Has something about your drinking has started to bother you – bother you enough that you’re searching for it on the internet, reading articles about it, and thinking? If so, here are 10 signs that may suggest you have a drinking problem.
It’s been well over a decade since I had my last drink.
When I first stopped, I remember talking to a woman about when she first stopped drinking.
Back then, she wished that she could take a magic pill so that she could keep drinking but not suffer from any of its negative consequences.
She shared that she didn’t feel like that now – that she was grateful to not drink, was grateful for the clarity it had given her.
I thought she was crazy, but all these years later I feel the same way.
It was a long path between thinking that I may have a drinking problem to accepting that I did have a drinking problem.
It didn’t help that all this was all going down as I was healing from cancer treatment physically, while feeling totally broken mentally.
I used drinking to cope with my fears, to take my mind of the stats which told me I’d be lucky to live five more years, to shut off my mind.
Of course drinking just gave me a host of other problems to deal with. And sometimes I wondered if that was behind my abuse of alcohol as well – creating immediate issues to stop thinking about the deeper ones.
Now I think that’s exactly what I was doing.
But if you’re reading this, you’re not there yet.
If you’re reading this, something about your drinking has started to bother you – bother you enough that you’re searching for it on the internet, reading articles about it, and thinking.
So here are 10 signs that may suggest that something’s not quite right – that you may have a problem with your drinking.
Some of them are well known, others are one I observed in myself, or in others I know (people with drinking problems often collect each other).
You bargain with yourself about your drinking
You have started to put limits on yourself concerning what, when and how much you can drink in order to still be able to drink full-stop.
Maybe you’ve told yourself that you can no longer drink spirits.
Maybe you’ve restricted your drinking to certain days of the week.
Maybe you limit yourself by saying you can only have one glass an hour, or bottle of wine in one sitting.
I did all of these things before I stopped drinking for good.
And I should add something to this one- that despite these bargains you make with yourself, you break them.
Not every time – but enough times.
You lie to your loved ones about your drinking
If anyone knew how much you were really drinking, they’d be shocked.
You know they’d judge, so you start getting secretive.
You have two drinks and say you had one.
Or you say you had none.
Funnily enough, I had no idea that people changed much when they drank until I stopped drinking. Now I can tell a difference in a person after only one or two drinks.
That’s why your lies don’t work, and simply create more and more tension with the people you care about.
You carry your drink with you wherever you go… and you can’t leave a glass or bottle with anything in it
This is something my ex-husband (no 2 – not the kids’ father) used to do.
It’s something I became more aware of in him after I stopped, and then I started noticing it in others who had problems with their alcohol consumption.
Now it’s one of the things that tell me someone is a little too attached to their drinking.
When you’re at a party, or even just around home, your glass doesn’t ever stray far from your hand.
Quickly pop outside to let the dogs go to the bathroom?
Take your drink.
Go into the kitchen to grab another dish?
Take your drink.
My ex even used to take his drink into the bathroom! (I know. Disgusting).
“Normal” people also are perfectly fine with leaving a half empty glass or bottle in a restaurant after a nice meal.
If you have a problem with your drinking, you would rather cut off a limb than do this.
You’ll scull back that glass and drain that bottle, and only then will you leave the table.
You put yourself in risky situations to keep drinking
You’re in a bar having a great time, but your friend wants to leave.
However, you don’t go. You stay there by yourself, so you can keep drinking.
When the bar closes, you go home with people you don’t know, so you can keep drinking.
Or you’re at home.
You’ve finished one bottle of wine, but that’s not enough.
However there’s no alcohol left in the house.
So you get in your car and drive to the bottle store to get more alcohol so you can keep drinking.
If you are making decisions that are driven by the desire to keep drinking despite the risk that making that decision puts you in, then this is a sign your may have a problem.
You start crossing the line
You never thought you’d cheat on your partner, but when you drink too much you just can’t control it.
You’re kissing strange men you just met at a bar, or getting down and dirty with a work colleague after office drinks.
Drinking lowers your inhibitions, but bottom line, you are still morally and legally responsible for your actions.
