Karen L. Kehler, MA,  MSHA - Private- Professional- Affordable Counseling Services
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Kehler Counseling Blog

Are You Drinking Too Much?

Do you know the difference between 'social' drinking and 'problem' drinking?
Don't worry - most people don't.  It's actually quite simple. 
Social Drinking is just that - social - it is drinking for refreshment.  It is drinking as part of an enjoyed meal.  It is not serving any purpose.  It compliments the activity. 
A Social drinker:
  • Is focused on the event, the person, the activity - NOT the alcohol.
  • They are not concerned about the presence of alcohol - they don't need it to enjoy the person, place, event or activity.
  • They never drink to impairment.  They never need an escort, designated driver, a friend to physically remove them from the event, hold their hair away from the toilet or sink to vomit, need to secure keys of, or fear embarrassment of their drinking.
  • They are not interested in getting 'hammered' -escaping - loaded or so intoxicated that someone else has to be involved to finish their day safely.
  • Their consumption is minimal, structured or slow.   They are mindful of the impact it is having.   They are paying attention to their potential impairment and slowing down, changing to non-alcoholic beverages or stopping completely. 
  • They can control and restrain.  They do not get frustrated, irritated or start pressuring others to drink.  They know what 'enough' is.
  • Their drinking never  affects the next day.  Because they are so aware of their consumption they don't suffer from hangovers, headaches, foggy mornings or 'shakes'.
  • Their drinking doesn't affect them physically. They aren't slurring, can walk easily, and have no alcohol related illnesses.
  • Their lives are not impacted by alcohol related behavior.  They don't miss work, appointments or important events due to drinking.  They keep promises.  Their alcohol behavior is not talked or laughed about by others.  No one has to cover up, excuse, minimize or refresh their memory of their drunken behavior.
  • They are at low risk for illegal or, being a victim of, criminal or promiscuous behavior.  They are fully aware of their facilities so they can act quickly, defend or remove themselves from unsafe situations.  
Problem Drinking is just that.   A Problem.
I know that most people run for cover when the word 'alcoholic' is used and demanded by my field.   If you want to get a person instantly defensive about their drinking - accuse them of being an alcoholic.   No one wants to be called an alcoholic by someone else.   What needs to happen is increased awareness.   Experts talk about 'hitting bottom'.  The most significant challenge to this awareness is finding the custom fit for the drinker who is having problems.   
What you might consider a 'problem' may not be to the person with the problem.   
I have witnessed this more times than I can count.   We might think that a DUI, prison, losing children, jobs, family, friends, cars, licenses  or a good reputation might be the thing  that would stop a person from drinking.  For many it will take a combination of these things occurring over time - often decades.  For others it's just ONE thing that wakes them up.  I often see that high functioning people figure it out with the least resistance, but only when that one thing is personal to them.    They may drink through every 'cost' on the list but their 'wake up' will be when they realize they are embarrassing themselves and put on weight.   They may finally stop when their sexual functioning ceases.  They may stop when someone else they know deals with a deadly DUI.  They may never stop.  That's the definition of addiction.  doing something despite negative consequences. 
The fine line between social and problem drinking is when you begin to drink for a reason.  It sounds too simple.  It's changing from drinking for refreshment to drinking to replace a medicine, therapy, counselor or loved one.   It is drinking to relieve anxiety, depression, loneliness, angst, anger, sadness, or escape.  Over time the person can't shut it off or down.  They drink until it's gone, they pass out or they're gone. . .
Problem Drinking is all about problems.
  • Drinking so much that yousuffer the next day.
  • Drinking so much you get sick - the room spins, dry heaves, inability to control urination.
  • Having so much experience drinking that you seem to be able to manage excessive amounts of alcohol without noticeable physical impact (tolerance) - BUT you can't recall what you did, said, or what others did for you to get you home.
  • Dealing with arguments about your drinking.
  • Being told to not drink but drinking anyway.
  • Arguing with loved ones about past drinking, while drinking or after drinking.
