Counseling Corner: Don’t let alcohol get the best of you

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Yes, you enjoy that glass of wine with dinner, or a cold beer on a hot summer afternoon. Is this a problem? In most cases the answer is no, but for a growing number of people consumption of alcohol doesn’t stop with just a couple of beers. And that can be a problem.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 15 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by alcohol use disorder, meaning they abuse or have a problem with alcohol. It’s estimated that more than 88,000 men and women in this country die from alcohol-related issues, including liver disease and drunk-driving related accidents.

It can be difficult for someone to recognize he or she has an alcohol problem. The short term effect of drinking is a positive one, making us feel good. It can be hard to link these good feelings to the negative consequences which tend to occur later, are often subtle and may appear unrelated to our drinking.

Moderate social drinking is certainly a part of our culture, but when you take the time to check, you may find that your alcohol consumption is at the stage where it is causing problems.

•Have people close to you complained about your drinking?

•Have there be problems at work or at school related to your drinking?

•Have you lost friends because of your drinking,?

•Have you had drinking-related arguments with family or other loved ones?

Other warning signs of alcohol abuse can be more obvious. Have you had an auto accident after drinking, or a DUI arrest? Are there mornings when you can’t remember the previous evening? Has drinking led to neglect of family, school or other obligations?

If any of the above has happened to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an alcoholic or a problem drinker, but does indicate the need for a professional evaluation. Many professional counselors specialize in assessing and treating possible drinking problems.

The most important thing is to take action. Studies report problem drinkers often wait as long as 10 years before seeking help, and even then less than a quarter of them actively seek help.

Looking into your drinking behavior doesn’t indicate you’re weak or sick, but rather that you want to take control of a situation before it gets out of hand. A professional counselor can be a great resource.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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