So if sober you can’t live with those actions, then maybe it’s time to take stock.
On a much more extreme example, I met an alcoholic once who killed someone when he was drinking.
He remembered driving to their house and then nothing else until he was in the hospital emergency room, being escorted by police in handcuffs, covered in blood that was not his own.
He was still guilty.
You’re always the last one to stop drinking
You’re always the last one at the party, the last one to leave work drinks, or the last person to go to bed.
You don’t stop until everyone has stopped (unless you’ve gotten so drunk you have to take yourself off to bed), and even then you’ll keep going when you’re all alone.
There’s a saying I know – one drink is too many, ten is not enough.
If you’ve got a problem with your drinking you’ll know exactly what this means, and why you’re never the first one to put the glass down.
You go to work hung over
If you’re drinking enough on a work night that you’re hung over the next day, then your drinking is causing you problems.
To drink enough to get hung over means at some point in your session, you no longer cared about the consequences.
You just kept going.
And while it may be normal to do that once or twice, you can’t do your best, most responsible work if you’re nursing both headache and nausea.
It’s also possible, based on how much you had and how late you had it, that you still could be drunk.
You have bruises on your body you can’t explain
I used to wake up in the morning with bruises and have no idea how they got there. They would usually be on my upper thighs.
What I didn’t know what was that alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it causes your blood vessels to temporarily relax and expand.
A simple bang against the side of the table can be enough to make it look like you’ve just gone ten rounds with a prize fighter.
It’s also possible that you’ll have no recollection of banging in to that table, so every morning is the chance to discover new evidence on your body that things are getting out of hand.
There are things you can’t remember
And this leads into the next point – you start having blackouts.
Blackouts are terribly frightening things.
You don’t know where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, and what you’ve done.
You’re afraid that when you see people, you’ll be told of things you did – things you would never imagine you could do.
Shame becomes your constant companion.
A friend I knew told me that once she woke up, thinking that she’d been able to handle her drinking the night before and gone to bed at a reasonable time with no dramas.
When she woke up, her husband was out in the garden. She went out to say good morning, and he wouldn’t talk to her.
When he turned around, she saw he had a black eye.
She’d given him that black eye – and she had no memory of it at all.
While having a blackout doesn’t mean you have a drinking problem, it does mean that on that occasion, you drank too much for your body to handle.
It’s important to note too that as women, we are more likely to feel these serious effects of drinking due to our body weight composition.
Now, there is some evidence to suggest that taking antidepressants and drinking can increase the chances of blackouts in some people, even if they haven’t consumed a huge amount of alcohol, and given the number of individuals who are on antidepressants, I think it’s something we should talk more about.
I know my own experience of blackouts started happening when I was put on anti-depressants following my cancer diagnosis. At the time, I had no idea there was a connection.
So please, if you are taking any medication, then take special care of yourself until you know how your body will react.
Your phone / text history is empty
When you drink too much, you start doing things sober you wouldn’t be happy about.
This might mean calling people you shouldn’t, sending drunken text messages, and so on.
In time, your drunk self starts to realize that your sober self doesn’t like seeing evidence of your wrongdoings.
Because your drunk self is very clever, she then deletes the evidence from your phone.
So if you’re waking up with a blank phone history and no texts and so on, this could be the explanation.
To sum up these signs you may have a drinking problem
I’m not a doctor, or a psychologist, or anyone with any qualification in drug or alcohol counselling.
I’m simply a person who many years ago realized that she had a big problem with what she was doing and so worked to change it.
Part of realizing I had a problem was recognizing that the me who drank, her values and her actions, was not the real me.
Part of realizing I had a problem was reading articles like this one and seeing myself in the examples provided.
Part of realizing I had a problem was reaching out to people and asking for help.
If you are lying about your drinking, experiencing blackouts, risking yourself and others, or any of the other signs mentioned, then that’s what I’d encourage you to do.
Reach out and talk to someone.
Call a doctor.
Call a friend.
Chances are they already know you have a problem and will do what you need to help you.
Want to read about women overcoming challenges?
Read Jane’s story: Overcoming Depression
Read Maria’s story: Overcoming Infertility