If you have to ask yourself “Am I drinking too much” then the answer is probably yes.
I imagine you already feel that your drinking is getting to an unhealthy level and starting to negatively impact parts of your life. If you weren’t concerned about it, would you even be asking yourself this question?
This does not mean you’re an alcoholic or even alcohol dependant. Although it does mean you need to take a look at your drinking, because it’s not making you feel great, right?
Now, what’s too much for one person is not necessarily too much for another. It all comes down to the way your drinking makes you feel.
How Does Your Drinking Make You Feel?
My friend Jenny would consider anything over 2 glasses of wine on a night out, too much for her. Anything past her 2-glass limit and she does not feel in control. Plus, she feels drained and anxious the next day.
For me, I was a party girl and could drink way more than Jenny without question. Often I’d be the one getting a round of shots in at the end of the night. I’d never consider, “am I drinking too much”?
Later however, when my party girl days were more or less behind me and my career and family life took over. I started to routinely drink a couple glasses of wine a night to decompress from my day juggling work and kids. This smaller but regular evening drink felt necessary at the time. However, each morning, when I had to get up for work or see to the kids, I regretting my decision to drink.
At that time, my life just felt hard. I had no enthusiasm and was starting to shirk my responsibilities at work and home. After a hard day I would use alcohol to chill out. It was my coping mechanism. Although it was my drinking that caused the days to feel hard in the first place. It was a vicious circle that only seemed to be escalating.
You see, the question isn’t, Am I drinking too much? because it isn’t about how much you drink but rather how it makes you feel. If your drinking doesn’t feel right anymore, it is definitely time to start questioning it.
But How Much Is Too Much?
Here in the UK, we have scientific published guidelines around drinking. These guidelines were updated in 2016 to further minimise the risks associated with drinking alcohol.
The official low-risk guidelines advise us:-
- Not to drink more than 14 units per week. This is the same as 6 pints of larger or 1.5 bottles of wine per week.
- That you should spread the units over three days or more during the week.
- You should have several alcohol-free nights during the week.
- No amount of alcohol is safe to drink if you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant.
Sticking to no more than 14 units of alcohol per week isn’t a guarantee that your physical or mental health won’t suffer. The guidelines are only there to minimise your physical and mental health risk.
Reference – Chief Medical Officers Low Risk Guidelines
As I have mentioned, a better gauge of whether you are drinking too much, is how you feel.
Some things that may be an indicator that your drinking is negatively affecting you are:-
- Do you have feelings of guilt or remorse after drinking? Like I did, do you wake up regretting that you drank again or drank more than you set out to or even wanted to?
- Are you suffering from low self-esteem or self-worth?
- Do you seem to have increased or prolonged bouts of anxiety and/or depression?
- Have you failed to do what is expected of you because you were drinking or from being hungover? Have you missed a work deadline or have you cancelled on a friend or family member? Are you rushing the kids off to bed so you can enjoy your drink in peace? I was guilty off nearly all of these at one time or another.
- Are you using alcohol as a coping mechanism? Do you reach for alcohol whenever you are stressed or as I did, to decompress after a busy or difficult day?
- Do you sometimes worry about not having enough alcohol in the house? I would always have several bottles of wine at home, just in case
- Can you get defensive about your drinking?
You don’t have to answer yes to all of these. Even if you only identify with one of the above then your drinking could be negatively impacting you. Either way, it’s definitely time to reassess your relationship with alcohol.
Other negative consequences of drinking too much which, could also be a warning sign that you are losing control include:-
- You are unable to stop drinking once you’ve started. For example. Only stopping once you have passed out or cannot keep your eyes open any longer.
- You cannot remember what happened the night before.
- You set limits on your drinking but don’t stick to them. /li>
- Injured yourself or someone due to your drinking.
- You drink alone or perhaps your entire social life involves alcohol.
- You drink secretively and/or hide your empty bottles.
- You know you’re drinking too much but just cannot seem to stop.
What Are You Really Looking For?
There is lots of information here to help you answer whether you are drinking too much, for you. I have shared the UK’s low-risk guidelines of only consuming 14 units per week. But more importantly, I urge you to focus on how your drinking makes you feel, not the amount.
When I used to google Am I Drinking Too Much what I was really doing was trying to find some evidence that my level of consumption was actually okay. (Even though deep down I knew it wasn’t).
I desperately wanted to find some quiz or article that would tell me my daily drinking was fine and it was perfectly normal and hey look, this guy here is way worse than me. Because if I found that, then I could justify my level of drinking and continue down my path of denial. The absurd thing was; I was only deceiving myself.
If there is one take-way from this, please focus on how your drinking makes you feel. I do not mean the euphoric numbness of that first glass but the negative, accumulative effect of your drinking.
Go back to my list of how alcohol can make you feel and see if any resonate with you. Be brutally honest with yourself. I bet you can come up with a few more examples of your own too.
It can be as simple as ‘finding it hard to get motivated the next day.’ Or ‘Being less productive because you’re drinking most evenings.’ All the way to, struggling with work and family. Increased anxiety, low self-esteem and self-worth. Arguing or withdrawing from loved ones and breaking promises; especially the ones to yourself.
Am I Drinking Too Much?
Don’t focus on the amount you drink or how not every scenario relates to you and do not compare your drinking to others. Instead dig deep and start paying attention to how does it make you feel, and I mean really feel, then you will know if you are drinking too much. (For you)
If you need help to quit or cutdown on your drinking, check out my Free Getting Sober Guide
Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash
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