18 Jan Five Red Flags of a Problem Drinker
Five Red Flags of a Problem Drinker
The first difficulty of helping someone who abuses alcohol is their irrational denial that it represents a problem. In fact, this is one of the classic signs of alcoholism. Recognizing unmistakable patterns of behavior can help breach that defense.
The stakes are incredibly high. Over 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually in the US (the third leading cause of death), while worldwide, it is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability. Alcohol abuse is the leading risk factor for people aged between 15 and 49.
Yet statistics alone do not capture the perverse damage and long-term impact of alcohol abuse on problem drinkers and their families. If you find yourself admitting ‘I have a problem with alcohol’, seek help if not for yourself, then for the sake of your loved ones. Here are five signs of alcoholism to drive home the message.
1. Unable to stop drinking
There is a saying in the recovery movement that ‘one drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough’. It refers to the insatiable craving for more that affects someone suffering from alcohol addiction. If you find yourself fully intending to stop after just one or two drinks, yet end up consuming until the point of inebriation, it is one of the classic signs of alcoholism. Setting limits may be an attempt to prove to yourself or others, particularly those who have suggested you have a drinking issue, that you are in control. Alcohol wins every time.
2. Frequent blackouts
Another alcoholism sign is a high tolerance for alcohol, which means your body has adapted to its effects and more and more is needed to reach intoxication. The word ‘intoxication’ needs to be understood quite literally. Getting buzzed to the point of drunkenness is toxic to the body. However, problem drinkers take that even further, consuming until blackout, where a form of amnesia prevents them fully recalling the events of their drinking session. Accidents, violence and regrettable hook-ups (even infidelity) can all take place in the fog of lost control. Blackouts are a serious health issue indicating you have lost normal functioning.
3. Can’t live without alcohol
For someone afflicted with alcoholism, drinking becomes the center of their life. You may drink during the day, fail your responsibilities at home and at work, can’t imagine enjoying a social function without alcohol, and be constantly preoccupied with getting that next drink or making sure you don’t run out of supply. If your drinking is causing family conflict and getting you into trouble at work, the blinders need to be taken off to realize how alcohol is dominating your life. It is an unmistakable alcoholism sign. There are also so-called ‘functional alcoholics’ who still manage to get their work done, yet they continue drinking in secret and typically use work as a façade to hide their addiction.
This is another one of the classic signs of alcoholism. People suffering alcoholism ward off the shame of their dependency in a number of ways that allow them to keep drinking. This includes constructing elaborate rationales and frequently telling lies to avoid admitting to a problem, which of course would mean having to stop drinking. As the drinker’s powerlessness over alcohol becomes more transparent, they may resort to hiding booze. Reasons for drinking such as ‘it helps me relax’, and claims that the drinker could stop if they really wanted to, all point to the psychology of denial.
There are both physical and emotional components to withdrawal. For the problem drinker, hangovers become part of day-to-day life as the body attempts to detoxify from what is a form of poisoning. The immediate response is to drink to alleviate the symptoms. Moodiness, depression and a chronic sense of low self-worth are all deeply felt during withdrawal. Again, these are treated as cues to begin drinking again as a form of self-medication. It is important to understand that this is not a ‘fix’, but part of a persistent pattern of behavior that needs intervention to be successfully treated. Ending the vicious cycle begins with admitting: ‘I have a problem with alcohol.’
 National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism