Exploring Your Relationship With Alcohol

exploring your relationship with alcohol
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When was the last time you explored the role drinking plays in your life? If your answer is “I’m not sure,” it might be time to take a step back and reflect on whether or not you’re happy with your relationship with alcohol. 

Being mindful of this relationship requires honesty and courage about how alcohol impacts your health, relationships, work, and other social obligations. It also requires kindness and compassion and a willingness to reach out for help if you uncover any underlying issues. With that in mind, here are some things to consider as you move forward on this journey.

Where to Start

Sometimes, we have questions or concerns about our relationship with alcohol, but we’re not sure where to turn for answers or if a problem even exists. An excellent place to start, at least on your own, is with a quiz. Designed as a quick, at-home assessment, a quiz can help you evaluate if drinking is getting in the way of your happiness or other aspects of your life.

You can expect to answer questions about the number of times you drink alcohol in a week, if you’ve ever tried to quit drinking, how you deal with cravings, how you feel after drinking, and more. If the results indicate any issues, it might be time to ask yourself about the role alcohol plays in your life. Often, this journey begins with a better understanding of alcohol use disorder.

Understanding Risks

Being able to identify the types of alcohol problems will help you have a better understanding of your relationship with drinking. Separate from alcoholism or alcohol dependence, alcohol use disorder is characterized by problem drinking that becomes severe, eventually leading to adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

This can include binge drinking, which for males, is defined as consuming five or more standard-sized drinks during one drinking session, and females, four or more standard-sized drinks during one drinking session. If excess drinking continues to progress, you risk moving to severe alcohol use disorder, which can lead to alcohol dependence or alcoholism.

That said, it’s important to note that not all problem drinkers are alcoholics. In general, someone who is a “problem drinker” doesn’t necessarily need medical treatment, intervention, or peer group support to quit. That’s why knowing how much alcohol is too much is critical. For men, moderate drinking is defined as consuming up to two drinks per day, and for women, it’s up to one drink per day.

Modification Tips

If you have concerns about your relationship with alcohol, you might be wondering how to modify your drinking without stopping completely. One place to start is with your doctor, who can help you come up with a plan.

For some people, this could lead to exploring the sober curious movement. While not necessarily a direct path to quitting, being sober curious means you choose to think more consciously about the decision to drink rather than mindlessly consuming alcohol as part of the drinking culture. 

Joining the sober curious movement or modifying drinking habits is a lot easier if you have the tools to do so. The good news is you can still go out with friends and socialize when you’re trying to cut back. To make things easier, especially at first, try to choose places that don’t serve alcohol. Once you start to feel comfortable in social situations without a drink in your hand, the next step is to prepare yourself for people’s reactions.

Being able to say no to alcohol when you don’t want to drink, requires a few simple phrases you can say in a pinch. One-liners like “I’m driving,” “No, thanks, I just finished one,” and “I’ve had my limit for tonight,” can help you avoid giving in to the pressure to drink when you’re trying to cut back. And finally, talk with your friends about your decision and ask for support. You might be surprised by their reaction. 

Sobriety Support

If drinking is now part of your past, there are steps you can take to stay sober and avoid a relapse. Although ditching old routines such as drinks after work or get-togethers with alcohol is a step in the right direction, you also need to develop new habits. Now that you’re sober, it might be time to make new friends.

Building healthy relationships with people who don’t drink not only helps you steer clear of alcohol, but it also gives you an opportunity to expand your friendship base. Adopting an exercise program, joining a support group, or talking with a mental health professional are all excellent ways to stay sober. 

Establishing new routines that don’t involve alcohol can lead to better physical, mental, and emotional health. Physical benefits such as improved sleep, better-looking skin, and a healthier weight are some of the first changes you may notice.

There’s also a good chance you’ll feel less anxious, depressed, or fatigued. Plus, the longer you go without alcohol in your system, the more likely you’ll experience continued improvements to your health. 

A Word From Verywell

Taking an honest look at your relationship with alcohol is not easy, but for many of us, it is necessary. If unpacking all of this on your own is causing excess stress or anxiety, consider asking an expert for help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

By Sara Lindberg, M.Ed
Sara Lindberg, M.Ed., is a freelance writer focusing on mental health, fitness, nutrition, and parenting.