- DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
Law enforcement officers look for vehicles that are driving too slow, make erratic movements or seem to be operated by someone who is unable to pay attention. Driving under the influence (or drunk driving) is something that occurs far more often than is noticed by law enforcement, but it is characterized as someone whose blood alcohol level is higher than the legal limit. In all 50 states that limit is now set at .08 which means that the individual’s blood is greater than .08% alcohol by volume. You may not feel drunk (just slightly buzzed) at this level, but if you are stopped you will be charged. If arrests for DUI have happened to you more than once, you may have a problem.
- Car Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, “In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.” If, for some reason, you think you drive better when you are buzzed (a common misconception), you don’t. Even disregarding fatalities caused by drunk drivers, if you are impaired you are more likely to bump into something. If you go out in the morning to drive to work and frequently discover new dents in your ride? You might have a problem.
- Loss of Insurance
Although this may not be a direct cause of problem drinking, it can definitely be an aftereffect. Accidents and DUIs raise insurance rates. So if you are becoming a problem drinker, an outrageous car insurance bill may be one of the first clues.
These signs range from understated to apparent. Physical problems may seem like simple memory problems or a stomach ache until a doctor tells you otherwise. It is at this point that you may actually be in danger of permanent damage that cannot only affect your health, but your life.
- You Need to Drink
It is common for people to “need” a cup of coffee when they wake up. Though caffeine is a drug, it is rarely a true need. Too little caffeine in the morning may cause a headache, but if you feel the need to drink it is evidence of a problem. Requiring the “hair of the dog that bit you” as a hangover cure is an age old saying. But if the only thing that will steady your nerves the morning after a drinking binge is another drink, you may have a problem. Needing to drink to calm yourself, if a social situation gets awkward or for any other reason means that your brain may have been chemically altered. Alcohol is insidious and works its way from a want to a need if you drink too much.
- Your Tolerance is Getting Higher
When a person first starts drinking, it doesn’t take very much alcohol to feel the effects. After someone has been drinking consistently for a while, they need more alcohol to feel the same buzz a few beers would give them before. As tolerance increases, your need increases also. It takes more and more alcohol to make you feel normal. This can be a very serious sign of problem drinking.
- You Black Out
Sometimes this is seen as a good thing. Who wants to remember the crazy things they did the night before (your friends probably put it on social media anyway). But if you frequently have memory loss regarding your bouts of drinking, you are a problem drinker.
- Withdrawal from Alcohol
People who consume large amounts of alcohol eventually reach the point where they need a drink either physiologically or emotionally. This means that withdrawal from a substance can be either physical or psychological. When you go a short period (from a few days to a few hours) without alcohol and you experience:
- A craving
- Excessive sweating
Or a myriad other symptoms, it is time to see a doctor. Withdrawal symptoms can be serious, so they need to be taken seriously.
- Medical Conditions
The problem with medical conditions related to the overindulgence of alcohol for long periods is that they are just like health issues you may have normally. But when you are experiencing elevated liver enzymes at 35, or heart problems when no one in your family has ever had heart issues, it may be caused by excessive, long-term drinking. Alcohol can affect your brain, heart, lungs, intestinal tract, liver, and other organs. It is known to have influenced cancers and other diseases which may not have occurred without alcohol. Don’t just shrug off your health issues as normal, they could be the result of your drinking.
You may not think of social cues, or think that they are very important. But they could be the first indication that your drinking has become a problem for yourself and others. Think of society in terms of the world around you and it encompasses your job, friends, interactions in the community and any other place or event you go to outside of your house.
- Life Centers on Alcohol
Have you ever found yourself saying to a friend or spouse, “Are they going to have alcohol (or some variation of that term) there?” If you have come to the place where you need a drink to interact civilly with you acquaintances, it is either time to get new friends or think about laying off the booze. Social events should be about the people you encounter not the booze you hope to down.
- You are Always Late
It has been said of some people, “He’ll be late to his own funeral!” Are you one of those people? If you are chronically late naturally then this is not a sign of problem drinking. But, if you need to sleep later and have difficulty getting started in the morning recently, it may be an indication of a problem. Especially if your morning after’s are getting more frequent.
