Why Your Drinking Problem Doesn’t Affect Only You

Why Your Drinking Problem Doesnt Affect Only You

At first, alcohol is fun, and there’s no doubt about that. For as long as we can remember, we’ve had ties to alcohol, and we’ve come up with countless ways to brew and prepare it. But it’s still a poison to the human body and, in the end of the day, not at all good for us. However, responsible drinking is every adult’s right, and aside from potentially cutting a few years off a person’s total lifespan, the odd amount of booze from occasion to occasion is not necessarily a death sentence.

But it is harmful. And in larger amounts, it is particularly dangerous. Alcohol use remains to be a problem across all ages, among men and women alike, both in the form of binge drinking and in the form of the more serious alcohol use disorder. But if it’s every person’s right to drink as much as they legally want to, one might ask: what’s wrong with drinking a little more than most?

The answer is that even without addiction, alcohol is a damaging substance that can lead to pain and anguish not only for yourself, but for those around you – particularly if you have a ‘drinking problem’.


What is a Drinking Problem?

A drinking problem is not a medical diagnosis. Alcohol is heavily involved in medical diagnoses, and there is a long list of alcohol-related diseases and causes of death. But a ‘drinking problem’ is a more loosely defined set of behaviors related to dangerous levels of alcohol use, including:

  • Lying about your alcohol use to others.
  • Regularly drinking more than you intended to.
  • Struggling to sleep or relax without a ‘nightcap’.
  • Being forgetful and struggling with blackouts.

Any serious negative consequences caused by drinking too much alcohol constitute for a drinking problem, particularly if you ignore these consequences and keep drinking anyway.

While you are legally allowed to drink as you see fit (with some constraints, such as public intoxication), it’s important to note that there’s a moral cost to drinking much more than you should. It isn’t ‘gluttony’, but rather, the cost of knowing that your behavior is affecting others negatively.

Due to the physical and mental effects of high alcohol use, a drinking problem can lead to:

  • Relationship issues.
    Mood changes and outbursts.
  • Forgetting important things.
  • Putting others in danger due to inappropriate behavior or intoxication.
  • Putting yourself in danger.
  • Accruing vast medical bills and debt due to alcohol-related disease.


What If You Can’t Stop? 

A drinking problem becomes an addiction when you try to stop but can’t. Drinking problems vary in definition and severity, from drinking more than is usually recommended by a medical professional, to suffering from frequent blackouts or other side effects as a result of your drinking. Yet while these habits and their negative consequences are one part of the equation, what differentiates a drinking problem from alcohol use disorder is the inability to stop using the drug.

That is very simply tested – by going sober for a length of time. Drinking problems are problems not just for those who have them, but for those they love and care about – maintaining a drinking habit is expensive, and it has a seriously damaging impact on your physical, mental, and even your social health. But addiction is a very different and very severe beast. When you find out that you can’t cut the booze from life, it becomes terrifyingly easy to be overwhelmed by it.

But contrary to what some might believe, you don’t need to spiral out of control and have a moment of stark realization to get sober and stay sober. The rock bottom is not a prerequisite for addiction treatment – showing up to get treated is.

It’s not always on you, or about you – the motivation to get sober is often lacking in people who struggle with drug use and addiction because that is how the brain works, heavy drug use (including alcohol) deals serious damage to several different parts of the brain, including the parts that are dedicated to things like motivation, reward, and pleasure. As evidenced by the many deaths caused by addiction and drug use every year, it’s not easy to treat an addiction.


How is Addiction Treated?

It takes a lot of help from those around us, be they professionals, our new sober friends, or our old friends and loving family. Or, ideally, all of the above. On days when you really need a drink, you need a support network to remind you why that isn’t something you should do. And that way, you can make those days more and more scarce through treatment. It’s not easy to treat an addiction – but it can be treated. 

Time is an important factor – particularly, how much of it you spend sober. As research has shown us, the brain is quite malleable in a sense that its experiences help shape it both physically and psychologically. Our mind is very much influenced by things around us, to the degree that high levels of stress or trauma actually cause physical changes in the brain that help reinforce these experiences, like scarred tissue on a different organ.

The brain reacts to heavy drug use by warping in a certain way, no longer responding to old forms of pleasure and relying on the stimulus provided by intense highs. The lack of these highs can cause withdrawal, as the body struggles to normalize and return to a sober state despite the changes made by heavy drug use – in some cases, withdrawal can be the result of experiencing all the damage drug use has wrought without the distracting euphoria of continued use.

But the brain can heal, to a degree, and to do so the body must completely metabolize any remaining drugs and go through the withdrawal process, then refuse the alcohol until it slowly becomes easier, both psychologically and physically, to be sober. That process takes longer for some than for others, and there are many different ways to help it along – from sober living homes, to specialized therapy, alternative treatments, medication, and more.