Practically since the dawn of civilization, alcohol has been a part of our culture. In fact, it’s so normalized that many people think it’s more unusual if you don’t drink than if you do. A glass of wine with dinner, a beer after work—to the majority of Americans this seems pretty ordinary.
For many people, alcohol has become a go-to for unwinding, celebrating, or simply navigating social gatherings. However, this casual and unquestioned use of alcohol can pose a hidden problem for some. The line between casual drinking and problematic alcohol use can blur, leaving many individuals questioning their relationship with alcohol. And even those who have no problem with moderating their consumption may find benefit in examining their relationship with this pervasive substance.
In this blog we’ll discuss how to find a healthy balance with alcohol in your life, how to recognize the signs of problematic drinking, and when to seek alcohol abuse counseling.
The Benefits of Sobriety
The last several years has seen the growth of a sober curious mindset in America. Especially growing in momentum among Millennials and Gen Z, being sober curious means just that—observing your alcohol use and wondering, why? Or to expand: Why do I do this, and what benefits and drawbacks does it bring to my life?
Cutting down on alcohol consumption can be a transformative decision with numerous psychological, health, and even monetary benefits. On a psychological level, removing alcohol from your system can lead to clearer thinking, improved mood stability, and a greater sense of mental wellbeing. Many people find that without the depressive effects of alcohol, they experience fewer mood swings and a reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Abstinence can also lead to better sleep patterns, enhanced immune system function, and a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as liver disease, heart disease, and certain cancers. Additionally, the caloric reduction from cutting out alcoholic beverages can contribute to weight loss and improved metabolic health. Finally, the cost of a single night out can easily run up to $50, or more if you include uber rides and the occasional late night food. If you were to go out on average once a week for a year you could spend $2500 or more, money that could be saved for a luxury vacation or other indulgence.
And while some sober curious individuals choose to abstain completely from alcohol, many simply reduce their consumption—a drink or two a week, or a month. Now maybe that sounds easy enough, but what do you do if you want to reduce your alcohol intake… but feel like you can’t? What are the signs of alcohol abuse?
Recognizing the Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Contrary to popular belief, not all individuals who struggle with alcohol abuse drink daily. Weekend binge drinking, for example, is a significant indicator of alcohol misuse. Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than four drinks for men and three for women within a couple of hours. What starts as a single drink to kick off the weekend can quickly escalate, leading to excessive alcohol consumption. This pattern of drinking can have severe health consequences, including insomnia, liver issues, breathing problems, and even alcohol poisoning.
Ignoring the signs of alcohol abuse can have dire consequences. Excessive drinking, especially in the form of binge drinking, significantly increases the risk of developing a dependency on alcohol. This dependency can lead to a range of issues, including strained relationships, career setbacks, and a decline in overall health. Additionally, the withdrawal process from alcohol can be dangerous, and in some cases, fatal, highlighting the importance of professional guidance when reducing alcohol intake.
Finding Help and Treatment
If you recognize patterns of addictive behavior in your drinking habits, such as an inability to stop drinking after a few drinks, using alcohol as a reward, or experiencing guilt and aggressive behavior while drinking, it may be time to seek help. The Truism Center provides outpatient substance abuse treatment and alcohol abuse counseling in West Michigan, and can provide the support and resources needed to address your relationship with alcohol. These services, including general substance abuse therapy and alcohol counseling, offer personalized approaches to help individuals understand their drinking patterns, the underlying causes of their alcohol use, and strategies for achieving a balanced relationship with alcohol or other substances. A substance abuse counselor at The Truism Center can help you form a plan to get control of your relationship with alcohol, including addressing trauma, strengthening coping mechanisms, finding a support group, and more.
Strategies for Managing Alcohol Use
Finding a balanced relationship with alcohol involves setting clear boundaries for yourself and developing healthier coping strategies. Here are a few tips for those looking to manage their alcohol consumption:
- Set Limits: Decide in advance how many drinks you will have and stick to that limit.
- Find Alternatives: Explore activities that provide enjoyment, social engagement, and relaxation without a focus on alcoholic drinks.
- Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help, whether it’s outpatient substance abuse treatment or joining a support group.
- Reward Yourself Differently: Identify non-alcoholic ways to celebrate achievements and unwind after a stressful week.
- Grab Something Non-Alcoholic: Mocktails or sparkling water can provide a healthy alternative to alcoholic drinks at social events.
Finding Your Balance
Navigating the complex relationship with alcohol requires awareness, honesty, and sometimes professional intervention. Acknowledging that a problem exists is the first step towards recovery. However, you don’t have to wait until you’re in crisis to change your relationship with alcohol. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use, remember that help is available. Substance abuse counseling can offer the support needed to find a healthier, more balanced relationship with alcohol. Remember, it’s never too late to seek help and make a change for the better.
Robb Kornoelje is the owner of The Truism Center, a relationship enthusiast, and the creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day, fully online email course offers gentle guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.