Now is a good time for all of us to think about how alcohol may be affecting our health. Even if we consider ourselves ‘social drinkers’ without a clear dependence, we may have a pattern of regular alcohol use – or abuse – that has a negative effect on our relationships with family, friends, or employer.
Alcoholism goes a dangerous step beyond alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is associated with:
- a craving for alcohol
- inability to control our drinking in a given situation
- withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea, sweating and shaking) following a bout of heavy drinking and
- the need to drink great amounts of alcohol, over time, to get “high”
- Keep track of how you drink. Making note of each drink before you have it may help you slow down.
- Pace yourself when you drink. Sip slowly, and limit yourself to no more than one drink with alcohol per hour. Make every other drink a “drink spacer” – water, soda or juice.
- Eat food when you drink so that the alcohol is absorbed into your system more slowly.
- Find alternatives to drinking, such as healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships, or renewing relationships you have missed.
- Avoid “triggers” that prompt you to drink. If certain people or places make you drink when you don’t want to, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something to do other than drinking. Speaking of that, don’t smoke or go in places where there’s smoking, because smoking is often a trigger to drink.
- Know how to say “no”. Have a polite, convincing “no thanks” ready when someone offers you a drink you don’t want or shouldn’t have. The faster you say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in. Whatever strategies you choose to curb your alcohol habit, give them a fair trial. If you feel you’re not making progress after two or three months, then consider quitting altogether. To accomplish that, you may need the help of a physician or other health professional.
- Another valuable resource is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which can be reached from the Health Power Resource Directory for Minority Health.