Scared you're drinking too much?
Anxiety and alcohol use often go hand in hand. From an early age many of us are conditioned by peers and the prevailing culture to use drink as a 'social lubricant,' to take the edge off nerves when socialising. This is rarely a problem when drinking is kept within safe limits, but regular overindulgence can lead to a raft of problems. Losing control of our bodies and minds when under the influence of drink can lead to embarrassing episodes which lowers self-esteem and causes anxiety levels to rise. Physical symptoms, from abdominal pain or swelling to general fatigue and weakness, may cause worry about liver damage and this can worsen the problem as drink is used to mask this nagging fear.
If you are even considering the possibility that you might be drinking too much, this is a strong indicator that you probably are. Other warning sides include:
Changing your drinking habits (e.g. drinking at home whereas you used to only drink when going out).
An increase in your weekly alcohol consumption.
Switching to stronger alcoholic drinks.
Losing the ability to limit the amount you drink.
Justifying your indulgence (e.g. “I deserve a drink because I've had a hard week at work.”)
Next time you feel anxious, before reaching for the bottle try to recognise and use your fear to tackle your concerns. If you are worried about your health, book an appointment with your GP to get your liver checked out. Ask for advice about cutting down your drinking safely and how to deal with withdrawal symptoms. If you have children, it can help to remind yourself that you owe it to them to look after yourself. If you are using drink as a reward for hard work, try substituting it for something else (e.g. a relaxing bath or a massage).
Internet forums can be an easy way to reach out to and connect with other people in your situation, though you should not substitute peer support, valuable as it is, for medical advice and professional counselling. Other people's experiences are never quite the same as our own and what works for some people may be ineffective – or even dangerous – for others.
If you find that you are struggling to cope with your feelings of anxiety, loneliness, shame or self-loathing and are becoming stuck in a cycle of alcohol dependence, you should seek suitably qualified help as soon as possible. An effective therapist will never judge you on what has gone before but will cut to the chase of your issues and work on moving you to a happier healthier future.