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Ask a coach

Anthony has experience working in the addiction treatment field and is knowledgeable about the criminal justice system, co-occurring mental health disorders and homelessness.

Q: How do I know if my relationship with alcohol is unhealthy?

A: There’s no one single indicator that demonstrates an alcohol problem or addiction. It may be helpful to start by asking the following questions.

What are the consequences of drinking you’re experiencing?
These could range from legal or financial to physical or social. It’s important to note, however, that just because someone hasn’t been through a major consequence like a DUI or divorce doesn’t mean their alcohol use is healthy. I’ll cover that more later.

Have you ever tried to quit drinking but couldn’t?
This is an important question, but it’s not always as simple as it seems. For instance, some people can easily go weeks or months without a drink, but will binge heavily once they do drink again.

How do you feel before and after drinking? 
This question goes beyond hangovers, although that’s certainly something to pay attention to. Some of our members experience extreme anxiety or panic attacks after an alcohol binge. Strong physical symptoms could be a sign of withdrawal, which can be incredibly dangerous or even life-threatening.

It’s also worth considering why you were drinking in the first place. Using alcohol to escape, numb or mask an issue or feeling, or to feel normal, should be looked at closely. Occasionally drinking in moderation to relax isn’t a problem for everyone. But if that’s someone’s only relaxation technique or coping mechanism, that’s where problems often start.

In your mind, what does someone with addiction look like?
Addiction stereotypes can prevent people from thinking they have a problem. If you picture a person who’s drinking out of a paper bag on the street or someone who goes through an entire bottle of liquor every day, chances are you’re able to justify your own behavior if it’s nothing like those scenarios.

Too often, stereotypes of what a “normal” person with a drinking problem looks like stops us from getting the help we may need. Some examples include:

“I never drink before 5 p.m. or on week days.”
“I don’t drink liquor.”
“I haven’t been arrested or fired because of my drinking.”

These may all be true, but that doesn’t mean all your drinking habits are healthy. In fact, about 70 percent of all people who struggle with addiction are employed. (Read Dave Jansa's blog here to learn more about early symptoms.)

If you’re wondering if you have a problem, or would like to learn some harm reduction strategies, please get in touch with us here at Face It TOGETHER. We can have an open, nonjudgemental conversation and work through your concerns as a team.

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