The rule of thumb to the question of “When can I tell if my drinking is a problem?” is usually that as soon as you start thinking that it may be a problem, it probably already is problematic. Most people, at least in the American culture, have to justify their use of alcohol, even when someone isn’t becoming intoxicated.
It isn’t uncommon to hear people attest to the fact that they only drink two glasses of wine a day because they have read that two glasses is good for one’s heart. Those professionals who have work with recovering alcoholics will tell you that problem drinking could have been identified years before it came to light for the alcoholic.
To really answer this question so that others can more closely evaluate their use of this drug (yes, alcohol is certainly a drug and a very addictive one, as well) is to say that if you are concerned about the amount that you are drinking, then that is ample reason to have an objective professional alcoholism determine if it is a problem or is about to become a serious problem.
There are numerous research articles that identify the stages of alcoholism. These can be useful in evaluating one’s drinking, but these stages are not a flawless diagnostic tool.
Problem drinking is usually divided into four stages, alcoholism with the first stage being when drinking is no longer a part of one’s social interaction, but is a means to escape emotional pain, problems and inhibitions.
The second stage is usually characterized by the “need” for a drink. A person begins to notice that they are building a tolerance for alcohol and they are drinking more to get the same affect. At this stage, the drinker isn’t easing emotional problems, but is drinking because he feels a dependency for alcohol and can’t function as well without it. At this stage you find relatives and other loved ones commenting on the fact that one is drinking too much. They are also experiencing more of the effects of hangovers or withdrawals by missing work and other important appointments.
In the third stage in this progression, you find the drinker has severe loss of control. This may be evidenced by being arrested for Driving Under the Influence or loosing one’s job because of the effects of drinking. At this stage the drinker will start avoiding relatives and friends that are usually worried about his drinking and are wanting him to face the reality of his situation.
During the forth stage of alcoholism, the drinker is having repeated binges and never quite recovering from one before he starts the next. At this stage it is no secret that the person has a severe drinking problem. People at this stage experience physical signs of alcohol poisoning, such as quivering hands, etc.
It is true that there has never been an alcoholic who started drinking to get to the third of forth stage of addiction, alcoholism so if you are questioning is your drinking is a problem, it is time to see if you can cut it in half and not experience negative consequences from this reduction. If you start feeling better because you new use of alcohol is giving you less problems and you wish you had reduced it sooner, then you are smart to have taken notice and action and you will probably continue to have a “normal” relationship to alcohol.
If you feel that you can’t reduce your intake, then it is important to find a competent counselor that can evaluate your drinking from an objective point of view. The trick will be to give the counselor all of the truth about your drinking. Denial is very cunning and keeps many who need help thinking that they are just fi