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Your relationship with alcohol: good, bad or ugly?

Our relationship with alcohol can change over time. Toxic relationships with alcohol are common, so how do we recognise the signs? 

Most of us have some type of relationship with alcohol: perhaps akin to a rarely seen acquaintance, a fond friend or toxic lover. Having a relationship with alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a substance use disorder, or a dependence on alcohol. But, when was the last time you reflected on your relationship with alcohol and the part it plays in your life? Often, we coast through the years without giving it a second thought, and when we stop and take stock, we can be quite shocked by the results. Ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Do you drink to avoid negative feelings or to create positive feelings? Realising that you need alcohol to either avoid stress or to provide a means to relax can be a sign that your relationship with it isn’t particularly healthy. When alcohol is being used to either create feelings, mute or avoid them, or to influence behaviours such as giving confidence to socialise or to help sleep, alcohol has become a tool to cope as opposed to a social drinking buddy.  
  1. Do you continue to drink despite experiencing negative consequences?   
  1. You can’t sleep and you’re irritable? The hangovers are becoming more frequent but you’re still reaching for a drink at the end of the day? You know that moderating your alcohol intake will positively affect your health and wellbeing but it’s hard to say “No”. 
  1. Have people close to you commented on your drinking or suggested that you cut down? Developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol is generally something that is slipped into. It may be the case that we don’t recognise that it is becoming unhealthy until it is pointed out to us. At this stage it is likely that drinking alcohol has become a habit that you don’t consciously think about.   
  1. Do you drive home from work thinking about the glass of wine with dinner or needing to pop to the shop on the way home to pick up a bottle in case there’s none at home? Constantly thinking about alcohol can be a sign that it’s time to take an honest look at your relationship with it.   
  1. Do you find yourself lacking in motivation? Are you cancelling plans with friends or finding that you have little motivation in an evening to do anything other than sit down with your favourite tipple? If so, you may be prioritising alcohol a little too much. Consider the role that alcohol is playing and how it makes you feel? Do you feel the desired effects from alcohol or does it leave your head heavy?   
  1. Are you drinking on your own at home or in secret? Secretive drinking is a sign that your relationship with alcohol is tipping into the not-so-healthy category. If you’re avoiding drinking around people because they’ve commented on your drinking behaviours, it could be a sign that you are more committed to your relationship with alcohol than is healthy. 
  1. How do you feel when you don’t drink or cut down? Feeling rubbish the day after drinking might just be the “normal” hangover experience for you. However, it could be something more. If you’ve gradually increased your drinking over time, it is likely that you have started to build up a tolerance to alcohol and without it, may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms.   

Drinking alcohol to excess causes a strain on our bodies, mental health and personal relationships. It can lead to long term health problems. Reducing our intake benefits our health and wellbeing.   

If you, or someone else, has been worried about your drinking, talk to your GP. They can offer you information about cutting down and accessing help in your area. 


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