Life can get pretty tough at times, particularly during a pandemic lockdown.
The kids won’t stop screaming, you’re overloaded with work, bills are racking up, and you have no idea how long we need to endure lockdown restrictions.
By the end of the day, your shoulder muscles are tensed, you have a permanent frown etched into your forehead, and you’ve got terrible pains in your neck and head.
It’s understandable the connection between stress and alcoholism and why so many reach for alcohol to wind down for the day and relieve stress. By the end of one drink, you feel the tension easing. You enjoy the relief so you drink another, and another. You may have had six drinks by the time you go to bed. That’s OK as it’ll help you sleep.
Unfortunately, the stress relief alcohol provides is only temporary. When you come round from being inebriated or slightly merry, the same problems are still there.
Many also use alcohol as an aid to get to sleep. It can help you to sleep, but it affects your quality of sleep. That regular alcohol ritual you do every night may seem harmless, but you’re at a high risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
It’s crucial to understand whether your daily drinking habit is becoming an alcohol use disorder. If left untreated it could progress so far it can wreck your relationships, your finances, your career, and your health.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a name for alcohol use disorder, alcohol addiction, and alcohol dependence.
The American Psychiatric Association’s fifth and final edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) combines alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence into a single disorder named alcohol use disorder. They subclassify alcohol use disorder according to mild, moderate, and severe.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is classified as a medical condition where a person is unable to stop drinking even though it has negative consequences on their life and health.
The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that:
- 85.6 of US citizens aged 18 and over drank at one point in their life
- 69.5% of over 18s drank over the past year
- 54.9% of over 18s had drunk alcohol in the past month
The survey also found that:
- 14.1 million over 18s have an alcohol use disorder (5.6%)
- 7.3% of those people were men
- 4% were women
The 2018 NSDUH found that only 7.9% of adults with AUD sought treatment. That means there are a lot of Americans with an untreated alcohol use disorder.
As alcohol is so widely available and many incorporate it into their lives to relieve stress, relax, and have fun, many people are at risk of developing AUD.
Some people ask the question: is alcoholism genetic or learned? There is evidence that people who grow up in families where a parent has an alcohol use disorder have a greater chance of becoming alcoholics. But, it is also easy for anyone who drinks regularly to develop an alcohol use disorder.
It can begin with one drink a day and gradually progress from a mild to a moderate, to severe chronic disease.
Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking
The US Dietary Guidelines say that alcohol is OK if consumed in moderation. By moderation, they mean one drink a day, not six.
For the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) binge drinking is 5 drinks for a man and 4 drinks for a woman at least once a month at the same time.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says that people who drink enough alcohol that brings blood alcohol levels to 0.08 grams of alcohol for every deciliter in 2 hours, this is binge drinking. This is roughly 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in 2 hours.
SAMHSA’s definition of heavy drinking is binge drinking five days or more each month.
That nightly bottle of wine or six-pack of beers after work means you could be binge drinking every night. Hence, you’re classed as a heavy drinker.
Binge drinking and heavy drinking increase the likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder considerably.
Stress and Alcoholism
Stress is a normal reaction to the pressures of daily life. But, when stress becomes chronic and more prolonged it takes its toll mentally and physically.
Common Causes of Stress
The most common life stressors include:
- Divorce/relationship breakup
- Job loss
- Financial burdens
- Moving house
- Mental illness such as anxiety and depression
- Taking care of an elderly or sick person
- Traumatic event
Stressors associated with work can include:
- Poor management
- Having to do public speaking to colleagues
- Facing discrimination and harassment
- Working extra-long hours
- Insecure about the chances of advancement
- Working in dangerous conditions
- Unclear expectations at work
- Heavy workload
If you haven’t learned to cope with these types of stresses healthily, it is an easy option to instantly feel better after a couple of drinks.
It might be a habit to pour a glass of wine, beer, or whiskey at the end of a shocking day. But, it’s vital to be aware of how serious this daily drinking can be.
Stress causes alcoholism if you don’t limit your alcohol intake and learn healthier copier mechanisms.
Daily heavy drinking impacts your heart health, increases the chance of cancer, and the early onset of dementia such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Alcohol use disorder is the third-leading cause of preventable death after tobacco, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
Stress and addiction go hand in hand. If you don’t tackle ways to manage your stress levels and decide to drink or take drugs instead, you’re increasing the risk of developing serious mental and physical health problems.
Link between stress and alcoholism is common to people who don’t handle stress well. Managing stress means getting your central nervous system to relax and create a positive frame of mind. There are many natural ways of winding down at the end of a hard day. It’s important to find what works for you.
There might be certain strategies to implement in your life that make your life easier. For example, if you have debts piling up sit down with your papers and a calculator and work out a weekly budget. Learn to spend less than you earn, and stopping alcohol will save you a lot of money.
Let’s say you are being chased by debtors, ring them up, and organize payment plans. But if you think you’ll be unable to afford the payments one month ring up and renegotiate your payment plan.
Whenever you’re unhappy with your work environment, perhaps you can change it. If you can’t change your colleagues or nasty boss you could start work on moving jobs.
Stress and alcoholism go hand in hand. Spend less time with people who make you feel stressed or unhappy. It’s okay to say no to things you don’t want to do.
Cut down your to-do list and work your daily tasks into small manageable chunks.
Take Time Out
Time out is vital for managing stress. You need time to exercise, listen to music, spend time with friends and family, and pursue hobbies.
If you feel your workload is preventing you from enjoying your life, it’s time to carve time out for yourself because stress and alcoholism is connected. After all, you’ll be more effective at work if you can relax and enjoy some you-time.
Practice Mindfulness Techniques
Mindfulness doesn’t need to mean “woo-woo.” Practices like meditation and yoga are scientifically proven to calm the central nervous system.
People who meditate daily have lower stress levels as they learn to take stressful situations in stride.
It’s about being present in the moment so life doesn’t overwhelm you.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Getting therapy could be one of the best acts of self-care you could give to yourself. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a talking therapy that is proven to help people manage stressful situations.
This type of therapy involves identifying typical negative thought patterns that trigger stressful emotions that might want you to drink.
Once you’ve identified those thought patterns you then use the ‘laddering technique.’ This technique enables you to dig deep into your thoughts and personal history and find what your negative core beliefs are.
Common negative core beliefs can be, “I’m not good enough” or “I fail at everything.”
Armed with the knowledge you find about yourself, you then start employing strategies that challenge your negative core beliefs.
This is an incredibly transformative experience. If you do go for cognitive behavioral therapy it can help your life struggles enormously, provided you put in the effort.
If you’re unable to stop drinking but continue to do so, you probably have alcohol use disorder. You must seek help immediately.
You must not stop drinking suddenly if you’ve been heavily drinking every day. Your central nervous system can go into shock and cause a seizure or even a heart attack.
To stop drinking safely you need a suitable detoxification program with the right medical and professional support.
The District Recovery Community is a treatment center that specializes in treating alcohol use disorders. Alcoholism is a progressive disease that can never be completely cured.
If you get treatment immediately, you have a much greater chance of managing stress and thriving even in the most difficult times. Call us today at 844.287.8506 and start your journey to recovery.