A disclaimer before I begin this piece, I enjoy a drink. A glass of wine with a friend or a few vodkas on a big night out is a part of my life, as enjoying a few drinks each week is a part of many people’s lives. This column is not about a drink or two enjoyed occasionally and socially. It is not even about enjoying a glass or two of wine each night over dinner. This column is about drinking habits that are negatively impacting on your relationships, your health and ultimately your life. And unfortunately this is the type of drinking that we see far too often in Australia – ½ a case or a bottle or more on a daily basis that is not helping you to relax and unwind like you are telling yourself it is, it is serving as a crutch and escape from the real issue.
From a health perspective, excessive alcohol consumption causes two main issues – the first is that alcohol is relatively high in calories and hence it is easy to gain weight when we drink too much. Individuals who drink too much alcohol over many years often develop an alcohol fat apron around the abdominal area – for women this can make them appear pregnant, while for men a hard packed solid mass which is exceptionally hard to budge. The other issue, which is perhaps the worse of the two, is that excessive alcohol consumption results in disinhibit ion and lethargy - you do and say things you should not, far less gets done, mood is impeding and basically you function at a much lower level than you could be at any point in time. Occasionally this is no issue but on a daily basis, this pattern of behaviour starts to destroy lives.
You know the stories – couples fighting after one partner have drunk too much again, someone passed out in front of the television at 9pm, the aggressive and non-personable behaviours that can almost be 100% attributed to drinking too much. And alcohol and the perception of escaping pain and stress that it offers becomes a habit very, very quickly. What started as a twice a week habit is now a nightly one, in double the amounts that you once consumed. As you are used to now drinking this much it seems normal to you, once it starts to affect your health, your daily performance and your relationships, it is a problem and a problem that needs to be looked at more closely.
Signs that alcohol may be an issue in your life are as follows – if you cannot go a night without a drink, if you regularly pass out after a few drinks or if you cannot remember the night before, it is time to take action. One option that works for many is a complete break from alcohol – sometimes all that we need is a period without the substance whether it be a particular food or in this case alcohol to remind us of how much we are actually consuming and have become reliant on. If though the issue is bigger than this it is time to get professional help, as our lives and relationships are far too precious to be lost over beers or a cheap bottle of wine.