Before I got sober, I had a voice inside me that alerted me to the fact that maybe, my drinking wasn’t normal. It was a slight whisper, letting me know that perhaps I was taking it too far. It was a quiet knowing that maybe what I was feeling was a troublesome relationship with alcohol. Personally, I was too scared to explore it. I didn’t want to know if my relationship with alcohol was out of control. I didn’t want to consider that I might need to cut back or stop. Plus, I wasn’t sure how to go about initially evaluating how I consumed alcohol.
A simple search on the internet will bring you to some drinking tests, as well as characteristics on moderate, heavy, and binge drinking. These can be somewhat intimidating or disheartening at best. Worst case scenario, these intrusive methods may cause you to believe the worst about yourself. In rare cases, maybe they’ll make you seek help.
Luckily, we now live in a world where there are more recovery resources than ever, which mean more chances to do just that, think about your relationship to alcohol and how it’s affecting your life. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and begin to do that.
Consider how has moderation worked for you?
If you’re on the cusp of exploring your alcohol consumption I ask you to please consider how moderating has worked for you. If you’re thinking, “well I’ve never officially moderated,” then I challenge you to think of the ways in which you’ve ever changed your drinking. Write these down. If you have ever initiated a self-imposed a days, or months-long break, or told yourself you’re only going to drink beer instead of liquor, or limited yourself to two drinks instead of 5 or more, or if you’ve limited the amount of hours or days a week you drink, think about why you had to do it. First, do you believe someone who is fulfilled and happy with their alcohol relationship must impose limits? Second, how long did these limits work? Did you have to change them again? Were you left feeling more satisfied or more frustrated? How much of your brain space and thought patterns did moderation take up?
Be honest, how do you feel the day after drinking?
I know that not everyone feels hungover after drinking. In fact, many people brag about the copious amounts of alcohol they drink and how they don’t have a hangover afterwards. That’s why my question isn’t just about how you feel physically after drinking (although yes, that’s important), it’s also about how you feel mentally and spiritually. Do you feel less motivated? Do you feel lethargic? Do you feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, or tired? Do you feel lost, like you’ve wasted time or time has gotten away from you? Feeling unsettled after drinking can mean that drinking just isn’t worth your time anymore. It can be a good indicator that alcohol isn’t helping you get where you want to go.
Have the negative consequences of your drinking surpassed the positive outcomes?
So many people I know try incredibly hard to keep alcohol in their lives. They tend to downplay negative consequences that may have happened as a result of alcohol. Of course, dramatic outcomes like legal trouble, spending time in jail, getting a DUI, losing your job, or your house are marks of a drinking problem, there are other consequences that matter. Have you let down a friend or family member? Have you cheated on a spouse or significant other? Have you said things you wish you hadn’t said? Have you hurt someone or yourself? Have you missed an important date or event, or were you not fully present because of alcohol? As a sober person I struggle to see many positive outcomes of drinking alcohol. I believe any positives can be achieve through a sober life as well. I encourage you to write down the pros and cons of drinking and see how they measure up. You might be surprised at how little positives come with keeping alcohol in your life.
How does thinking about a life without alcohol make you feel?
Piggybacking off a decreased number of positives from drinking alcohol, I want you to ask yourself, how does thinking about a life without alcohol make you feel? I can tell you how it made me feel just before I got sober. It filled me with anxiety and fear. I felt like there was no way I could live a normal, fun, and interesting life without alcohol. I now know that belief kept me drinking for many years. If you have similar beliefs, or you think you need alcohol to experience certain life events or milestones, I encourage you to think about why this is. I encourage you to find people who are sober and living a life free from these expectations of life fulfillment via substances. This is how you can evaluate how big of a role alcohol plays in your life.
Understand this: alcohol is harmful even in small amounts.
Last year a study published in the journal The Lancet suggested that no amount of drinking alcohol is safe. Any previous assertations that moderate drinking was good for heart health have been overshadowed by the countless ways that alcohol threatens health. The World Cancer Research Fund also released a report that said in terms of cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol, because the substance is the cause of at least 7 forms of cancer. The promises alcohol does make – as a de-stressor or social lubricant, just to name a few, aren’t worth the damage it is able to do. To begin evaluating your relationship with alcohol, it’s important to know and understand these facts. Alcohol is a drug and it’s not needed to live a healthy and happy life.
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterPartyMagazine. She is currently writing a memoir.