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How do you know if you’re drinking too much?

Have you ever Googled “Am I drinking too much?” or “How much alcohol is too much?”.

A recent study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review journal, shows about 21 per cent of women between 45 and 60 are now drinking at ‘binge-drinking’ levels.

That was definitely my situation but I didn’t consider it ‘binge drinking’. After all, most of my friends drank in the same way.

The rationale is that if you have a busy and stressful life, drinking helps to let off steam. It’s the way to relax, destress, have fun. Right?

Sure, we all know the downsides of drinking a bit too much. Hangovers, hazy memories, trouble sleeping, weight gain. But surely that’s just the price you pay?

And that’s exactly how I looked at it until my niggling internal voice started to question whether the price I was paying was too high.

The cost of drinking too much

I would never have labelled myself as a problem drinker – my relationships were all intact, I performed well at work, and I was fit and healthy.

But that was at the surface. What was really starting to concern me was that I was able to drink more than I previously had and I was drinking more frequently.

I was one of the middle-aged women who was drinking at ‘binge-drinking’ levels.

Although I described myself as a weekend drinker, my ‘weekends’ had extended so that they started on a Wednesday night and ended on Sundays.

Just to be clear, I still worked Monday to Friday, I just rationalised that Wednesday night was ‘almost the weekend’!

And while I was fit and healthy I knew that I was pushing the boundaries with this. I knew that drinking was not good for my health but I was also burying my head in the sand believing that I would somehow, miraculously be exempt.

As I moved into peri-menopause and realised that drinking was probably exacerbating my hormonal issues, I could no longer live in a state of denial.

Deciding to take a three-month break

After years of trying, and failing, to moderate, I decided to take a break for three months to see if I noticed any differences.

It seems that taking a month off drinking – Dry January, FebFast, Octsober – is acceptable but any longer is extreme.

“But you don’t have a problem, do you?” my friends would ask suddenly concerned that I had bottles of vodka stashed around the house and was taking shots throughout the day to keep me going.

I was not at that stage but does that matter? Surely it’s a good thing to take back control of your drinking before you reach a rock bottom, rather than waiting until things get really bad?

And anyway, drinking is a slippery slope. I had already seen that the amount I was drinking and how frequently I was doing so were increasing.

Did I really need to hit a rock bottom to decide that maybe, just maybe, I might be better off if I took a break from drinking?

So, instead of waiting until my life spiralled out of control, I took a step back.

Answering the “do I drink too much” question

I figured out that if I was asking the question – “How do you know if you’re drinking too much?” – I was probably drinking too much.

I realised that I didn’t need a Google search to help me find the answer.

The question I should have been asking instead was: “Would it help to take a break from drinking to see if there is a better way to manage life rather than relying on booze as my crutch?”

And the answer was yes. In last week’s blog I listed all the unexpected benefits of making that decision.

If you’re worried that you are drinking too much or too often and want to take back control, you can contact me for an obligation-free chat about how you can reset your relationship with alcohol.

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

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