Recognizing the signs of alcohol is ruining your life could help you to kickstart your recovery before you develop an addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that 28.5 million people in the U.S. have alcohol use disorder. Alcohol ruins lives far beyond the lives of those drinking excessively, though.
Before we highlight some of the many ways in which drinking ruins lives, what does it mean to be alcoholic?
Is Alcohol Ruining Your Life?
Alcoholism is a non-clinical descriptor used to describe those with AUD (alcohol use disorder) and help them identify the signs of alcoholism.
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic and relapsing brain condition. Physicians and mental health professionals diagnose AUD as mild, moderate, or severe based on the diagnostic criteria in DSM-5-TR. You will be asked variations on the following eleven questions concerning your alcohol consumption over the previous year:
- Do you regularly drink more alcohol than planned or drink for longer than you intended?
- On more than one occasion, have you attempted to moderate or discontinue your use of alcohol?
- Are you spending large chunks of time drinking alcohol and recovering from the after-effects of drinking?
- Have you experienced intense cravings for alcohol?
- Are you starting to neglect your personal and professional obligations due to your patterns of alcohol consumption?
- Has tolerance formed so that you require more alcohol to achieve the same effects?
- Do you often consume alcohol in potentially dangerous situations like before driving?
- Are you spending less time doing things you once enjoyed so you can spend more time drinking?
- Have you experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking?
- Are you still drinking alcohol despite the problems it is causing with your family and closest relationships?
- Do you continue to drink alcohol even though it is inflaming a physical or mental health condition?
One of the things that makes alcohol use disorder tough to diagnose is that there are many variations on alcoholism.
A closet alcoholic, sometimes known as a high-functioning alcoholic, often hides the amount they drink from loved ones making it hard for others to help.
Those who are classified as heavy drinkers and those who participate in binge drinking sessions are displaying potentially abusive patterns of alcohol consumption associated with an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
Whatever form abusive patterns of alcohol take, they often lead to alcoholism. The progressive nature of this brain disease means the earlier you take action, the sooner you can embrace sober living and leave alcohol abuse behind.
15 Common Signs That Alcohol is Ruining Your Life
As you will see, many of the following red flags for problematic drinking are based on the criteria for alcohol use disorder. If you notice a cluster of the symptoms below, whether in yourself or a loved one, alcohol could already be well on its way to ruining your life.
- You frequently drink alone
- You are able to drink much more alcohol than before
- Alcohol abuse is triggering physical side effects
- Skin issues start developing and your skin loses its luster
- You are experiencing noticeable weight gain or weight loss
- You frequently experience alcohol-related blackouts
- Your alcohol consumption is impacting your mental health
- Drinking alcohol causes you to engage in reckless behaviors
- Your alcohol intake is creating problems in your relationships
- You spend less time with your friends because of alcohol abuse
- Alcohol abuse is causing you to neglect your personal and professional responsibilities
- You have experienced repeated alcohol-related legal problems
- Once you start drinking, you find it difficult to stop
- You conceal your alcohol consumption from loved ones
- Your friends and family comment on your alcohol intake
1) You frequently drink alone
If you have started to drink alcohol alone, this is one of the most prominent markers that a problem is developing.
Maybe you live alone and come home to a glass of wine after a hard day at work. This is not necessarily any cause for concern. If, on the other hand, you buy a bottle of liquor to consume alone, you have moved beyond social or recreational drinking.
Often, those who drink alcohol alone are self-medicating the symptoms of mental health issues.
2) You are able to drink much more alcohol than before
The sustained abuse of alcohol causes tolerance to build. When this occurs, your body becomes desensitized to the effects of alcohol, and you’ll need to drink more to achieve the same level of intoxication.
If you have noticed that you can drink much more alcohol than you used to, it might be time to evaluate your patterns of alcohol consumption.
3) Alcohol abuse is triggering physical side effects
Alcohol abuse causes both short-term and long-term physical effects. Chronic alcohol abuse can contribute to:
- Muscle cramps
- Liver damage
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers
The long-term abuse of alcohol can impact mortality.
If you are suffering from any adverse physical effects as a result of your alcohol intake, it could be time to reassess your drinking habits.
4) Skin issues start developing and your skin loses its luster
Drinking too much alcohol long-term can cause the skin to dry out due to the dehydrating properties of alcohol. In addition to dry skin, alcohol abuse can cause bloating and broken capillaries.
Rosacea can develop in those who chronically abuse alcohol. This skin condition leads to overall reddening of the complexion.
Although not directly caused by alcoholism, vitamin B deficiency in long-term alcoholics can trigger rhinophyma, a condition informally known as alcoholic nose.
