St. Louis, July 2021 – It sounds like a simple question. How do I know if I have a drinking problem? But as the medical team at INSynergy can tell you, there is no simple answer to that all too common question. The answer is different for different people.
“There is a lot of acceptability with drinking so that line of when is it a problem is much more shaded,” says Ashley Halker, INSynergy’s Director of Operations. “Your rock bottom may not be you are sleeping under a bridge, under the freeway. It might be that your wife is having an argument with you. Or that you are about ready to have a divorce. Or you might lose your job.”
Halker emphasized that a person doesn’t need to hit rock bottom before getting help and that alcoholism can be identified by a wide variety of symptoms. The INSynergy team has seen them all.
“People have defense mechanisms designed to make psychological pain go away,” says Doctor Arturo Taca, Medical Director of INSynergy “So what we see is a lot of denial.”
Doctor Taca says patients have a litany of rationalizations they will use to defend drinking that is causing them a problem. While a patient may have a variety of excuses for continuing to drink, doing so may only compound their problems.
“It may be very well defended (in the patients mind),” says Dr. Taca. “They may not be aware that life is crumbling around them.”
Halker suggested an alternate question that people should ask themselves is what is the personal price of their drinking? What is it costing them?
“If you are suffering, there is hope to get through it,” Halker said. “You don’t have to hit rock bottom.”
Recognizing the consequences of your drinking can help. The fact is that drinking can cause sleep issues. Drinking can fuel anxiety. Drinking can cause a series of problems with relationships within your life that may be too high a price to pay.
“If you feel you can’t go to sleep without drinking, if you have anxiety about going to sleep,” Halker said you might have a problem.
Sometimes others in our lives help identify the problem.
“It could be that it is pointed out by someone else,” Halker said. “Whether it be your boss, your parents, your kids.”
An answer might come from self-realization after reflecting on your behavior.
“It could be you look over the past two weeks and you notice ‘I haven’t had an evening when I haven’t (had a drink),” Halker said.
Alcoholism makes everyday life a struggle. While quitting drinking may be the answer, unsupervised withdrawal from alcohol can be life threatening for the heaviest drinkers.
Some of the signs you might have a serious issue with drinking include anxiety, insomnia, vomiting, nausea, elevated blood pressure, depression, weakness, shaking, seizures and in severe causes hallucinations.
“Once you are having physical withdrawal symptoms your body is telling you that this is enough,” Halker said. “This is a problem.”
If you find it hard to get through the day without a drink, you probably have a problem.
“The pandemic hasn’t helped with this either,” Halker said. “It is easier to get alcohol because you can have it delivered to your house, it is easier to have a cocktail at lunch because you are not going somewhere. You are not checking in.”
There are an estimated 16 million people in the United States today with an alcohol use disorder that are not being treated. A recent study by Washington University found that only one in ten alcoholics who regularly see a doctor ever get treatment.
So how do you know if you have a drinking problem? The answer is in the question itself.
“The minute you even have to ask that question, then that is when you need to do it,” says Bruce, an INSynergy program Alumni who has been in recovery for years. “If you have that battle inside your mind then it is time to go and at least find out where you need to be.”
The medical staff at INSynergy are ready to help you find the help you need.
“If you are suffering, there is hope to get through it,” Halker says. “And there is a way to get well, it is going to be work, it is going to be hard, but the results of that, the payout, is gigantic.”