10 Signs You Need to Reconsider Your Drinking Habits
Alcohol consumption is widely accepted and nearly expected in American culture, despite its trend of being the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Alcohol has permeated our society so profoundly, that we dedicated entire areas of our cities to drinking, host festivals dedicated to beer and wine, and use every excuse we can come up with to get absolutely wasted. We accept reckless behavior and damage to our health, some going so far as to boast about alcohol poisoning on social media.
The problem is while we know the dangers of alcohol, we continue to play with fire thinking we’ll never get burned. That’s a dangerous assumption which has doubtlessly lead to many more deaths than necessary. It’s time we think honestly about our drinking habits; here are 10 signs you need to reconsider your drinking habits.
#1: You Suffer from Hangovers Regularly
Hangovers- they just come with the territory of drinking and partying, right? You might even follow the philosophy that “a hangover is a sign of a good time.” Chances are, if you think this way you don’t actually understand what a hangover is. It’s much more than dehydration, like most people assume. A hangover is your body’s reaction to you voluntarily poisoning it– there’s a reason they call it alcohol poisoning.
Ethanol, which is a primary component in drinking alcohol, is toxic to the human body and can be deadly in large quantities. Alcohol consumption causes damage to the body every time you consume it, but the presence of hangover symptoms is a definitive sign of its impact on your body. Your liver, brain, and heart experience the brunt of your abuse, and prolonged exposure to alcohol only worsens the damage. If you find yourself regularly suffering through the headaches, stomach troubles, and lethargy that comes with a hangover, it’s time to think about what you’re really doing to your body.
#2: You Find Excuses to Drink
Drinking often goes hand in hand with celebrations, even though there are plenty of sober ways to celebrate your accomplishments. We drink for our birthdays (once we’ve surpassed the legal drinking age, of course), weddings, holidays, and even to celebrate finally getting that promotion. But what about when it gets out of hand?
When you find yourself using any and every excuse to grab a beer or take shots of your favorite spirits, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate your drinking habits. If you find you cannot enjoy time out with your friends unless there’s alcohol involved, or you’re at the bar on a Tuesday afternoon for no other reason than that is when drinks are the cheapest, you need to consider that you may have a drinking problem. Likewise, if your friends and loved ones point out that you only seem interested in hanging out if there’s liquor involved, listen to them- they’re probably right.
#3: Drinking is Your First Response to Stress
You’ve had a hard day at work. Your spouse is riding your back lately about your relationship. You’re struggling in a class you desperately need to graduate. There’s a thousand life situations which can trigger stress, and the way you handle them could be to your benefit- or your detriment. If you find yourself reaching for a bottle each time life throws a lemon at your face, it’s time to recognize one simple truth: alcohol will never be the solution to your problems.
Most people don’t recognize that they’re stress-related drinking falls into two categories- self-medication, and binge drinking. When you rely on a bottle of your favorite wine or scotch to “take the edge off”, you are solving nothing. In fact, the further down you attempt to bury your problems with alcohol, the more compounded issues you are causing for yourself. As your problems begin to pile up and grow it takes more and more alcohol to cope with them. Drowning in a bottle is no way to live life; if you need help coping, talk to someone, be it a trusted friend, family, or a licensed therapist.
#4: All Your Celebrations Include Alcohol
As I noted before, celebrations seem to be synonymous with alcohol in modern society; so much so, that some people gift it to each other on birthdays and holidays. When most people are okay with an occasional drink during times of celebrations, if alcohol consumption is part of the festivities for all of your achievements and milestones, it’s time to find a new way to celebrate.
Teaching your mind that alcohol is a reward is dangerous. We learn to associate the loopy, carefree feeling that comes with drunkenness with feeling good about ourselves; sometimes this leads us to believe we cannot feel that way without alcohol. Addiction is as much a mental dependency as it is a physical need- don’t fool yourself into thinking you need alcohol to have worth.
#5: You Have an Alcohol Budget
Now, unless you are a restaurateur, party planner, or bar owner, having a specific budget for alcohol is a bad sign. Not only is this a clear and conscious plan to abuse alcohol not only now but in the future, but it is an easy way to blow through hundreds of dollars with little to nothing to show for it. You work too hard for your money to waste it on ridiculously expensive poison- put your money to better use!