5) You are experiencing noticeable weight gain or weight loss
Many people who drink alcohol abusively lose weight as alcohol assumes primacy and attention to nutrition slides.
Conversely, alcohol abuse causes some people to gain weight. Not only does consuming alcohol slow the metabolism, but it is filled with empty calories. Empty calories have no nutritional value but still lead to weight gain.
6) You frequently experience alcohol-related blackouts
If you frequently black out after drinking and experience memory loss, this suggests that your alcohol intake could already be creating problems. Drinking to the extent of blackout indicates an inability to control alcohol consumption and problems with decision-making.
7) Your alcohol consumption is impacting your mental health
Alcohol abuse is strongly associated with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Alcohol abuse can contribute to mental health disorders. Mental health disorders can also contribute to alcohol abuse, especially in the event of self-medication.
Whether you are drinking alcohol to cope with depression or anxiety, or whether you are experiencing new symptoms of a mental health condition, when alcohol starts impacting your mental well-being, you should strongly consider investigating your treatment options for both conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment will allow you to address both issues simultaneously.
8) Drinking alcohol causes you to engage in reckless behaviors
Excessive alcohol consumption disrupts your thought processes and also reduces your inhibitions. Resultantly, you may act differently than when you are sober.
If your alcohol intake is leading you to drive under the influence or to get into physical fights, this is a surefire sign that alcohol is beginning to ruin your life.
9) Your alcohol intake is creating problems in your relationships
Problematic patterns of drinking almost always lead to relationship problems developing. Behaviors associated with alcohol abuse typically lead to an erosion of trust. Addiction is a family disease.
If you feel your closest relationships are starting to suffer, it could be time to reexamine the role of alcohol in your life.
10) You spend less time with your friends because of alcohol abuse
If your social circle no longer contains any non-drinking friends and if you are routinely skipping events and activities where you would be unable to consume alcohol, your patterns of consumption are potentially already in the danger zone.
11) Alcohol abuse is causing you to neglect your personal and professional responsibilities
If you are struggling to fulfill your obligations at home, work, or school, this can cause other problems to develop.
Once alcohol abuse begins interfering with daily function, it’s time to consider engaging with treatment.
12) You have experienced repeated alcohol-related legal problems
Anyone experiencing regular alcohol-related legal issues should address this before drinking becomes a more serious problem. The quicker you commit to recovery, the less complicated treatment will be.
13) Once you start drinking, you find it difficult to stop
Do you find that once you have a few alcoholic drinks you find it almost impossible to stop drinking until you are intoxicated?
If so, this loss of control is one of the symptoms of alcohol use disorder.
14) You conceal your alcohol consumption from loved ones
Closet alcoholics hide their alcohol consumption from loved ones for many different reasons. If you are concealing your intake from your closest friends and family, alcohol is already exerting damaging effects on your life.
15) Your friend and family comment on your alcohol intake
Have your loved ones commented on the amount of alcohol you drink more than once?
Whether you accept that you have a problem with alcohol or you are in denial, if those closest to you flag your drinking habits, you should take a closer look yourself.
What To Do If You Recognize that Alcohol is Ruining Your Life
While alcohol use disorder is a chronic condition with no cure, evidence-based treatment typically generates positive outcomes. When alcoholism if left untreated, though, it will almost always get worse over time. Not only will your situation deteriorate, but your alcohol abuse will continue to negatively impact your loved ones.
Recovery from alcoholism starts with detoxification. Those with more severe alcohol use disorders would benefit from a supervised detox at a licensed medical detox center. Clinical and emotional care is on hand to minimize complications. Medications can be prescribed to reduce the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Don’t take the chance of a home detox as severe alcohol withdrawal – delirium tremens – can be dangerous and possibly deadly.
After a week or so, you will be ready to engage with ongoing treatment for alcohol use disorder. This can take the following forms:
- Inpatient rehab/residential rehab
- Outpatient rehab
- IOP (intensive outpatient program)
- PHP (partial hospitalization program)
- Remote rehab – virtual therapy
Whatever delivery method makes the best choice for you, treatment for alcohol use disorder involves a combination of MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and behavioral interventions.
The FDA approves three medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder – disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone. These medications can be effective during detox and also to promote ongoing abstinence from alcohol.
MAT is most beneficial when delivered alongside psychotherapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). Talk therapy sessions can help you to isolate what triggers you to abuse alcohol. A therapist can also guide you to create healthy coping mechanisms, better equipping you to deal with stress in everyday sober life.
If you feel that alcohol is ruining your life, take action today and investigate alcohol rehab near you. If you are looking for an alcohol rehab in California, reach out to Renaissance Recovery, we can get you the help you need.