Cracking open a beer or pouring yourself a glass of wine while setting up camp on the couch in front of the TV isn’t anything to be ashamed of. For many of us, the alone time gives us a chance to relax and recharge for the next day or unwind after a long work week.
While this simple pleasure is something that many people indulge in every once in awhile, for others, drinking alone isn’t so simple. As a disease that thrives on isolation and loneliness, addiction can rapidly take hold if you’re drinking alone to cope with uncomfortable emotions or past trauma.
Am I An Alcoholic?
Drinking by yourself does not automatically make you an alcoholic. However, you should keep a close eye on how much and how frequently you’re drinking alone, as it could be the symptom of a much larger problem that needs to be addressed.
Although drinking alone or in secrecy is a key symptom of alcoholism, there are many other warning signs to watch out for, including:
- Temporary black-out or short-term memory loss
- Irritability and extreme mood swings
- Inability to quit drinking
- Making excuses for your drinking
- Prioritizing drinking over your job or relationships
- Increasing alcohol tolerance
- Participating in risky behaviors
- Feelings of withdrawal
When you begin to experience any combination of these symptoms in addition to drinking alone, it’s likely that your drinking habit is turning into an alcohol dependency or addiction. This might seem apparent to those of sound mind, but when you’re suffering from a mental health disorder like addiction, you cannot always see how misguided and dangerous drinking alone can be.
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Why Do People Drink Alone?
While drinking alone is frequently mentioned as one of the common signs of alcoholism, doing so on occasion and in moderation does not make you an alcoholic. However, when you start to drink alone on a more frequent basis, solitary drinking can quickly turn into an alcohol dependency or addiction.
There are a number of reasons that a person might drink alone. Some of the most common problems that people use alcohol to cope with are:
- Sleep problems
Unfortunately, drinking alone to numb these uncomfortable feelings or underlying mental health issues is a behavior that has become all too common. While it’s estimated that 43 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, the majority of them do not receive treatment for their condition. However, about 50 percent of American adults suffering from a mental health issue do use a substance, like alcohol, to cope.
Without proper treatment and medical intervention, a drinking problem can rapidly decline into alcoholism.
The Dangers Of Drinking Alone
Drinking alone comes with a number of dangerous consequences. For starters, it can put participants in potentially unsafe situations.
Alcohol consumption affects a person’s decision-making skills. The more alcohol that a person consumes, the worse their judgment becomes. Without any sober friends around to supervise, you’re more likely to participate in risky behaviors like drunk driving, fist fights, and sexually aggressive or violent behaviors. These actions don’t just put you in danger; they also put everyone around you at risk.
Drinking alone and in secrecy also puts you at risk for heavier drinking or binge drinking – a practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session and usually, within a short period of time. While popular, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes the binge drinking is the most deadly form of excessive alcohol consumption and often leads to addiction.
As drinking by yourself becomes more ingrained in your daily life, the deeper the cycle of alcohol dependency will become. As you continue to drink alone, alcohol becomes the “go-to” for getting you through difficult or awkward moments. In turn, your brain and body will begin to rely solely on alcohol to manage your day-to-day life. Eventually, what once started as a means of self-medication has turned into alcoholism, and in most cases, it happens without the user even realizing it.
Drinking alone doesn’t just put you in dangerous situations, it makes you a danger to yourself.
Drinking Alone, Addiction And Isolation
By nature, addiction is a disease that thrives on isolation. It will force you into hiding in order to feed the disease and breed feelings of guilt, fear, and denial. As you start to feel trapped by these emotions, you’ll begin to cover up the unwanted feelings with abusive behaviors and even more alcohol. Addiction will shame you into further and further isolation and keep you stuck in a never-ending cycle of abuse.
The seclusion of drinking alone can make you feel:
- Disconnected from others
- Unworthy of love
- Left out
Not only do these emotions often push people to drink more, but they’re relatively common among people who drink alone. Studies have shown that consuming alcohol by yourself often leads to depressive thoughts or suicidal tendencies. Due to the close, cyclical relationship between alcohol abuse and depression, the two often exist as co-occurring disorders.
While drinking alone does not make you an alcoholic, it could. If your solo drinking sessions have become more frequent, ask yourself why you feel the need to drink more, and why you’re doing so alone. Oftentimes, those that drink alone are doing so in order to mask a far more serious problem.