Do you find yourself dipping into funds you set aside for other things in order to support your drinking problem? Have you allowed your credit cards to accrue interest? Are you behind on your rent or utility bills? Is your fridge empty except for your favorite brand of vodka or rum? That’s a giant red flag: prioritizing alcohol consumption above basic needs and responsibilities is a sign of a serious addiction.
#6: There are Multiple Examples of Your Drinking Escapades Online
We get it- crazy things happen in your late teens and 20s. At the moment they seem like the greatest ideas ever, but then you looks back a few years later and wonder “what was I thinking?” We all probably have a photo or two lurking on the internet that we would rather no one ever saw again; some of us might even have two or three.
But if you scroll through your photos on Instagram of Facebook and see nothing but a storyline of alcohol and bad decisions, maybe it’s time to stop. If your entire album of tagged photos includes bottles or red solo cups and your signature “drunk face,” it may be time to do some damage control. Imagine if your potential employer visited your social media (which they sometimes do) and the only photos they could see were of your drunken antics. You might think that’s simple to resolve: just untag yourself or stay away from cameras while you’re plastered- but people can be stealthy about taking pictures, and you’re hardly on the lookout while you’re doing shots, right? Here’s an even better solution: stop drinking yourself into oblivion.
#7: You Drink Out of Boredom
So it’s Thursday afternoon and you have nothing to do: your friends are busy, your significant other is at work, and there’s nothing but crap TV on right now. Why not open a bottle, right? Alcohol helps the days go by faster, and it makes crap TV a bit more entertaining, right? I won’t lie- I’m a sucker for trashy reality television on boring days. An entire bottle of wine? Not so much.
When you’re only reason for drinking is because you’re bored, you should take a moment to think about why you’re drinking. If the first thing you want to do when you’re bored is load up on alcohol, it says something about your priorities: we use free time to do the things we are passionate about. When we read, paint, play music, or write in our free time it’s about creating; drinking or drug use in your free time does nothing but destroy you from the inside out.
#8: Your Travel Plans are Based Around the “Best Bars” in the Area
Most people have hopes, aspirations, and plans to travel- it’s ingrained in our DNA to want to explore and discover areas we’ve never been before. For some, travelling is limited to the local area while others explore the entire world. We base our destinations around a desire for cultural experiences, visiting historically significant locations, and witnessing the beauty of nature.
Others travel strictly because of alcohol. How lame is that? Of all the reasons to travel- of all the experiences you could partake in- you just want to get drunk in a different city? How much of your trip will you really remember once you return home? How much of it will you waste hungover and unable to crawl out of bed? How much money are you throwing away, and can you just send it to me instead? I’ve got tuition and books to pay for.
#9: You Chose Your College Based on it’s Party Reputation
Speaking of school (see that transition? Wasn’t it smooth? Awww yeah) where did you go to college? What made you choose the school you attended? Family tradition? Amazing program in your intended major? A chance at independence away from your overbearing family?
Oh. Because of the partying. Lovely.
That just seems like such a wasted opportunity to me. College is a chance to further your education and kickstart your career; if you’re not there for that purpose, why waste the thousands of dollars just for the chance to party? While I absolutely understand wanting to enjoy your college experience, wouldn’t be better to have actual memories you can recall and recant to your future children and grandchildren?
#10: You’ve Ditched Your Responsibilities to Drink
This one is perhaps the most clear sign of a potential alcohol abuse disorder on this list. Consciously choosing alcohol over your responsibilities is indicative of an addicted mind. Substance abuse completely changes one’s priorities, leaving choices like drinking all night before an important final or blowing off an important interview because you’re hung over to seem perfectly logical. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, if you are pulling money from other, more important funds in order to fuel your alcohol supply, you need to take a serious look at your relationship with alcohol.
Ditching your responsibilities in favor of drinking doesn’t only affect you; it affects those who depend on you as well. While drunk you may unintentionally neglect your family and friends, which is increasingly dangerous if you are in charge of dependants. Leaving children unattended can end in tragedy; their lives are not worth your temporary drunkenness.
Do you or someone you know relate to the items on this list? Let us know in the comments!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.