Because alcohol is such a large part of our culture, it’s not always easy to identify when drinking has become a serious problem for a loved one. Here are 10 signs that alcohol has become an intrusive part of your loved one’s life, and that it’s time to address the situation:
- Lying about drinking or hiding alcohol: If you find bottles of gin tucked behind the wastebasket in the bathroom, it’s a problem. If there are bottles underneath the seats in the car or underneath towels in the laundry room, it’s clear that something is going on. When people have a normal relationship with alcohol, they store liquor in a liquor cabinet or put beer in the pantry. There’s no reason to hide bottles of alcohol unless you’re hiding a problem with alcohol.
- Extreme mood swings based on drinking patterns: Alcohol is a depressant, and it can wreak havoc on a person’s mental and physical health. While under the influence, the drinker may be more likely to become angry, irritable, or even violent after the initial relaxation fades. When chronic drinking is an issue, it’s not uncommon for the drinker to develop depression, and if binge drinking is more often the problem, the days after a binge are often difficult emotionally and physically.
- Health problems related to alcohol intake: Alcohol is a toxin. It is not easy for the liver to process alcohol without some damage. When a person drinks only occasionally, the liver has time to heal, but when someone binge drinks frequently (e.g. more than four drinks for women, more than five drinks for men) or regularly has more than seven drinks (for women) or 14 drinks (for men) each week, the constant onslaught of alcohol can cause significant wear and tear on the body. From the liver, to the cardiovascular system, to the immune system, it’s not uncommon for someone with a drinking problem to have a hard time avoiding colds and difficulty managing chronic medical disorders like diabetes. In addition, those with drinking problems may eventually develop deadly diseases like heart disease, liver failure, and certain cancers.
- Problems at work or school: Showing up late, poor performance when in attendance, or problematic choices when at work or school due to drinking the night before, or even drinking during the day are some of the ways that alcohol can cause someone to be expelled or suspended from school or to suffer demotions or get fired from a job. Any of them is a clear sign that alcohol has too much power in your loved one’s life.
- Legal issues related to behaviors while drinking: Driving under the influence, being drunk in public, or contributing to the delinquency of a minor are some of the ways that alcohol can get someone into trouble with the law. There are even a number of charges that could be related to alcohol, like assault, domestic violence, and theft. Anything that threatens someone’s freedom is clearly a problem.
- Driving while under the influence: Getting behind the wheel after drinking is a very serious issue. One doesn’t have to be caught and arrested for it in order for it to be a sign that alcohol use has gone too far.
- Inability to manage tasks at home: Paying bills on time, caring for children and pets, getting along with neighbors, and basic care and maintenance for the home are all hard to do during heavy drinking. Life tends to revolve around getting drunk or recovering after being drunk, and there is very little time to get to the details of day-to-day life. If these tasks are attempted, alcohol often blurs the specifics, and a lot of mistakes are made that can result in interpersonal problems with neighbors, financial problems due to mismanagement of the budget, negligence of dependents, and more.
- Isolating from family members and friends: As alcohol becomes a larger part of the drinker’s life, they may retract from the people around them. No drinker wants to hear that others are concerned about their drinking, and the guilt, embarrassment, or irritation of dealing with others may lead to isolation.
- Regularly promising to cut back on alcohol intake or quit: There’s a cycle that often defines alcohol use and abuse. Drinking tends to build and build until it culminates in disaster (e.g. arrest, a health problem, theft, a wrong done to someone in the family, etc.) that clearly identifies the alcohol use as a huge problem. The drinker is remorseful and promises to quit drinking, and may even manage to do so for a day or a week depending upon the specifics of his problem, but cannot maintain that sobriety for long. They may initially sneak a drink here and there, or may justify drinking for a certain reason and then never stop, building up in levels until there is again a climactic moment in which it is clear that they have a problem and again promises to stop.
- Inability to stop drinking for any period of time, no matter what the consequences: Even when the drinker is genuinely interested in no longer drinking and despite how terrible things may have become or what they have lost due to alcohol, they may still be unable to stop drinking. If this is the case, this is a hallmark of an alcohol use disorder, and it is time for your loved one to enter an alcohol abuse and addiction treatment program now.
If you suspect your loved one has a drinking problem, call Futures today. We can give you and your loved one the help they need.