Am I an Alcoholic? 8 Warning Signs of Addiction

Signs of Addiction
Are you concerned that you or someone you know might be an alcoholic? It’s not always easy to see when your drinking has crossed the line from moderate or social use to problem drinking. According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder (which includes a level that is sometimes called alcoholism) is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.

Here is a list of 8 warning signs to help you identify if you or a loved one may be suffering from an alcohol addiction:

Sign 1: Increased Tolerance

Have you needed to drink more and more alcohol over time to achieve the same effects? Tolerance occurs when a person no longer responds to a drug in the same way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.

Sign 2: Withdrawal Symptoms

Once physical addiction has taken hold, the alcoholic may experience withdrawal symptoms when going without alcohol for as little as five hours. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, headaches, nausea, clammy skin, and sweating. In some individuals, alcohol withdrawal can lead to delirium tremens (DTs), which may manifest as confusion, hallucinations, agitation, fever, and seizures.

Sign 3: Drinking More Than Planned

Have you ever told yourself you were only going to have one or two drinks at happy hour and before you knew it you’d downed four or five? Consuming larger amounts than intended or using for longer periods of time than intended is a red flag sign of an alcohol use disorder.

Sign 4: “Blacking Out” Regularly

If you’re drinking so much alcohol that you continually black out or can’t remember pieces of your night, it could indicate a drinking problem, especially if it happens on a regular basis. The inability to recall things that happen when you’re drinking is a result of grossly excessive blood-alcohol levels, which actually inhibit your brain from functioning normally.

Sign 5: Use Despite Problems with Work, School, Family, Social Obligations, etc.

This might include repeated work absences, poor school performance, neglect of children, or failure to meet household responsibilities. Alcohol addiction may also be indicated when someone continues drinking despite having interpersonal problems because of their use. This could include arguments with spouses or family members about the drinking; or, losing important friendships because of continued use.

Sign 6: Failed Attempts to Quit

People who suspect they may drink too much will make promises to themselves to cut back on drinking, or quit drinking altogether. Oftentimes, there will be many failed attempts before becoming successful.

Sign 7: Spending Increasing Time Obtaining, Consuming, or Recovering from Alcohol

Drinking can take a toll on activities. People who continue to expand their drinking so that the majority of their time and activities revolve around alcohol (everything from obtaining it, to consuming it, to recovering from its effects) may be showing signs of a drinking problem.

Sign 8: Risky Use

Alcohol addiction may be indicated when someone repeatedly uses in physically dangerous situations, such as operating machinery or driving a car. Additionally, some people continue to drink even though they are aware it is causing or worsening physical and psychological problems (i.e. drinking despite liver problems or drinking despite medication contraindications).

Experiencing just one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a problem drinker or an alcoholic, but if you’re experiencing several of them (or you see numerous signs in a loved one), there is a very strong possibility that an alcohol use disorder may be present. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these signs, help is available. Talk to your doctor, seek professional counseling, or contact the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the online treatment locators for more information.

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5 Tips for Staying Sober this Summer

Staying Sober This Summer
Summer has arrived, bringing warmer weather, longer days, and time off from work, school, and other commitments for many of us. It’s the ultimate season for firing up the grill, enjoying family vacations, get-togethers with friends, outings at the beach, picnics, concerts, camping trips, backyard barbeques, and lazing in the sun. It can also be an opportunity to explore staying sober.

For folks in recovery or those wishing to live a life free from alcohol for other reasons (medical issues, cutting back on calories, etc.), however, summer can be a challenging time—highlighted by powerful temptations and numerous triggers that can make it seem near impossible not to drink. Safeguard your sobriety and prevent summer traditions from destroying your recovery success with these 5 tips for staying sober this summer:

Plan ahead: The more planning you can do for yourself, the better. Know what the atmosphere will be like at the functions or events you will be attending. Find out who will be there, how long it’s expected to last and, when possible, ask ahead to inquire if non-alcoholic drinks will be provided. If you’re going to a private residence, consider bringing along a bottle of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. If you plan to travel, look up support meetings near your vacation destination. Were you successful on previous trips? What strategies were helpful for you then? Always have an exit plan in place that will allow you to leave social gatherings promptly if you feel uncomfortable or urges become too strong.

Pick up a new hobby: One often overlooked by-product of sobriety is an abundance of free-time. If alcohol was once an all-consuming part of your life, you may find that you now have a tremendous amount of free time on your hands after embarking on your journey of recovery. To fill your seemingly longer days, feel more productive, and lessen your risk of becoming bored, pursue a hobby or interest, such as cooking, dancing, hiking, or a recreational sport. You may consider volunteering, as a way of giving back to society and those in need, or signing up for a summer art class at a local community college.

Indulge in fun mocktails: Sometimes, drinking plain ol’ water and soda can get boring after a while, especially at social functions. Luckily, there are plenty of magazines, websites, and apps bursting with fun, refreshing summertime “mocktail” recipes. From virgin piña coladas and daiquiris to mouthwatering cran-apple cider and watermelon coolers, there are a plethora of options out there for those looking to spice up their beverage choices, without alcohol. Here is a recipe for one of my personal favorite summer treats, the Strawberry Margarita Mocktail, from Sober Julie—a funky sober mom blogger who runs a website for those living life “straight up”. You can find more of Julie’s delicious recipes here.

1 lb strawberries
½ cup orange juice
½ cup sparking water
¼ cup lime juice
Colored coarse sugar (for the rims of the glasses)
Lime for garnish (cut into wheels)

Place the strawberries, orange juice, sparkling water, lime juice, and ice into a blender. Blend on medium-high until it reaches a slushy consistency. Add in ice as necessary. Cut a small slit into a lime wheel, then wipe it around the rim of the glasses. Pour the sugar onto a plate and roll the glasses in it, collecting the sugar onto the lime juice on the rim. Pour the strawberry margarita into 4 glasses, garnish with a lime, and serve. Yum!

Stick with a sober buddy: If you’re planning to attend a social gathering or event where alcohol is expected to be served, don’t go it alone. Bring along an AA companion or sober friend who will respect and support you in your recovery. It’s always a good idea to surround yourself with a network of like-minded (sober) people that will encourage and support you in your efforts to abstain from alcohol use. Or, enlist the help of someone at the party whom you trust (the host, your neighbor, a good friend). Tell them that you can’t drink and appoint them as your bodyguard.

Play the tape forward: If you were to take a drink, what would happen? You likely have enough awareness into your own patterns and behaviors from past experiences and unpleasant consequences by now that you’ll be able to use this important insight for predicting future outcomes. So, instead of focusing on that first glass, think about the last glass, the end of the night. Would your alcohol consumption ultimately spiral out of control? Would you regret your choices the next morning? Feel disappointed in yourself for caving in?

Sobriety doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Summer gatherings and festivities can still be plenty enjoyable, even without alcohol. Wishing you all a safe and fun summer!