If you’ve ever said the words “I swear I’m not drunk–now give me my keys,” you’ve probably been to jail.
This is only one of many scenarios that can send up a red flag about someone’s drinking habits. DUIs are, sadly, very common, because a lot of people who drink and drive tend to do it more than once. Even people who say “There’s no way I’ll drink and drive! That’s stupid!” might end up driving after a few tall ones at the bar. Even if they acknowledge their mistake later, they probably won’t be willing to give their friend the car keys next time to prevent them from turning their Ford Tempo into a Ford Accordion.
People who drink too much often have destructive ways of thinking about their addiction and the habits that go along with it. There are many familiar excuses (“I drive better when I’m drunk,” or “I can quit whenever I want,” or “I need a beer to get through the day”) that you may have even used yourself at one time or another. When you start hearing things like this, it’s time to step in and be honest with the person telling you these things. Alcohol has become a priority in their life, and it’s hurting the people around them. They need to see this. If they have hungry children and a fridge that’s empty save for their six-pack, it’s gone too far.
You can often identify early stage drinking problems by looking at the amount of extra money being spent on alcohol, how often the person drinks, or if he or she suffers severe temperament changes during periods of intoxication. If any of these things seem excessive or peculiar, they may mean the beginning of a serious issue that needs to be reigned in now. Some people, however, may not show an of these signs, but can still be dependent. For example, if the only time a family is able to get along with the father is when he’s had a couple of drinks, then not only is the father dependent on the alcohol, the whole family is.
Convincing someone they have an alcohol abuse problem is not as easy as it sounds. Remember that destructive thinking? It tends to cause that person to harbor a lot of pride. They will often be very defensive when confronted. You can’t force a person to change: they have to decide within themselves that other things are more important. Sometimes, it takes having their physical health deteriorate to a dangerous point to make them see the problem. Even then, some still remain in denial.
If you suspect that you or your loved one may have a problem, a great place to begin to get help is through your local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. AA has branches across the country and is one of the only proven methods of beating addiction. They’re a great place to go for resources, support, and understanding.