Often when I teach alcohol awareness classes I ask my students, “Do you think you have a drinking problem?” This series of articles will discuss what constitutes a “problem” and recognize that your social drinking habit has turned into a problem-drinking pattern. It will also address three stages of change – denial, anger and acceptance. Finally, it will conclude with strategies for becoming sober and preventing recidivism.
Let’s begin by stating that no person has one drink and is immediately it is a problem. Heavy drinking and alcoholism are developed over long periods of time.
How my students respond to this question may surprise you. But first, let’s take a look at what constitutes heavy drinking and briefly discuss problematic drinking patterns.
How Many Drinks Do You Consume Weekly? Daily?
As a reformed alcoholic and graduate of an online alcohol class, I first became aware that there might be a problem when I encountered an interesting question on a new patient questionnaire at a doctor’s office. The question read, “How many alcoholic beverages do you consume on average per week?” The question itself seems innocuous enough. The multiple-choice answer was “A. 0. B1-3. C. 4-6. D. More than six”. I had to reread the question to see if they weren’t really asking per day.
At that stage, still two years before I became sober, I was having at least 7 ounces of alcohol per day. Whether shots of hard alcohol, glasses of wine, or beer, I was definitely in the “D” category – but daily.
That was my original lightening rod of truth, where I actually understood, for a few brief moments, that I might very well have a drinking problem – and that problem was alcoholism.
Are You a Heavy Drinker?
Heavy drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption found in almost all alcoholics. Heavy drinking is defined as having 5 or more alcoholic beverages on the same occasion five or more times in the past month.
As a recovering alcoholic, I can tell you that nearly every time I partook in the consumption of alcohol, I had five or more drinks – usually many more.
Recent statistics have shown that approximately 17 million people in the United States are classified as heavy drinkers. That is almost 7% of the entire population 12 and older. If you only look at those of legal drinking age, 21, almost 12% are considered to fall into the pattern of heavy drinking.
If you are a heavy drinker, it is quite likely you have a drinking problem and should seek help from a group like Alcoholics Anonymous, or if you prefer, try taking an online alcohol awareness course.
This was the first in a series of articles discussing the transition of an alcoholic from denial, to anger and finally to acceptance. The series will conclude with an article on maintaining your sobriety and help keep you from becoming an ugly statistic of recidivism
In closing, I encourage each of you to quit drinking for 30 days. See if you feel better. Be aware of your moods, good and bad (there may be some doozies at the beginning if you are a heavy drinker).
Despite its legal status, it is important to be aware that alcohol is a drug and its use must be controlled. If you or anyone you know may be suffering from alcohol dependence, please have them seek help immediately. There are online options to take voluntary and involuntary courses on alcohol rehabilitation.