Alcohol To Relieve
If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you should carefully consider your use of alcohol. One out of every ten people who use alcohol may someday become an alcoholic. Using alcohol to escape from the pressure of a problem is a risky behavior that can develop into a major dependence on alcohol.
“Using alcohol to reduce stress is the poorest possible stress reduction technique.”
Social Drinkers ● Abusive Drinkers ● Alcoholics
Three broad categories exist to generally describe people’s relationship to alcohol. First, social drinkers use alcohol only occasionally and drink in moderation. On the other end of the spectrum are alcoholics. An alcoholic has developed a physical and psychological dependence upon alcohol to the extent that they are unable to control their drinking.
In between these two categories are abusive drinkers. Typically, abusive drinkers drink to relieve stress, often in response to a specific situation, such as marital or family troubles, financial difficulties or problems at work. Their choice of using alcohol to reduce stress is the poorest possible stress reduction technique. First, reinforcing the habit of using alcohol to escape from the pressure of a problem can develop into a major dependence on alcohol. Second, the side effects of abusive drinking – the way it affects the heart, liver, cardiovascular system, etc. – contribute to poorer general health. Turning to alcohol to reduce stress, abusive drinkers actually increase the amount of stress on their system.
Examples of abusive drinking related to stress include:
How abusive drinking can lead to alcohol dependence
Even drinking “just to relax” can be a risky behavior, if it is done on a regular basis. Here’s why: Using alcohol on a regular basis to reduce stress – for example one or two drinks before dinner – conditions you to “reach for the bottle” whenever you’re feeling stressed. By using alcohol in this manner, you are setting yourself up for abusive situational drinking (drinking in response to a specific situation) and building a habit that can turn into a dependency.
What happens to many people is that after a period of abusive drinking (sometimes over several years), TOLERANCE sets in. The same amount of alcohol no longer has the same effect. The user must drink more to have the same effect he or she used to feel years before. Without realizing it, millions of people have progressed through the stages of use, abuse and tolerance and on to dependence on alcohol (alcoholism).
How to counteract abusive drinking
If you are using alcohol to reduce stress, try some healthier alternatives to help manage your troubles and relieve stress. Substance abuse counselors recommend the following:
Talk out your problems. Discuss your problem(s) with a friend -- somebody who is not going to judge you, put you down, or even try to solve the problem for you, but simply be a good listener.
Exercise regularly. Nothing beats aerobic exercise as a way to combat stress. Activities such as walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, racquet sports, aerobic classes and dancing -- for 20 minutes or longer – are most beneficial.
Learn other stress reduction techniques. Attend a seminar or class, listen to a tape series, or read a book to learn additional stress reduction techniques such as progressive relaxation or meditation.
Don’t drink daily. If your daily routine typically includes drinking after work to reduce stress, substitute a healthier habit for this bad habit. Some healthy alternatives include: exercise, relaxation tapes, a cup of herbal tea, a walk around the block, or perhaps a simple decompression period (a quiet time spent not talking about kids, finances, work, etc.)
Seek professional help. If your problems are too difficult to solve on your own, seek the help of a professional therapist to talk through your situation.
What to do if you need help
If you think you or a family member might have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, call the Office of Employee Assistance (OEA) for referrals or information. OEA professionals are specially trained to help people get the right help for a problem with alcohol. And remember, all OEA services are STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.
Problem drinking can happen to anyone. The key is to recognize the problem early and to seek professional assistance. Taking steps as soon as possible can help reduce the painful consequences that almost always come with excessive drinking. Why not call an OEA professional today? We’re here to help!
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Makes available free informational materials on all aspects of alcoholism, including the effects of drinking during pregnancy, alcohol use and the elderly, and help for cutting down on drinking.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
Provides phone numbers of local NCADD affiliates (who can provide information on local treatment resources) and educational materials on alcoholism via the above toll-free telephone number.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Makes referrals to local AA groups and provides informational materials on the AA program. Many cities also have a local AA office listed in the white pages of the telephone book.
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters
Makes referrals to local Al-Anon groups, which are support groups for spouses and other significant adults in an alcoholic person’s life. Also makes referrals to Alateen groups, which offer support to children of alcoholics. Free information can be obtained by calling the following toll-free telephone number: (800) 356-9996.
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