‘You find it hard to stop drinking once you’ve started’
By Eleanor Jones
In England alone, it’s estimated that 595,000 people are dependent on alcohol, but only one sixth of them are accessing help. In fact, some of them manage to hold down a stable job and relationships with their family and friends, and on the surface, appear to be happy and successful – the complete opposite of what you’d typically think of when we say the word ‘alcoholic’.
However, although you may still be ‘functioning’, maintaining an unhealthy dynamic with alcohol can still cause an incredible amount of damage, both physically and mentally. If you’re concerned about how much you (or a friend) is drinking, here are 8 telltale signs that it might be time to ask for help.
- You’re always up for a drink
Red flag to anyone who considers themselves to be the life and soul. “Someone with an alcohol problem is likely to be ever-ready to go for a drink, which can make them seem like great fun and really sociable,” Andrew Misell, from the organisation Alcohol Concern explains. “This doesn’t mean that they are escaping harm.”
If you’re always the first to take up the offer of a cocktail, or accepting that seventh top-up of prosecco when everyone else has had enough, it’s time to assess whether you’re saying yes because you really want to, or because you can’t say no.
- You drink every day
It might be a glass or two one day and a bottle the next, but someone who is physically dependent on alcohol will be drinking every day, says Andrew. Weekend binge drinkers, on the other hand, don’t fall into this category – but if you’re a stay sober ’til Saturday kind of lady, that still doesn’t mean that your habits are good. “You’re still giving your body a pounding and potentially storing up long-term health problems” he adds.
- You find it hard to stop drinking once you’ve started
One of the questions asked to identify a possible alcohol problem is ‘how often do you find you’re not able to stop drinking once you had started?’ Answering ‘all the time’ to this alone is not a diagnosis in itself, but it can definitely indicate that your relationship with alcohol is unhealthy. Other questions include ‘how often do you fail to do what’s expected from you because of your drinking?’, ‘how often do you need a drink in the morning?’, and ‘how often are you unable to remember what happened the night before?’
- You work in a profession where drinking is the norm
If you work in an industry with a strong drinking culture, temptation tends to be even more prevalent. According to Andrew, this may even help you to carry on drinking to excess – your habits can be masked by those around you, and could actually end up seeming ‘average’ in comparison.
Remember that their choices aren’t necessarily the norm outside of that environment, and listen to your own body – if you’re going too hard, chances are it’s trying to tell you to slow down.
- You joke about being an alcoholic
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have probably made a joke about our ‘alcoholic’ tendancies in the past. So at what point does it become no laughing matter?
“Joking about drinking or simply not engaging with it as an issue may be one way in which ‘functioning’ alcoholics avoid their harmful drinking being noticed,” Andrew advises. “In the end, this means they might not get the help they need.”
- Your relationships are suffering
Unsurprisingly, drinking can be linked to a range of relationship issues. “On a very simple level, if one partner drinks much more than the other, they may start to feel they have less in common,” Andrew details. “Spending time sober with someone who is often drunk can be boring and lonely. If one partner is drinking very heavily, they may be prone to forgetting to do things they’ve promised, and alcohol may start to take priority over their partner. Clearly that is not a recipe for a happy home.”
- People are worried about you
Boyfriends to best friends, work wives to your mum and dad; the people closest to you know you better than even you realise, and if they’re expressing concerns about your blood alcohol levels, you should definitely heed their warning. “Anyone who thinks they may be drinking too much, at any time, can seek help from their GP,'” Andrew advises. “You can seek out support groups and other services in your local area.”