How much is too much when it comes to drinking? It can be confusing to know if you are just a social drinker or if there may be some concerns to address.
Often, there are gray areas with drinking and it is helpful to take an assessment of what your relationship is like with alcohol and what role it plays in your life.
We will take a look into what the definition of a moderate drinker is, what warning signs of problematic drinking are, and ways to bring intention into your drinking habits.
When evaluating your drinking habits, it is helpful to consider how much you are consuming. The CDC defines moderate drinking as two drinks in a day for men and one drink for women. Weekly it is recommended for men to have no more than 14 alcoholic beverages and 7 for women. By this definition, one drink would be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of liquor.
It is important to consider the amount that you are drinking as there can be short and long-term health impacts by drinking over a moderate amount. If someone is drinking outside of this level though, it does not necessarily mean that person is dealing with addiction. There are many factors that contribute to a person’s relationship with substances.
Red Flags To Help Decide If You’re Drinking Too Much
Just like with romantic relationships, there can be red flags that point to potential problems for the future of your relationship with alcohol. Let’s take a deeper dive into your drinking habits to explore if some changes may be beneficial. Below are some warning signs that your drinking patterns are likely problematic.
You Notice Frequent Cravings for Alcohol
A craving is a lingering thought focused on having that next drink. Often it feels like this thought does not go away until you are able to drink again. This can present itself as purposely making plans that center around alcohol or adjusting your schedule to make sure you can drink.
If you notice that on a day you said you weren’t going to drink you are now justifying why you need to pour that glass of wine, this could be a sign of more intense cravings or less control than you thought you had. In these moments, it could be helpful to pause to reflect on what is motivating your behavior.
Alcohol Has Become Your Main Way to Cope
How do you deal with difficult emotions like sadness, anger, or loneliness? For some, the role alcohol plays is that of a confidant and a tool to self-soothe. This can become troubling as alcohol can cause more stress (and anxiety) and often does not address difficult emotions.
When you do not have other tools or ways to process your emotions you may be more prone to develop an addiction to alcohol. To help this, you can begin to become curious about the role alcohol has been filling in your life. Does it help you feel less anxious in social groups or take the edge off of the day? Answering these questions can help point you in different directions to get help.
You are Concerned About Your Drinking
One of the biggest indicators that it is time for a change is if you are having your own worries. If you feel the need to hide, conceal the amount you’ve consumed, or lie, this is a sign that it is time to reflect on your relationship with alcohol. You can also explore if your loved ones have also noticed some potential issues with your drinking.
It could be helpful to write down what your goals are for your alcohol use and explore ways to help you get there. Involving an accountability partner or a professional can aid in this process.
Improve Your Relationship with Alcohol
Here are a few ideas for ways to strive for moderation and intention in your relationship with alcohol if you have been concerned that you are drinking too much.
Create New Rituals: Drinking can begin to become a habit of de-stressing which may feel difficult to limit. Instead of just cutting out your nightly cocktail, are there things that can replace this calming ritual that are better for your body? This could be switching to a fun ‘mocktail’, going for a walk, listening to music, or meditating. If your social outings are centered around happy hour, perhaps suggest going to a park or another alcohol-free environment.
Pay Attention to Your Habits: Start to build awareness of how much and how often you are drinking. This may give indicators of areas where some limits can be made. It can also be helpful to notice what situations seem to go hand in hand with drinking to start to bring curiosity to your relationship to alcohol.
Listen to Your Needs: If alcohol has become a band-aid for your wellbeing, see if you can reflect on other ways to meet that need. Are you seeking more social connections or do you need to cut back on some tasks? Remember that you need to take breaks and there is more than one way to meet your needs.
Seek Help: If your efforts to cut back have felt like a struggle or if the idea of trying this alone is stressful, it is likely time to get support. No one has to address their drinking or substance use solo. Explore if intensive outpatient treatment is a good option for you.
SagePoint IOP is able to provide alcohol and substance use assessments and help identify any problematic areas of alcohol and substance use. We are here to teach people the skills to work towards their recovery and provide resources for change. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please reach out today to learn more about our services.