Friday, 10 April 2015

5 signs that you're a problem drinker

Today is Day 40! Woo hoo - the big FOUR OH. Have a glass of veuve cliquot to celebrate! Oh, whoops - perhaps best not....

I used to be - and still am - obsessed with those quizzes called things like 'are you an alcoholic?' or 'signs that you're a problem drinker.' The problem is that I always found them too reassuring, despite the fact that I was drinking at least one bottle of wine a day.

I would happily stick crosses against questions like: Do you get the shakes in the morning? Do you get blackouts? Have your friends and/or family asked you to cut down? And, until 41 days ago (see Secret Drinker Hits the High Bottom) I confidently shook my head to 'Have you ever drunk in the morning? and Do you hide alcohol?'

But these questions were providing a false sense of security. We all have different 'ah ha' moments - those things that, in the middle of the night when we're wrestling the demons and sweating out the Chablis, make us realise that our drinking is actually a bit of a problem.

So, in the interests of honesty, and so that I have a written record to remind myself what life was like BS (before sober), here were my five signs. Please do, for the benefit of any worried drinkers reading this, add your own in the comments below...

(1) Dealing with hangovers

I started to notice that most people who wake up with chronic hangovers have the reaction 'Oh my God, I am never, ever, going to drink again'. And, indeed, they manage not to for at least a day or two. My reaction to a hangover had become 'Oh my God, I am never going to feel better until I can legitimately (i.e. after 12pm) have another drink.' This, I eventually realised was a sign.

(2) Trying, and failing, to 'moderate'

Problem drinkers all desperately want to be able to moderate. We do all sorts of deals with ourselves. Do any of these sound familiar: I will not drink on school nights? I will not drink before 6pm/before dinner/at lunch times? I will not drink alone/at home? I will not drink spirits/wine? I made many of these deals with the wine witch over the year or two before I quit and I was never able to keep to them for more than a week or two. This was another sign.

(3) Obsession

I started to spend more and more time thinking about drinking. For example, an hour or so before 'wine o'clock' I would start to obsessively check my watch. I would check my fridge daily to see how much wine was available, and plan my shopping trips around school runs accordingly. If the husband and I were 'sharing' a bottle I would constantly check that I was getting at least my share (hopefully more). Spending lots of time thinking about drinking is not a good sign.

(4) Physical and Mental Health

I was never hospitalised. I never blacked out or threw up. My doctor never twigged how much I was drinking (I 'fessed up' to 14 units a week - lol). But I had a terrible wine belly. I was overweight and puffy. I had debilitating insomnia (see sleep, glorious sleep), and I was miserable and stuck in a rut. It took a long time to twig that these were all signs.

(5) Deception

I have always prided myself on being really open and honest, but towards the end of my glittering drinking career I started to lie. I lied to myself - constantly - about how much I was drinking. I lied to my GP (see above). I 'confessed' to my friends to drinking 'oooh, about half a bottle a day - isn't that terrible?' And then I started to hide half full bottles of wine in the cupboard so that when the husband came home I could pretend that I hadn't started drinking yet. For me, this soul destroying deception was the final sign.

So, next time the wine witch whispers in my ear that 'I wasn't so bad really. I've done 40 days without wine already, surely I can have just one?' I can re-read this post and remind myself how much better life is without all of that stuff.

If you're a drinker and recognise yourself in any of this then please do join me on this rollercoaster of sobriety. It's worth it.

Love SM x


  1. Congratulations 40 days that's brilliant x how true all of the above points were thank goodness for seeing the damage it was doing before any long term damage occurred x happy weekend

  2. Hi SM
    My own list is a bit different. I think it is very brave, sensible and honest of you to have this list to refer to if doubt sets in.

    I like drinking on my own. Probably not the biggest deal. I think us generation of wine mummies probably just enjoy some wine and p & q in the evenings. But I sense I like this solo drinking in a different way than most and that this could be very messy down the line.

    I drink WAY too fast.I eat fast, talk fast, run fast. I am a high energy person but I drink way too fast, not even intentionally half the time. But I am always finished my drink before everyone else (hubby excluded) and sneaking in other drinks where I can.

    I also blackout regularly. I am not sure if I am slightly damaged from excessive drinking in college and in my 20's but I hit walls out of the blue and bang I remember nothing. It has happened more times than I could possibly count. I am 38, its pretty shameful. I act like a complete idiot and say outrageous things.

    I have absolutely no off switch. I never did. I loved drinking from the first time i got drunk at 14. I only started to hate my destructive relationship with it after my second child. For the most part I have been on/ off it for 5 years. The 'off' periods have been perfectly pleasant and I was actually much happier. I never felt deprived. I am not exactly sure why I started again, I am obsessive by nature so I think that is why. Since I have started again it has been a never ending headache (literally and otherwise) to moderate.