- You Prefer Drinking Alone to Company
Drinking alone or hiding the fact you drink as much as you do, has often been cited as a leading sign of alcoholism. Friendships are important to most people because they reduce stress and give us someone to lean on. Unfortunately, there are those people who make alcohol a surrogate for others. When alcohol becomes your secret best friend, you have a problem that needs to be discussed. Also, if you have stashes throughout the house so you will never be too far from your friend, you definitely have an issue.
- A Few Beers Turns into a Case, Often
You may have noticed that you are starting to drink too much and that when you are out with friends, they are able to make last call while you want just one more. If there are nights where you have set limits for yourself, and you have consistently not been able to comply with your stopping point, you are in trouble. Alcohol is an insistent nagger. Like hunger and thirst, it becomes an all-encompassing need. If you drink until someone else tells you that it’s time to go and cuts you off, you need to talk to someone.
- You Can’t Keep Up with Your Responsibilities
Where is this need leading you? Are you starting to have trouble at work? Does your wife complain that you are constantly buzzed and don’t respond to her needs? Would you rather retreat to your man cave (or woman cave) and have a drink than deal with the kids? Most of us need to work and family time is an important connection, but alcohol can spoil all of that. If one spouse drinks heavily and the other does not, their marriage has a 20% higher likelihood of ending in divorce (according to a study conducted by “researchers from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions”). Heavy drinkers also report an increased amount of work time lost due to alcohol and decreased productivity. If you are getting reprimanded at work or at home for decreased the performance of your responsibilities, you have a problem.
- Risky Business
Alcohol either limits or completely does away with normal inhibitions to risk taking behavior. Basically, you feel the freedom to make a fool of yourself. But risky behavior can lead to complications. If it is sexual in nature, you can end up with a nasty disease; if it involves automobiles, water towers or farm equipment, you could seriously injure yourself. An increase in risky behavior is an indication that you may be going too far.
The people closest to you may not be worried about your alcohol intake, but you may personally feel that there is a problem. If you see yourself starting to spiral out of control, you may be ready to recite the first of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
- You Don’t Quit
At some point you are going to realize that you are powerless over the bottle, but you may not be able to quit drinking at that point. No matter what the substance (alcohol, cocaine, food…), you know that you are powerless when you make repeated vows to quit or be healthy and you don’t follow through. Alcohol has been compared to a demon that sits on your shoulder and goads you into further desperate behavior. It is a coping mechanism when you are stressed, it allows you to be normal when you are with your peers, it keeps you from lashing out in anger toward coworkers and your spouse. It is hard to quit. But if you realize your need to quit, make a vow and then don’t, you have an issue that requires professional intervention.
- Personality Changes
You meet an old friend from college for lunch and you decide to have a few drinks to loosen up. Before you even start drinking, you are surly with the waiter and complain about your boss incessantly to your friend. She remarks, in a semi-joking sort of way, that you seem to have gotten angrier. You are not the friend she knew anymore. As you down three drinks in quick succession, she wonders if that may be the problem. A normally happy person becomes consistently more angry; a confident person needs to assuage their low self esteem with a bottle; someone who has in the past been fearless, finds that they cannot face the world without a drink or two. These are personality changes that can be linked to drinking. If a friend, colleague or loved one starts to wonder why you seem to have changed lately, it may be the alcohol.
There are many more signs that you may have a problem associated with drinking than those listed, but these are some of the major ones associated with a drinking problem. Pay attention to the way people react to you.
- Do they avoid you after you have had a few drinks?
- Do you seem to get mad for the slightest reason?
- Have you narrowly missed having an accident a few times recently?
- Is your boss starting to look closer at the work you turn in?
One issue may be something else. But when things start piling up, it may be that your drinking habit has gradually become more addictive. Seek professional help. Don’t let alcohol wreck the life you have built. If you find yourself asking, “Do i have a drinking problem?”, don’t wait…Get help now.
If you or a loved one need help, call the professional admissions and assessment team at Nsight Psychology & Addiction (888) 557-8091. We’re here to help.