When you visit the doctor, how do you answer that question on the medical history form about how many alcoholic drinks you have each week? Are you honest? Do you round downwards? Or maybe you just lie outright and say that you only have two or three glasses of wine a week — when in reality it’s more like five or six glasses every night?
At the heart of those queries are other, fundamental questions that many people have asked themselves: How much do alcoholics drink? How much booze is too much? Am I an alcoholic?
There aren’t any easy answers to these questions, but you are to be commended for asking them nonetheless. Read on to learn about the warning signs of addiction and what to do if you believe it’s got a hold on you.
How Much Do Alcoholics Drink? That’s a Tricky Question
Even if you have never been stopped by the cops, you’re probably aware that it’s common practice for a police officer to ask drivers “How many drinks have you had tonight?” Of course, they aren’t looking for a particular number — and lots of people lie, anyway.
Instead of gauging a person’s intoxication level based on a number, the police will use field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, or blood tests to determine how intoxicated that person is.
That’s because alcohol tolerance varies widely. You might know someone who practically has to be put to bed after two glasses of wine. You might also have a friend who can drink everyone else under the table and still seem in full control.
One’s reaction to alcohol depends on their weight, their tolerance, whether they have an empty or full stomach, and plenty of other factors. So we can’t give you a hard-and-fast number that determines who is an alcoholic and who isn’t.
Some Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
It’s more useful to look at a person’s pattern of behavior when trying to determine whether or not they have a problem. Here are some indications that you might have an addiction.
- Drinking at inappropriate times — before going to work, for example, or while you’re at work
- Stockpiling booze in case you run out, or hiding booze
- Hiding empty bottles so that your spouse, roommate, or family can’t see how much you have drunk
- Lying about other aspects of your alcohol use
- Avoiding social situations where alcohol is not available, or bringing your own
- Being unable to stop drinking, even though you try to limit yourself
- Blacking out and losing time or memory because of your drinking
- Regularly calling in sick because of a hangover
- Needing higher quantities to achieve the same buzz
A lot of people who have a problem with drinking will deflect suspicion by joking about their alcohol intake, or by saying self-deprecating things. They might say that they aren’t an alcoholic “because alcoholics go to meetings, and drunks go to parties.”
The Financial Implications of Alcoholism
Drinking can be an expensive hobby. Plenty of people choose to “pregame” at home in order to save money on their bar tab or carry a flask for the same reason. But when an individual starts making the majority of their financial decisions based on alcohol, that’s a sign that there’s trouble afoot.
Some people skip dinner in order to spend the money on drinks. Hard-up alcoholics might hock their belongings to get cash, steal from friends or relatives, or even commit more serious crimes to fund their drinking.
When someone is intoxicated, they tend to make poor decisions about how they spend their money. Going over budget at the bar, spending money earmarked for bills on booze instead, or making irrational online purchases can all indicate that alcohol is taking over one’s life.
Interpersonal Relationships Can Be Affected Too
Another sure sign that your drinking has gotten out of control? You are losing friends because of it, or family members have expressed their concern.
Maybe you don’t want to hang out with these Debbie Downers anymore, or perhaps they’ve walked out of your life because they can’t stand to see you hurting yourself. It can be incredibly difficult to watch someone you love destroying her life.
In either case, you claim to be content on your own. Or you find new friends who party just as hard as you do.
Once You Have Owned up to Your Drinking
Do you recognize your own behavior or thought processes in these symptoms of alcoholism? If so, there are a couple of routes to take. You can go it alone and quit cold turkey, or maybe try to cut back on your drinking.
Maybe if you limit your boozing to the weekends, to after 7 p.m., or to beer instead of hard liquor. Maybe you can successfully complete Dryuary or give up alcohol for Lent.
That will prove to everyone — yourself included — that you’re not addicted. Right?
Unfortunately, these limits are bound to slip and slide over time. An especially bad day at the office finds you drinking on a Wednesday or accepting a shot “just this once.”
Extensive research, as well as anecdotal evidence, shows that getting help for your addiction is much more likely to be effective. Going to rehab or seeking treatment will help you discover the reasons you drink, face up to the damage you have done, and give you the tools and motivation to quit once and for all.
It’s clear that the answer to that age-old question, “how much do alcoholics drink?” isn’t a cut and dried one. Nor is it a particularly useful question to ask. You are far better off looking at your patterns of behavior and thought process surrounding alcohol.
Lastly, there’s some validity to the idea that if you have to ask whether or not you have a problem, you probably do. If a person’s relationship with alcohol is a healthy one, the idea that they could be addicted probably doesn’t even cross their mind.
Living a happy, fulfilling, and sober life is possible, and we can teach you how. Our addiction rehab centers in Pasadena, CA offer a compassionate, comprehensive path to sobriety. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.