  • Being frustrated and/or argumentative, because drinking is controlled, not accessible or available.
  • Being frustrated that there isn't enough time to drink. 
  • Being involved in the legal system for drinking related behavior: not just driving but can also include public intoxication, fights, protection of abuse orders, child neglect, auto accidents, or destruction of property.
  • Being involved in costs related to drinking: losing job due to absenteeism, tardiness, missed appointments.  Impact of fines and legal defense on household budget. 
  • Having to borrow money to pay for drinking problem costs: Attorney retainers, fines, higher car insurance, car repairs, damages and injuries.
  • Having physical injuries due to drinking from accidents and falls as well as fights with others.
  • Having Physical damage due to alcohol - liver, pancreas, digestive system, circulation -even skin.
  • Having no recall of the events when drinking took place. (Blackouts are symptoms of brain damage).
  • Having a reputation of being the 'drunk one' - with stories told by others as well as themselves about how drunk they got previously - even years before.  Being laughed at (not with) about drunken behavior.
  • Spending time talking themselves about how drunk they got previously.
  • Requiring a designated driver, a bed to crash in or restrictions to where alcohol consumption takes place to reduce risks.
  • Requiring 'babysitting' when it is known you will be drinking.  Loved ones are either required or requested to drive, carry or protect the drinker- can be at home too!  Needing help after passing out, urinating in bed or on the floor, needing to be moved when passed out.
  • Blaming everyone and everything - so you have a reason  to drink so much.  Not realizing that when you have to defend  your consumption there is a problem.
  • Ruining a vacation due to being so drunk that time was wasted, events skipped or arguments ensued due to drunkenness.
  • Having photo/video evidence -that may have been circulated via cellphone, facebook, social media of being drunk, drunk sick, or drunk 'stupid'.  
  • Have you started or changed over time who you drink with - preferring those who drink the same or more than you do  so you feel less guilty or bothered?
That's only a short list. . .
If you or your loved one, employee, co-worker is dealing with problems related to alcohol have them talk about/answer these concerns.
  • Do you defend your drinking?  The behavior or trouble that came about by drinking?
  • Do you minimize your drinking and the impact on others?  Do you dismiss your behavior with 'I don't remember?' or laugh it off?
  • Do you blame others for why or when you drink?
Look at the QUALITY of your life.
  • What goals have you wanted to accomplish that you haven't because you wasted so much time drinking, recovering and just ignoring everyone and everything else?
  • Are you proud of the life you have lived the past 5-10 years? 
  • Do you know how much you spent on drinking since you started drinking more often? 
  • Are your bills paid?  Do you have enough savings for your age?  Are you proud of your financial life?
  • Do you have good relationships with your spouse and children?
  • Are you considered a productive and valuable employee?
  • How is your physical health?  Mental health?
  • What accomplishments are you wishing you achieved by this time in your life?  Did you reach them?
  • Have you stopped spending time doing things you used to enjoy because drinking interferes?
  • Has your life been restricted because of drinking related consequences including: high car insurance, lack of savings, physical disability, or lack of employment/educational opportunities. 
  • Is there too much conflict focused on the impact of drinking: ignored responsibilities, lost time, embarrassment, humiliation, physical and/or mental injury, how to pay for the costs? 
Awareness is the FIRST step.  
"Denial is like sleeping - you can't talk about it until you wake up."
Start with talking about it - then pick up the phone, Google, Bing, surf,  or ask a trusted friend for guidance.    Recovery is one of life's proudest accomplishments.  Look up Alcoholics Anonymous chapters in your area.   If you have insurance you can call any Recovery facility - check reviews!    
It all starts with one moment, one hour , one day at a time. . .
My next blog will be what to do next. . . 
PEACE,  Karen

2 Comments to Are You Drinking Too Much?:

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drury lane on Sunday, January 10, 2016 1:20 AM
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Aklima on Saturday, May 14, 2016 7:21 PM
Their alcohol conduct is not spoke or chuckled about by others. Nobody needs to conceal, pardon, minimize or revive their memory of their inebriated conduct. By the way, thanks for sharing.
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