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Since I’ve started taking an interest and learning more about and working with alcohol addiction, many people that I talk to seem keen to tell me about their drinking habits and whether I think they have got a drinking problem.

The difficult thing about alcohol addiction is that there really isn’t a list to tick off that gives you a label of alcoholic. It’s not what you drink, or when you drink, or whether you drink alone or only socially that indicates an issue. From a physical health perspective, it’s how much you drink. From a mental health perspective, it’s why you drink.

There’s only a problem if alcohol is causing you a problem.

If you’ve been drinking a little bit more regularly during lockdown because your situation allowed it, and you are easily able to go back to your normal, regulated, healthy level of consumption now life is returning to normal, that’s unlikely to show a problem. If you are struggling a little with returning to your normal, that could be a problem.

If you are choosing to have a drink over and above engaging with most other things in your life, whether you perceive those as positive, negative or neutral, that’s a problem.

If your drinking is having a negative impact on the people around you and your relationships, that’s a problem.

If you are drinking to an extent that is detrimental to your health, that’s a problem. (The ways in which drinking too much are detrimental to your health are so far reaching, but it goes much further than pickling your liver, I think that’s a whole other topic.)

If you would be embarrassed to tell your family or your GP how much you are drinking, there’s probably a problem.

If you are honest with yourself, and you feel like there is a problem, there is a problem.

The question is are you ready and willing to do something about it?

The problem with this problem is that, usually, drinking is not, in of itself, the problem.

The drinking (or any other addiction) is a really effective solution to another problem. That problem may be a feeling of worthlessness, low self-esteem, or a sense that somehow you don’t quite fit in. It could be a really good way to forget about a situation you are unhappy with but afraid or unable to change, a hurtful or traumatic event (or events) from your past, or something else.

In order to make a lasting change on the amount you drink, or to stop drinking altogether (which may be necessary for some people) you are going to need to also work on that problem and find another solution. That could take some time and is certainly going to take some effort.

You are probably going to have to do some soul searching and make some real changes.

I’ll ask the question again – are you ready and willing to do something about it?

There’s no judgement from me if the answer to that is “no, not yet.” Just know that I’m right behind you when you are ready.

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