If you’ve ever had a problem with alcohol consumption, you may have had these thoughts. You might’ve written them off until a particularly bad night left you wondering if you really were in control. Someone in your life might’ve even pointed it out to you and, defenses up, you hesitated to acknowledge this slippery slope.
That’s how vlogger Lucy Moon discovered that she has an alcohol problem.
Despite her drinking escalating in college, it didn’t alarm her at first. “I wasn’t worried about it because everyone was doing it,” she says. “A lot of our social life was centered around alcohol.”
Many people believe that alcohol consumption isn’t something to worry about until you’re older. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
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Lucy realized if she continued on the path she was on, there would be more serious consequences. “[I’d become] a middle-aged man who’s drinking beer at 11 a.m. every morning or a housewife who’s drinking a bottle of wine a day,” she says.
Like many people with alcohol use problems, it affected her relationships, too. She lost three close relationships due to her behavior while she was drinking. Those losses became a catalyst for her recovery and motivated her to get honest about her alcohol use.
Recognizing that problem, though, isn’t always easy.
When you have an alcohol problem, drinking starts to take over your life — sometimes quickly, sometimes gradually. Everyone experiences alcohol use problems differently, but one of the most noticeable signs is when someone finds it difficult to stop after just one drink, or is reluctant to leave a drink unfinished.
Lucy could relate to that nagging feeling. “I could not just have one [drink],” Lucy explains. “I don’t know what would come over me, but I would feel this drive inside me to drink more that felt totally out of my control.”
This sense of urgency can make it hard to say no to alcohol in situations where it’s available. For Lucy, this showed up as feeling anxious or restless when she wasn’t drinking while others were. When drinking begins to feel more compulsive than a deliberate, planned choice, that’s a sign that it’s becoming unhealthy.
Uncharacteristic behavior, too, was yet another red flag for Lucy. If you’re always apologizing for the things you do while you’re drinking and can’t figure out why you’re doing them in the first place, it could be a sign you’re drinking in an unhealthy way.
As Lucy’s drinking progressed, she soon found herself making decisions she was ashamed of, like leaving a friend stranded in an unfamiliar city with no way of getting back to her home.
Recurring regret can be another sign that you may have an alcohol use problem. That sense of shame can signal that you’re not really in control of your drinking, and that, most importantly, it’s having a negative impact on your life.
“[I’d] get angry at myself for not being able to control myself [and] for doing whatever I did the night before,” Lucy explains.
When Lucy realized she was struggling with her alcohol use, she made the decision to get sober, and she sought treatment. While it wasn’t easy, Lucy says it was a critical step in getting her life back on track.
Recognizing that you have a drinking problem can be a very powerful step toward positive mental health and building better relationships with everyone in your life, including yourself. That begins with challenging the stereotype, though, that only a certain kind of person has a problem with alcohol.
For Lucy and many others in recovery, the decision to get support can be life-changing. And no stereotype should ever determine whether or not someone gets the help they need.
“I am at a stage now where I can see clearly that this is a really big problem in my life,” Lucy says. “I’m going to fight this.”
If alcohol is having a negative impact in your life, there’s no shame in getting a second opinion. Even if you don’t have a substance use disorder, your alcohol consumption can clue you in to other problems that might be beneath the surface.
The sooner you take that first step and reach out for help, the sooner you can start living your healthiest, best life.
Alaina Leary is an editor, social media manager, and writer from Boston, Massachusetts. She’s currently the assistant editor of Equally Wed Magazine and a social media editor for the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books.