Am I an alcoholic? A psychotherapist tells us when drinking becomes a problem
When is the line crossed?
You're young and love a good night out as much as the next person, but sometimes you feel like it goes too far. It's one thing to have a drink or two. Have you ever found yourself sitting up in bed the morning after with a brutal hangover wondering, "am I an alcoholic?." It's scary question to ask yourself. Babe chatted with Psychotherapist Kelley Kitley, who has been treating addiction for over 15 years about the warning signs, who to turn to, and the tricks to slowing down.
Symptoms to keep an eye on
Everyone has bad nights, but have your disastrous ones started outweighing the fun ones? Kelley listed black outs and "not being able to stop drinking even though you realize you have reached your mark" as two major concerns. If you have to have a drink first thing in the morning or your drinking has started affecting your school or work, then you could have a problem.
Kelley also recommended looking back at your family history for addicts. This isn't exclusively about alcoholism. Check for gambling, drugs, or sex addictions too. There's an element of genetics involved in addiction as well as the experiences you had growing up. You "learn from your parents just socially and if your parents are heavy drinkers then you need to be a bit more aware" of your drinking habits.
Tests and tricks
If you're concerned about how much you've been consuming, there's a few ways you can test yourself. Kelley recommended asking a friend you trust to keep an eye on you. Tell them they have permission to give you a nudge when it's time to slow down or stop.
You could pick a drink for the night and stick with it. Decide on beer and then don't let yourself change it up and start slinging back shots. You might also go for the full cut off. Promise yourself you won't drink for the night and see if you can actually do it.
Another option would be alternating each drink you have with water. Kelly said to try rationing out a number of drinks for the week. Say you're allowed to have eight drinks for the week, but obviously don't have them all for one night. "If you’re going out three times you have to try and ration that off a little bit," she said. "When people have a hard time sticking to that plan, then they cross over to problem drinking."
Who should you talk to?
Don't wait for your drinking to get seriously out of control. You can reach out to a therapist or a counselor if you're still at school. The "expertise of a professional can navigate that conversation so don't feel embarrassed by it. It's more about starting an education component," Kelley said.
Making a change
So you've decided to cut back on the drinking. You shouldn't have to worry or deal with your disapproving drinking buddies. "If someone wants to cut back on their drinking, they don’t have to let everyone know that," Kelley said. Odds are, there will be one of those assholes in your group who makes a big thing of it and try to get you wasted.
Kelley added that things have come a long way in terms of sobriety and substance abuse. People have started being more open about their history of addiction. You can also decide to stop drinking in order to live a healthier lifestyle. Own your choice, but don't feel like you have to shout it from the rooftops. Whether you're slowing down or cutting alcohol out altogether, it's entirely your choice.