As an interventionist and addiction counselor who has worked with hundreds of families, many clients have shared with me that deep down they’d known for a long time that they or their loved one had a drinking problem. My hope is that this article will help you understand what to look for in yourself or someone you know that may indicate it’s time for a consultation with a qualified addiction professional.
If you feel even a slight twinge that you or your loved one could have a drinking problem, please take some time to find a provider who specializes in the treatment of alcoholism and ask some questions. Many offer consultations and/or assessments that can either relieve your fears or confirm your suspicions and give you information on next steps.
10 Signs of a Drinking Problem
1) Relationship Problems. Alcohol abuse causes great friction in relationships. The negative effects can manifest in a frequency of arguments about drinking, finances, children, responsibilities and affect school or work performance. Individuals with a drinking problem will continue to drink despite experiencing increasing conflict with spouses, children, friends, parents, employers, etc.
2) Excuses and Denial. Many folks who develop a drinking problem will minimize and even deny that they may have a problem when confronted. Friends and family are almost always aware of the drinking problem first.
3) Hangovers and Blackouts. A normal drinker does not experience hangovers or blackouts, and if they do it leads them to decide quickly that consuming large quantities of alcohol is not for them. People with a drinking problem persist despite serious hangovers and not remembering what they did while they were intoxicated.
4) Legal Problems Don’t Stop Alcohol Consumption. Persons who drink alcoholically blame circumstances other than drinking for their problems and believe they can continue to drink without fear of future arrest. Sadly, most often this turns out not to be true.
5) Inability to Stop Drinking. A person who drinks large quantities and drinks frequently over time finds it extremely difficult to stop altogether or limit their consumption. If this is happening, it’s truly an indication that help is needed.
6) Change in Friends, Appearance, Activities and Priorities. As the disease of alcoholism progresses, a person takes less pride in their appearance and often changes social circles to spend more time with other people whose activities revolve around alcohol. As time goes on individuals with a drinking problem become less and less likely to fulfill their obligations to family, friends, work and/or school, often experiencing increased absences due to severe hangovers.
7) Drinking Alone. When a person begins to drink alone, it is a certain sign the disease has progressed to the point that the alcohol is becoming more and more the central part of their life. People and activities that normally would be appealing begin falling away.
8) Continue Drinking After Experiencing Physical or Mental Problems. Alcohol changes a person’s brain over time. The ability to reason and make rational, healthy decisions is greatly impaired. When a person continues to drink after medical advice to the contrary or family members see it affecting their mental health, that’s a certain warning sign of alcoholism.
9) Poor Judgment. Engaging in risky behavior such as driving a car or operating machinery intoxicated, fighting, infidelity or having unprotected sex are common behaviors that point to the person’s declining ability to exercise good judgment.
10) Physical Dependency. When a person needs to have some “hair of the dog” to stop shaking, reduce anxiety and eliminate strong cravings they have undoubtedly become what most of us say is a true alcoholic.
Please keep in mind that alcoholism is not a choice for the drinker – it is beyond their control and requires professional help. Unfortunately, some people still believe that alcoholism is a moral problem and can be solved simply through will power. It cannot. It has been scientifically proven in recent years that alcoholism is a genetic and physiological disease like diabetes or cancer.
If you suspect that your loved one has a drinking problem, trust your judgment and consult with a professional to get them the help they need. Studies indicate that 95% of problem drinkers had to be confronted about their drinking problem and convinced by their families to get treatment.
Don’t wait to act. Alcoholism can be treated, and hope begins with that first phone call.
More info on Dr. Kirkpatrick is available on his website at DoctorJFK.com.