It’s likely that you may know someone with an alcohol problem. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million adults in the United States have alcohol use disorder, which is diagnosed when someone’s drinking leads to “distress or harm.” It includes both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. But how can you tell if someone you love is in need of help? And what if that someone is you? The following scenarios illustrate the all-too-common symptoms. If you see yourself or someone you know in these vignettes, consult with a medical and/or mental health professional to manage the condition and recover.
LYING, HIDING AND COVERING UP DRINKING
You find yourself too embarrassed to throw your empty wine bottles away in the kitchen. Because what if your roommate or partner found out how much you’re drinking? So you hide them around your bedroom — a bottle or two per night. Perhaps after a few months, one of your roommates notices a stench in the apartment and follows her nose to your bedroom. While you’re at work one day, your roommate finds 13 dirty, empty bottles under your bed and 16 more in your closet — shoved in boots, pockets, behind clothes and anywhere else you could conceal them.
OBSESSIVE THINKING ABOUT DRINKING
You can’t stop thinking about drinking. Even during your busiest days of work, you spend much of your time contemplating which bar you’ll go to after work. While at the gym, you find yourself thinking about how much you’d rather be at home sipping on a nice glass of Scotch. And it’s not unusual for you to skip your workouts and go home to do just that. Even during sex, your mind is fixed on how you can slip downstairs after your partner is asleep and have another shot before bed.
LOSING YOUR TEMPER OR VIOLENT BEHAVIOR
You come home early from work one day, lived and swearing about your boss and job. As your partner tries to calm you down and listen to your story, she realizes you’re drunk. She doesn’t want you to wake the baby sleeping in the next room, so she goes into the nursery to attend to him. Your rage escalates as you follow her, demanding she listens to you about how you were fired by your boss, jerking her arms back and pinning her up against the wall while the baby wails.
FREQUENTLY BLACKING OUT
You wake up (with increasing frequency, it seems) in a strange bed in yet another house that’s not yours with a hangover and a lot of unanswered questions. Did you have a date last night? What was his name? Where was the date? Where did you go after? Did you have sex? Was the sex safe?
HAVING TO DEAL WITH LEGAL ISSUES
You can’t decide what hurt more: the handcuffs or the sound of your father’s voice on the other end of the phone as you place a call to your parents at 4 a.m. from the local police precinct. You knew it was stupid. You were only two miles from home when you left the party. You thought that if you drove really slowly you’d make it. Your father simply says: “You’re on your own this time.” A new reality spreads over you as the officer leads you to an overcrowded holding cell for the night. There’s no getting out of this DUI. You’re still on probation for the first one.