Here is August’s installment of “Ask Shelby” from Chester County’s own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
I have noticed something I am beginning to worry about. I used to have a glass of wine every night with dinner. I started having two glasses every night when work stress increased and lately, in the past few months, I’m having three. I really look forward to my wine at night. It starts at about lunch time—I daydream about how good it will feel to unwind with a glass of wine when I get home. By my third glass, I don’t feel drunk, just relaxed and bit fuzzy. Is this bad? Am I an alcoholic?
Signed, Cautious about Cabernet
You are smart to be concerned. It sounds like you are developing a dependency on alcohol and that is a precursor to alcohol addiction. Most adults have misused alcohol at some point in their lives: partying too much in college, binge drinking on a special occasion, or developing a habit of drinking too much on Friday and Saturday nights. Caught early, these behaviors can often be easily corrected. It sounds like you used to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, but lately, have relied on it as your only source of coping with stress and it has developed into an unhealthy dependence.
I suggest you cut back to one glass of wine a night and find at least five other ways to cope with stress when you get home. Take a bubble bath, go for a walk, listen to music, read a book, call a friend. Try not drinking at all a few nights a week. The following are a list of questions used to identify characteristics of alcoholism. If you answer “yes” to four or more, you may want to consult with a therapist to address your issues with alcohol and get help changing the way you manage stress:
Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days? Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking– stop telling you what to do? Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk? Have you had to have a drink first thing in the morning during the past year? Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble? Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year? Has your drinking caused trouble at home? Do you ever try to get “extra” drinks at a party because you do not get enough? Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don’t mean to? Have you missed days of work or school because of drinking? Do you have “blackouts”? Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
Help is available. If you have trouble changing your drinking habits or are concerned you can’t do it alone, contact a local therapist (www.therapistlocator.org) or your local AA chapter for meetings near you (www.aa.org).
I wish you the best,
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC and she is the President-Elect of the PA Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.