When it comes to alcohol, how much is too much? Do you know your limits? This month during Alcohol Awareness Week, and in this two part blog post, experienced alcohol and addictions therapist Rick Maczka will give you practical information on how to find out if you actually do have problems with alcohol… and if so, what you can do about it?
Why do people drink alcohol? And when do problems with alcohol begin?
There are many reasons why people drink alcohol… many find it to be a relaxant or part of a social ritual, with group acceptance as an added comfort. Drinking can give some a way to open up, as inhibitions are lost as a result of a part of the brain shutting down. Sometimes drinking is a way of seemingly gaining confidence, better known as “Dutch courage.” Yet there are some people who have found that alcohol has ruined their lives. This may happen by a slow creeping addiction, when intoxication provides an immediate escape from problems. This then leads to inability to face and resolve issues and what follows is often difficulties at work, job loss, family and relationship problems, withdrawal from social life and so it goes on.
Statistically, many people are unwilling to admit that alcohol problems are a great social problem nationally in the UK, yet in 2011 nearly 200,000 admissions to hospital were alcohol related and a near 50% increase from 2002 was observed
Problems… what alcohol problems?
Are you concerned that you or someone you know may have problems with alcohol? Ask yourself the following questions… these are some of the signs and symptoms which may point towards a drink problem or even alcoholism:
- Is alcohol a regular feature in your life? Do you find you drink whenever the opportunity arises?
- Alcohol consumption over a week is recommended to be on average 14 units for women and 21 units for men (the number of units per bottle or can is given on the side of most if not all alcoholic drinks). Do you regularly consume more than the mentioned averages in a weekend, even if these are several weekends apart?
- Is it impossible to have just one drink?
- Do you find you have a habit of reading the percentage proof or per volume of alcohol when buying drink?
- Does thinking of stopping drinking bring sorrow or some anxiety?
- Is your first reaction to stress or even a celebration, to have a drink?
- Do you find others comment on your behaviour after you have been drinking?
- Have you ever had a relationship end due to drinking?
- Do you shake when not having had a drink?
- Has alcohol ever led to you missing days from work?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you might want to talk to your doctor.
Whose problem is it? What if your loved one has a suspected drink problem?
If you feel someone close to you has problems with alcohol you may been met with the classic denial. Or even a shock response – “how could you think that way of me?”… especially about what they consider to be fun or just letting off steam. If someone is in denial, it will often take something of major significance for them to consider waking up to the idea that they do have a problem with drinking.
Approaches that can be taken are to firstly calmly talk through their behaviour and what they are like when they are drinking. Advise that they talk to someone about their consumption of alcohol, the amounts involved and how it is affecting them. Give the person useful information such as links to a website or leaflets from a treatment centre
Using emotional blackmail, ultimatums or withdrawal of contact may only work in the very short term. The thing to remember is it’s their problem, and they are the one who truly has to make the change. They need to take responsibility. You can provide encouragement and a promise of a better quality of life in the future for them when they stop their drinking or at least seek help. A true long lasting change will only happen when someone is truly self-motivated.
An important consideration, if the person with the problem is close to you, is whether you are enabling or supporting their drinking. If you truly want to help them, then stop giving them money, and certainly never buy them alcohol.
Each drinker needs to reach their own rock bottom and this is variable from person to person. For some it may mean recognising that having a hangover every day at the weekend, and taking another day after that to recover is enough. For others unfortunately, reaching a rock bottom may mean losing friends and family. Sometimes change does require a tough love approach. For me, one turning point in giving up my own addictions was when my family no longer welcomed me into their homes and under no circumstances would give me money. After years of being clean of drugs, trust has returned and we all enjoy positive trustful relationships.
The Solution to Problems with Alcohol
My view and many others is that alcohol is a drug, although a legal one at that. The devastation to mental health, and physical health, as well as families is seen time and time again. A change needs to take place in our culture. The right methods to bring about this cultural change have not yet been employed. We are seeing in statistics awareness of drinking as a problem growing, yet at a faster rate the negative impact of drinking and binge drinking. Prohibition fails, past evidence lies in the USA and current evidence is the state of drug usage worldwide.
So what is the solution? It’s more than education – it is about providing support and voice to all about dealing with life’s pressures. No family, rich or poor, is beyond being affected by alcohol. Each family needs guidance and support in being the best they can be. Personal development, family by family, a chance to learn skills that make a difference in communication, a place to talk openly and free of negative judgement are all of high importance.
I myself began treating alcoholism and addictions back in 1994 whilst working in a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre in Norwich. I continued to work almost entirely in the field of addictions for five years. In my next article I will share some key observations on treating addictions using hypnotherapy and NLP techniques, provide some handy tips for cutting down on alcohol intake, and finally, how to address alcoholism for oneself and others.
A Warning about Problems with Alcohol
Firstly if you consider yourself to be an alcoholic or have a problem that involves regular drinking you must seek medical advice, get a health check and be wary of stopping immediately. One in 10 will die from either a heart attack, or from a brain haemorrhage if stopping without medical intervention. Help is available and many people do stop drinking by choice or by having to, due to health risks.
If you would like further advice from Rick Maczka about problems with Alcohol, Rick provides a free 10/20 min consultation to assess how you may be best helped by his services. Rates are £85 or £75 or £65 per session (normally an hour) or negotiable for some therapies and with consideration to some people’s income and needs.