There’s nothing wrong with ending your day with an alcoholic beverage, but when you start using alcohol as a means to cope, it can become a serious problem. Though it may not seem like an issue to have a cocktail, a glass of wine, or beer to relax and unwind after a hard day, if you’re doing it to relieve stress, depression, anxiety, or other overwhelming emotions, you’re self-medicating.
What is Self-Medicating?
Self-medicating is the process of coping with extreme physical or emotional pain by using drugs, alcohol, or other substances to find relief. Believe it or not, this is a common practice for individuals, and if not dealt with, it can lead to substance abuse and addiction. How do you know if your end-of-day drinking is you masking other issues? Here are the signs listed below:
When You Experience Emotional Overwhelm, You Want a Drink
You and your spouse have an argument that really upsets you. Do you go pour yourself a glass of wine to calm down? Your job has you stressed to the max. When you come home, is the first thing you do grab a beer out the fridge or pour yourself a shot of whiskey? If heightened and overwhelming emotions trigger you to think about or want to drink, this is a clear sign that you’re using the temporary nostalgia you get from drinking to cover your emotions.
Your Emotions Worsen After Drinking
Sure, that bottle of wine might make you feel good for a few moments, but when it wears off, what happens to your mental wellbeing? Are you calm, cool, and collected? Or do you find that you feel even worse? Though drinking alcohol can provide a temporary calm, when it wears off, it often sends your emotions spiraling out of control. You may find that you’re quick to anger, crying for no reason, or just overall moody. If this happens to you, not only is the alcohol not working to mask your pain, but you’re self-medicating.
You Freak Out When You Can’t Drink
When you’ve been self-medicating with alcohol, your mind and body start to feel as if they can’t do without it. You have a big meeting at work and become stressed out, but then your emotions heighten because you’re at work and cannot drink. The kids are driving you crazy and you’d give anything for a glass of wine, but you’re upset because you can’t drink while taking care of the kids. This essentially means you’ve developed a dependency or addiction and need to consider getting alcohol treatment.
Your Problems Get Worse
Those shots of tequila might take your mind off your problems for a while, but, when you’re self-medicating, your problems are only exacerbated by your alcohol consumption. Your constant drinking has started causing problems for you at work, your relationship is more strained than ever, your health is declining, your finances are a mess, and you feel more depressed, stressed out, or anxious than you did before you started turning to alcohol as a solution.
Someone Who Cares About You Speaks Up
A telltale sign that you might be self-medicating with alcohol is if someone you care about addresses their concerns. Whether it be your spouse, parents, siblings, best friends, or children, if they approach you and make a statement about your alcohol consumption, chances are you’re going overboard and really need to get help.
What to Do
If you’ve experienced any of the above then you’re probably wondering what you can do to stop self-medicating with alcohol. Essentially, you need to dig deep to determine what the issue is so that you can resolve the core problem and eliminate the overwhelming emotions. Whether this means simplifying your home life, spending more time connecting with your significant other, talking to your employer about workplace stress, or learning methods to cope with stress and anxiety when times are rough, you should do it.
Though it is common practice for people to want to “drown their problems” by having a drink it is not a wise solution. Alcoholic beverages may provide temporary relief, but in the end, they cause more harm than good. If you have been self-medicating or believe you have a dependency or addiction problem, speak up and get help to turn your life around.