7 Signs You May Be an Alcoholic
If you drink socially, it can sometimes be difficult to see when your drinking has crossed the line between moderate use and alcoholism. If you sometimes drink alcohol not to socialize but to cope with problems in your life or when you experience negative feelings, you may be either on your way to being a problem drinker or may already be an alcoholic.
Like many diseases, alcoholism can often sneak up on you and take hold before you even realize you have it. So if you drink at all, it’s important to be aware of the potential warning signs so that you can take steps to reduce your drinking once you see them. Understanding that you may have a problem with alcohol is the first step in defeating it.
Causes of Alcoholism
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can occur due to many different factors, some of which are interconnected. These include your genetic background: If you have a history of alcoholism in your family – such as one or both of your parents or grandparents being alcoholics – you may be predisposed to the condition.
The environment in which you were raised also can affect the way you use alcohol. If you come from a family of hard drinkers or socialize with people who tend to drink a lot, you may drink more than you would if you were in a different environment.
Your emotional health also can affect your propensity toward alcoholism. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, undue stress or other common emotional issues, you may be more likely to use alcohol as a means of alleviating these problems through self-medication rather than confronting them.
Some racial groups are more prone to alcoholism than others. Native Americans, First Peoples and other aboriginal races tend to be more at risk for alcoholism than other races.
Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism
Because alcohol consumption is so common in so many different cultures and because its effects are different among individuals, it can sometimes be difficult and confusing to determine where the line between social drinking and problem drinking exists.
The bottom line for anybody is how alcohol affects you individually. If you struggle with drinking, if it is affecting other parts of your life, and if you can’t control or stop your drinking, then you have a drinking problem. But you may not be an alcoholic.
There is a difference between problem drinking and alcoholism. Many people who abuse alcohol maintain some ability to limit the amount they drink. Or they may drink more during a certain time in their life than another. For example, young men who join college fraternities may experience bouts of heavy drinking – even binge and blackout drinking – but cease their alcohol abuse after they graduate and settle down.
Signs of Alcoholism
There are common symptoms of alcoholism that are used to determine whether or not an individual is suffering from the disease, rather than just being a problem drinker.
The first is when alcohol causes you to neglect your responsibilities, such as your job, your home life, or your education. Alcoholics often perform well at work due to absences, tardiness, not completing projects on time or at all, or showing up to work intoxicated. Or they may neglect their spouses or children. Students who are alcoholics may fail to meet their academic commitments either because they choose to drink rather than study, or they are too hung over to attend classes or do well on tests.
A second sign of alcoholism is drinking even when it is physically dangerous, such as prior to driving, operating heavy machinery, or mixing alcohol with prescription medications.
A third sign is when your drinking leads to legal problems, such as arrests for drunk driving, public intoxication, or fighting that occurs when you have been drinking. People who struggle with alcoholism often are more familiar with what the inside of a jail cell looks like or the back of a squad car than non-alcoholics.
More Signs of Alcoholism
A fourth sign is continuing to drink even after it creates obvious problems in your life. People who are true alcoholics can’t help but to drink. While a problem drinker may have a bad night that leads to a fight with his wife, he probably would stop drinking – at least temporarily – due to the problems it is causing in his marriage. An alcoholic, however, would likely continue to drink, possibly until his wife left him.
A fifth sign is drinking to relax or avoid stress and anxiety. Many problem drinkers will turn to alcohol as a means of relieving their stress. But alcoholics will get drunk after every stressful day, or even in the middle of the day if they experience any type of anxiety, such as getting into trouble at work or having a bad phone call with their spouse.
A sixth sign is feeling guilty or ashamed about your drinking to the point where you lie to other people or hide your drinking.
And the seventh sign of alcoholism is having friends or family members intervene to help you stop drinking.
If you have experienced any or all of these signs of alcoholism, you should get the help you need so that you can overcome your disease.
Author Bio – Sven Borg, the author of this article writes occasionally on behalf of The Cabin Sydney, a prominent center for alcohol rehab in Sydney.