Addiction to Alcohol/is there a problem?
QUESTION: hello, thank you for taking the time to assist people by answering questions. i apologize if this question is too long or else wasting your time. i am 21 year old male, i liked drinking since i was younger and over the last couple of years my drinking has increased consistently. i went from four or five beers a week since i was 18 to about 2-4 a day now, i do not believe i am an alcoholic because i don't drink during the day, i hate being drunk, and i'm picky about what i drink. if i do not like a type of alcohol i won't drink it. i just find that it helps ease my anxiety and settle negative feelings, i have a very hard time expressing myself and i find drinking works well to ease negative feelings, my concern is i spend too much money on my beer buying, and my wife prefers i didn't drink (although i compromise by never bringing home hard liquor, only good beer and wine) although, she does not realize how much i drink, but it also affects our sex life negatively, as i said, i don't believe i am an alcoholic, but based on your experience, do you think there is anything wrong with this type of drinking? once again i apologize for the length.
ANSWER: Hi Steve,
If you are looking for a formal diagnosis about your alcohol use, there really is no way for me to assess you without meeting you. I cannot accurately make recommendations specific to you without a formal, full assessment. However, I can tell you that by what you have described here, you have some big red flags in your drinking patterns that would suggest your alcohol use may be problematic. If your use sounded benign, I would tell you that. This is not the case. I am strongly suggesting you talk to someone about it. The red flags I see are:
-the fact that your alcohol use is helping you deal with negative emotions,
-it has negative consequences in your life, and
-you continue to use it anyway.
You may benefit from talking to a professional who is experienced with Motivational Enhancement Therapy or Motivational Interviewing skills (you can ask if they have received formal training in this when you talk to someone). Getting their opinion about your patterns of use and discussing whether you want to change anything about it or not wouldn't hurt. You can always stop seeing the professional if you don't like the process. You don't have to consider yourself an alcoholic to see a professional about it. You actually could just discuss how to cope with your negative emotions with them.
It's important that you find a therapist that will meet you where you are and can discuss whether or not you'd like to change any part of your use, even a small part, such as cutting back a bit, etc. Many people mistakenly think you have to be an alcoholic to see a professional about using alcohol to deal with negative emotions. This is simply not true. You might get a lot out of it, and I strongly suggest you start sooner rather than later. I hope this helps.
Erin Stathis, LMHC, NCC
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QUESTION: Thank you for responding so quickly. I don't really see therapy as a practical course of action, because many members of my family have been in extensive therapy and I don't want to put my family through that, and Its just something undesirable to me. I was really just trying to determine if there is a problem with using alcohol as an outletfor anxiety/ stress, and if so if there are alternative methods. But you have mostly answered my question. Thank you very much for your help.
I'm not sure what your question is other than this (please let me know if you meant something else):
"I was really just trying to determine if there is a problem with using alcohol as an outlet for anxiety/ stress, and if so if there are alternative methods."
-Usually using alcohol "as an outlet for anxiety/stress" regularly, as you have described, is in fact a very real problem. As I stated above, your description above suggests your use of alcohol is problematic indeed.
As far as "are there alternative methods", I'm assuming you mean for dealing with anxiety/stress. If so, the answer is an emphatic yes! Many. Therapy will teach you these. It is outside the parameters of this forum to discuss that with you, as you really need to work with someone who knows you well and has a grasp on what exactly your needs are. You absolutely would benefit from consultation with a therapist/counselor. Alternatively, AA meetings near you may be a good source of support as well.