Be Proactive About the Problem: The Signs of an Alcohol Use Disorder

July 21, 2021

Have You Become a Problem Drinker?

So you like to have a drink now and then. Most everyone does, right? It is no big deal.

And sure, you’ve been having a few problems lately. Maybe you missed a couple days of work due to monster hangovers. Maybe you got pulled over and narrowly avoided a driving while intoxicated (DUI) citation. Maybe you have a hole or two in your memory from nights (or even days) when you really tied one on.

Still, you don’t have a problem, right? You have everything under control, right?

Well, maybe. But maybe you do have a problem.

And if you do, the time to do something about it is right now.

Signs You Have a Drinking Problem

Are you ready to take a good hard look at your situation? It might not be easy, but it is necessary—and you have to be honest with yourself.

Here are some signs your drinking has become a problem:

  • You need alcohol to relax or to reduce feelings of stress—and you feel strong cravings for it when you don’t have immediate access to it.
  • You don’t feel like yourself when you aren’t drinking—and might even find yourself experiencing symptoms of withdrawal like tremors, nausea, headaches, or anxiety.
  • You find yourself lying about your drinking—and may increasingly spend time drinking alone or neglecting your responsibilities to your friends, family, and work (like those times you called in sick due to a hangover).
  • You catch yourself taking risks when you’ve been drinking that you wouldn’t usually take (like that time you were pulled over) or you discover your friends remember things that happened while you were drinking that you can’t recall.
  • You decide to quit drinking—or at least cut back on your consumption—and discover that you simply can’t do it.

The Truth About the Consequences

In addition to the various ways it can upend your day-to-day life (like causing job or relationship stress, financial difficulties, and an increased risk of serious accidents), a substance use disorder—and specifically an alcohol use disorder (AUD)—can cause a number of serious health problems. Those problems include:

  • Heart issues—including high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke
  • Digestive problems—including ulcers in the stomach and/or esophagus
  • Liver issues—including cirrhosis of the liver
  • Osteoporosis and an accompanying increased risk of suffering bone fractures
  • An overall weakening of the immune system
  • An increased risk of sexual dysfunction
  • An increased risk of cancer
  • Potential cognitive impairment ranging from problems with short-term memory loss to the onset of dementia

Certain other conditions can be complicated or worsened by alcohol abuse as well:

  • Pregnant women are at an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, and still birth
  • Diabetics are at an increased risk of suffering hypoglycemia
  • The obese may significantly—and unadvisedly—increase their caloric intake
  • Those battling depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders may find their symptoms worsening

You’ve Identified the Problem. What Comes Next?

Okay, so you have admitted to yourself that you have a drinking problem and acknowledge that the consequences of that problem can be very serious, indeed. That’s a great first step. But what should you do now?

It might be tempting to try to go it alone. Sure, you haven’t been able to stop drinking on your own in the past, but maybe if you try really hard next time, you could do it. Maybe you’ve mentioned your problem to a trusted friend, and they have told you that getting sober is just about willpower or having more faith. Maybe you are afraid you’ll lose your job if your boss finds out about your drinking issues, so you don’t want to take time off to get help.

We want to be clear: substance use disorders—like a dependence on alcohol—are a brain disease. They are treatable (though not curable), and treatment is often most effective in a residential treatment environment. Entering a recovery center for detoxification and rehabilitation helps ensure that you get personalized care that addresses not only your substance use disorder, but any other disorders or traumas that may be contributing to your reliance on alcohol.

Seeking treatment is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength—and the first step toward getting your life back on track.