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How do you know if you’re an alcoholic?

Do you drink often and worry that you may be dependent on alcohol? You’re not the only one - and here at LiveWell Dorset, we’re here to help. Alcoholism is a serious drinking problem that involves a person craving and having an uncontrollable urge to drink alcohol often and feeling unable to function properly without it. Those who suffer from alcoholism will typically prioritise alcohol over their other responsibilities and are referred to as ‘alcoholics’. To help you understand if you suffer from alcoholism (or if someone you know does), we’ve put together some of the most common signs to look for:

  • You’re drinking alcohol and becoming intoxicated more regularly
  • You often feel tired and irritable
  • You struggle to refrain from drinking alcohol
  • You’re becoming more anxious, depressed or struggling with other mental health problems (learn more about how alcohol affects anxiety and depression here)
  • You’re experiencing mood swings
  • You’re experiencing short-term memory loss
  • You’re being more dishonest with others or becoming secretive
  • You’re having to consume more alcohol to get the same effects

If you can relate to these feelings, it may be that you’ve developed alcoholism and it’s a good idea to reach out to a healthcare professional to help you manage your symptoms and learn effective ways to deal with your alcohol cravings. 

If these are signs you’ve noticed in someone else, try to be honest with them about their drinking pattern and encourage them to visit their doctor. Avoid becoming angry and be as supportive as you can. You can read our blog on how to help an alcoholic for more advice.

What to do if you’re an alcoholic

If you suffer from alcoholism, taking the first few steps to manage your drinking habits will be challenging, but there is plenty of help out there. LiveWell Dorset can provide coaching and support that could prevent drinking habits from getting out of control, as well as being able to put you in contact with specialist services to provide the help you need, if worried you might be an alcoholic:

Understand the effect alcohol is having on you

Admitting that you’re struggling with your relationship with alcohol and understanding how it is affecting you is the first step. You can think about how alcohol is affecting your relationships with others, your health, free time and your work life; if you’re dependent on alcohol, you’ll probably find that a number of aspects of your life have changed to cater for your drinking habits. The good news is that you can take active steps to take control of your alcoholism.

Seek support 

When you’re reliant on alcohol in your day-to-day life, it can be incredibly difficult to face your addiction on your own. You can reach out to friends and family members to have an open and honest conversation about your struggles and you can also get help from your GP or professional health advisors who are experienced in helping alcoholics get back on track. Whilst you may initially feel nervous to have these conversations or are worried to admit you may have a drinking problem, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in these feelings and having a support network around you will make your journey to drinking less much easier.

Once you’ve reached out to a medical professional for support, they will guide you as you detox (stop consuming alcohol) but you may also be referred to other types of treatment such as:

  • Medications which help people not to relapse as they abstain from alcohol.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is designed to challenge any negative thoughts you have which are impacting your drinking behaviours. 
  • A support network such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which helps to change your attitudes to drinking.

Make note of the reasons you want to stop drinking

Reasons why you may want to stop drinking include:

  • You want to engage in more activities which interest you (for example, you may wish to return to a sport you used to play).
  • You want to have a healthier relationship with your loved ones.
  • You’re concerned about your unpredictable and harmful behaviours and wish to keep both yourself and those around you safe.
  • You want to improve your physical and mental health.
  • You want to be able to think more clearly and have more energy.

The list could go on! But you need to note down the reasons which are most important to you so that you can remind yourself why you’re drinking less.

Remove temptation 

Aim to remove any alcoholic beverages from your home as well as any potential triggers which could lead to you craving more alcohol. If you live with others, make sure you let them know that you’re going to be abstaining from drinking alcohol so that they can keep drinks out of sight. 

Keep a diary

Try to keep a diary and record your thoughts, feelings and progress as you abstain from drinking alcohol. This will give you time to reflect on how you’ve been coping and you’ll be able to refer back to earlier comments to see how you’ve progressed which can really help to keep you on track. 

What happens when an alcoholic stops drinking?

You may be wondering ‘can an alcoholic just stop drinking?’ but it’s important to understand that those who are dependent on alcohol will likely experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms which can be difficult to manage. When an alcoholic drinks much less than they’re used to they may experience side effects such as anxiety, body shakes, insomnia and nausea. If an alcoholic was to go completely cold turkey, this adjustment period would prove to be more challenging and in some cases, lead to health complications. This is because the brain has become dependent on the person’s drinking pattern and will initially struggle to adjust to the chemical imbalance. It is therefore recommended that those looking to combat their alcoholism do so with the help of a healthcare professional. 

Please do seek medical advice if you experience any withdrawal symptoms as stopping drinking suddenly can be very dangerous without the necessary support.

Get help with LiveWell Dorset

If you live in Dorset and you’re looking for help to drink less, we can help. If you believe that you or someone you know is beginning to struggle with alcohol, please do get in touch to find out more on how our health advisors and coaches can offer their support or register with us today.

We’ve already helped many people in Dorset with their drinking habits - register for our services here.

Bernie

It's time for me to get my health in order

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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