    1. I totally identify with you. I have always loved alcohol and actually don't have a great tolerance so I get quite drunk after one bottle of wine and have blackouts if I have two. However, I have always loved a party and love having drink with friends. I regularly drink one bottle of wine 3 or 4 times a week - mostly on my own in the evening once the kids are in bed if I am not out with girlfriends. I also like to drink while I do paperwork / research at my desk (home office) at night. OH knows that I drink every night but has no clue how much - it is my little secret. He, on the other hand is a moderate drinker that can take it or leave it.

      I know that I have a problem due to a recent blackout which led to me sleeping fully clothed beside my daughter - wanting just to kiss her goodnight. I know that I have to moderate and I have not drunk anything for 7 days - the longest has been 2 days in the last 5 years when I was badly hungover. Even when I am sick, it is an excuse for a hot whiskey! But I am so scared to say I will give up totally.

      All this is new to me. I looked up sites yesterday to try to determine if I had a problem and how to handle it. I have taken a lot of support from this site so far and am working from the start. I know I have a problem but not ready to admit it to the outside world.

    2. Hi RD! You sound so exactly like me! Please, please buy Jason Vale's book: Kick the Drink, Easily. It'll really help you. And well done on 7 days! Bet you feel better already!?! Huge hugs SM x

    3. SM - many thanks and I do feel better but I am hungry all the time. If I am not on this website, I need to be out and about but I am thinking of alcohol non-stop - more than I did (I think) when I drunk every day.

      Have just downloaded Jason Vale's book on my iPad for some bedtime reading (after Strictly results!) but need a lot of resolve to get through family roast dinner tonight without my usual accompaniment.

      Again thanks for blog as it is really helping me.

  3. Dear SM,
    Making a list to remind yourself is a great tool.
    I had all of these, plus my husband was very concerned about my drinking.
    I am so thankful I stopped before it got worse, which it was!
    Have a happy day 40!!!

  4. This is a great list. It's important to not let time soften the memories of just how bad regular drinking can make one feel.

    1. Totally agree, Anne. I'm at that stage now where I'm beginning to forget the awfulness - hence the list. How long have you been Ainsobriety? Thanks for posting! SM x

  5. Congrats on 40 days! You are doing so well. I am on day 6 today. Thinking maybe I should start some lists of my own. A x

  6. Well done Angie! You've done the hardest bit already! I think it's a good idea to make a note of life before you quit, as you quite quickly forget, and it's very easy to romanticise the drinking days. Please stay in touch and let us know how you're doing! SM x

  7. Hey there, on day 3 myself ( this is the latest in a long line of attempts to stop) just wanted to pop by and say hello, well done and thank you for sharing your journey with us. I feel it is a bit of a lonely road, through a world that is awash with alcohol, so it is nice to see others on the same path. I believe there are millions of women across the world who are battling this demon... often alone. The more people who tell their story, hopefully the easier it will be for people to seek help or gain the courage to stop. Onwards & upwards. Best of luck on the journey & thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Forty Something Deamer! Thanks for posting, and well done you on day 3! This is not my first attempt either - it seems that most people have several attempts before they make it. I'm sure too that we are the tip of a giant iceberg, and the more we can share (in a safe space) the better. Please stay in touch, and good luck! SM x

  8. Thanks for posting, I have just joined this site, and only on day 2. I am nervous, anxious and deeply ashamed of my drinking, and can identify with all of the points. I have a husband who is something of an enabler, and in the past has bought me wine as he thinks it makes me happy. No it makes the addiction happy!
    Well done and best wishes for continuing success on your journey.

  9. I been reading your blog for a week now, and this particular post really hit home. I'm only days into being sober, and of course, with Friday around the corner, I'm fighting the battle to drink after the work day. I'm one of you; and proud to be so. May this attempt to quit alcohol be the last! SM and all you strong women, thank you, thank you, thank you.

    1. Welcome Lia, and well done you! Have you read Jason Vale - Kick the Drink yet? If not, please do - it'll really help you. Big hugs SM x

  10. For me the 2:30 or 3am wakeups were the worst. I'd suddenly be wide awake, obsessing over every problem I had (including the drinking) and could not fall back asleep. I was SO RELIEVED when I started reading AF books and blogs and saw how VERY common this was for others.

  11. This is the predicament of the 'high bottom' drinker. It’s a very grey area and if drinking hasn’t cost or caused you serious harm yet it’s so easy to just start again and see it as a 'break' to ‘recalibrate’. I had many of these 'breaks' and this led to a very fast downward spiral. It’s useful to write down how bad it got at the end. I'm scared of facing that but think it will be a useful exercise for me to write it down in all its horror.