Birthday parties. Baseball games. Business dinners. It’s a rare event that doesn’t involve alcohol in some way. With drinking so prevalent in our society, it can be hard to determine if a loved one’s alcohol consumption has crossed the line to alcoholism…but there are signs you can watch for.
What are the Red Flags?
If you suspect someone is struggling with alcoholism, keep an eye out for the following scenarios:
- Sign #1 An Empty Calendar
Terri’s calendar used to be filled with activities. Every day, she was at a sporting event, or an exercise class, or some kind of craft fair. Lately, however, she seemed to have lost interest in all of it. When her sister finally confronted Terri about it, she said she simply didn’t have time for those things anymore. But her sister noticed she hadn’t replaced the activities with anything else, so how could she not have time? In truth, Terri has given up the activities she used to enjoy so she can drink instead.
- Sign #2 Collateral Damage
Tom missed several days of work last month because he felt too hungover to make it into the office. The boss even warned Tom that his attendance must improve if he wanted to remain employed. Tom also missed his daughter’s last three soccer games because he was either too drunk to remember, completely passed out, or hungover. Tom knew the disappointment his daughter (and wife) felt. Tom also knew his boss was serious about the threat to fire him. Despite destroying his career and family ties, Tom continued his pattern of alcohol use.
- Sign #3 Physical Effects
Christine wasn’t feeling great. She felt sick to her stomach; she was sweaty and shaky. Christine also seemed anxious for no apparent reason. Her husband, Victor, wondered what was wrong. He worried she was coming down with the flu or something, but in reality, he was on the wrong track. It was Wednesday. His wife hadn’t had anything to drink since Monday night at dinner. Victor didn’t realize his wife had been drinking so heavily that she was now experiencing withdrawal. Christine’s symptoms of feeling sick, sweaty, shaky, and anxious are common withdrawal symptoms.
- Sign #4 Lies, Lies, Lies
Holly went to the kitchen to get a beer, but they were all gone. She bought a case of beer two short days ago – now they were out? Holly immediately asked her husband about the missing brews. He said a couple of his buddies stopped over while she was out running errands, so they each drank a few. The problem with his story? It was a lie. Holly’s husband drank them all…alone. Not wanting to face a growing pattern of heavy drinking, he lied in a desperate effort to conceal his dependency.
- Sign #5 Leaning on a Liquid Crutch
Toby was concerned about his best friend, Chris. He knew Chris had gone through a lot lately – losing his dad to cancer, changing jobs, totaling his car. Each time something happened, Toby tried to offer support, but Chris wouldn’t accept help. He simply drank. At the end of every work day, Chris went to the bar to “de-stress.” When Toby suggested Chris might want to see a counselor to address the grief he felt for his dad, Chris told him he didn’t need a shrink – he had Jack Daniels. In that moment, Toby realized Chris was using alcohol as an escape to “relieve” stress and “solve” his problems.
Do you recognize any of these signs in your loved one’s life? If you suspect they are struggling with alcoholism, you can find additional alcoholism support resources here.