholic, I would know. Before I finally admitted that I had a serious problem and sought help (with the help of my parents), my drinking had been on a steady increase in the last few years. In fact, I would say that there were several telltale signs of alcoholism well before I actually faced up to it. And while I can’t diagnose anyone else’s alcohol dependence, I can tell you my own story in hopes that it will help others who may be suffering.
The truth is, I suspected that my drinking had become problematic well before I actually sought help. It slowly but surely became more and more of a problem and, let me tell you, there were probably signs that I should have recognized before I even entered rehab. According to Women’s Health, there are a few questions that you should ask yourself if you think you might have a problem with alcohol. In fact, here are 12 signs that might indicate you have issues with drinking (though you should speak to your doctor or a counselor before diagnosing yourself).
1. You’re drinking every time that you go out.
Before I got help, drinking became a pretty regular part of going out. Although your drinking might look different than mine, a big marker for me was that there wasn’t a brunch or dinner that I turned down — all because I was hoping that it would all include a cocktail. Even at work events, I was always caught with a drink in hand.
2. Alternatively, you’re a weekend warrior.
Sometimes, it’s easy to pretend that you’re not drinking too much if you’re only drinking a few days a week. But the truth is, that being a “weekend warrior” where you start on Friday night and basically don’t stop until Sunday night, isn’t a way to live, either. The average drinks a woman should consume is no more than 7 a week and the reality is that you’re probably having a LOT more than that during your weekend binges.
3. Your friends have told you to slow down when you’re out.
I remember this as clearly as if it was yesterday: I was out with a good friend of mine after my birthday, celebrating the fact that I had just turned a year older, when we were invited to another bar by the bartender and his friends. We went, and it was great fun, but I knew it was an issue when my friend said, “maybe you should stop now” after my third shot in so many hours. And yes, it was time to stop.
4. You have noticed more than a few blackout nights.
For me, blackout nights used to be really rare, but they did happen. I know plenty of people who drink a lot and this was not something that they experienced, but most alcoholics I know had at least a few before quitting. In the end, I was blacking out almost every weekend as a way of coping with my anxiety and stress. I wanted to forget the world, honestly, and that’s how I knew I had a problem.
5. Your tolerance has seriously increased.
Slowly bur surely, anyone who drinks regularly will notice their tolerance for alcohol going up. Basically, this means that you need more and more to get that “buzz” you’re after. If it used to take just one cocktail to get there, maybe now it takes two… or maybe you’re up to three or four? Although this can happen slowly over time, it is definitely a marker of a potential alcohol problem.
6. Your alcohol consumption is slowly but surely going up.
When I first started drinking, it was pretty few and far in between. I had a couple drinks during a night out and it was no big deal. And, in fact, my nights out were pretty few and far in between too. Then, by the end, my “nights out” were almost every night and my drinking had dramatically increased. I should have known it was a problem when, year after year, I noticed myself needing to drink more and more in order to get the same relief I sought before.
7. You have talked about quitting but can’t.
I hate to admit it, but this one happened to me a lot more than I care to say. Before I was able to actually quit alcohol, I went through many weeks and weekends and even months where I tried to quit but simply could not. This might mean going out with friends and saying “I won’t drink tonight” but then drinking anyway or, later on, telling yourself that you’ll go a whole weekend without alcohol but failing miserably.
8. You use alcohol to cope with difficult emotions.
Why do you drink? For me, drinking as a way to cope with stress and anxiety is what ultimately did me in. I knew it was getting bad when, whenever something stressful came up, I would turn to alcohol in order to calm down. Unfortunately, though, our society is currently socialized to find this kind of behavior acceptable so it might be very difficult to recognize this as harmful when you’re constantly seeing posts on Instagram telling you it’s okay to have a large glass of wine on a stressful day. Sure, it’s okay one time… but watch out for making this a regular thing.
9. You wake up with regret.
Waking up next to someone you don’t recognize? That’s unfortunately common for those who give in to drinking too much too often. Even if it’s a fairly rare occurrence, it can still be humiliating and leave you with feelings of shame the next morning. Even beyond that, though, many of my mornings simply involved waking up with one hell of a hangover, which made me lazy and unproductive at work. Definitely not a good thing for a workaholic, like myself.
10. You have started to neglect some of your responsibilities.
Having a hangover is a great reason to call out of work, right? Well, it might seem like it at the time but the truth is, the only thing you’re doing here is allowing your drinking to start to impact other areas of your life. This is definitely a danger zone because it becomes increasingly easier to make this justification as you wake up worse and worse after your drinking. Don’t go there though and, if you have, take a hard look at what your behavior means.
11. You have started to lie about how much you drink.
For many of us, one of the biggest signs of a problem with drinking is when we start to lie about how much we’re drinking. Sooner than later, someone in our lives will notice. Like my friend who told me that I should stop early, she wasn’t the first or only one to say something to me on a night out. And man, would I lie. Lie and lie and lie, because I was too ashamed to look my friends in the eyes and admit that maybe they were right.
12. Your family has officially expressed concern.
What finally got to me was when my family expressed concerns about my drinking and, eventually, my mom literally flew to my home in New York City (from where I grew up in Florida) in order to confront me and force me to seek help. It’s the best thing that my parents ever did for me, and for that I will forever be grateful. But even if your family hasn’t quite gone to these lengths, it’s very possible that they have noticed you are having some drinking issues… and you should probably hear them out.