Is Drinking Alone a Big Deal?

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Enjoy a drink by yourself? Or spending most of the Covid-19 lockdown getting tipsy in self-isolation?

Is drinking alone really an issue? When does it become alcohol abuse?

Is drinking alone okay?

Consider several different situations.

  1. You were given a bottle of very good wine, and were saving it for a dinner with friends, but because of lockdown you open the bottle and have a few glasses.
  2. You have had a few beers alone every night for the last three nights.
  3. You only drink at home alone once a week.

Which one of the above might be a sign of alcoholism compared to the others? In fact they all could either be a sign of a drinking problem… or not.

A drinking problem is less about being alone and more about what drives your drinking alone, and the effects drinking alone is having on you and your life.

10 Questions to ask about your drinking alone

1. How often are you drinking alone?

Alcoholism is an addiction. An addiction is a habit, and habitual means regularly.

But regular doesn't have to mean often. It just means consistently. If you get blindingly drunk alone at home once a week, but every week, and you can’t seem to have a week without? Then it’s an issue. If you drink every night for one week, but then don't think about drinking for a few weeks after? Maybe not.

2. What are your reasons for drinking alone?

Is it honestly as you can’t wait to taste that vintage wine? Or is it because you are sad, bored, angry, lonely… and want to escape?

The moment we are using a substance as a form of escape we are veering into addiction territory.

And if you already have any sort of mental health issue, such as mild depression or anxiety? You are even more at risk of developing an alcohol problem.

Research on the connection between mental health issues and alcohol found that if you had a mood disorder, had received mental health treatment, or even just had 'subthreshold mood symptoms', and drink to self-medicate? You are more at risk of developing alcohol dependency.

3. How do you feel when you drink alone?

Do you feel yourself when you drink alone? Or do you feel guilty, worried someone will find out? Does your mind even seem to fill with another voice entirely, an angry person who is furious anyone would have a problem with this, and rehearses what to say if anyone asks?

Addictions bring shame. We feel ashamed for what we are doing because on a certain level we know there is a problem.

4. Do you tell anyone about your drinking alone?

If that shame is leading you to hide your drinking alone from loved ones and friends, then there is a good chance alcohol has an unhealthy hold on you.

5. Are you honest about how much you drink alone?

It's not about being honest just about how often you are drinking alone, but how many units you drink. Do you tell your friends you just have a glass with dinner, when it’s really three glasses? Or even the bottle? Or wine and then whiskey?

And more importantly, how honest are you with yourself about your alcohol use? Do you have conversations with yourself in your head telling yourself it’s ‘no big deal’? Pour a very large glass of wine and tell yourself ‘this still counts as one unit’?

The NHS recommends adults only drink 14 units of alcohol a week - learn more on the NHS website.

6. Has your tolerance changed?

Do you find that over time, you need to drink more and more to feel the same escape feeling you crave? An increased tolerance is seen as a sign of addiction.

7. How do you feel the day after drinking alone?

If you feel ashamed, if you don’t like yourself, if you want to hide from others… you might need to reconsider your alcohol use.

8. What is your ‘thinking about drinking’?

Don’t really think about it? Might not be a problem. Have conversations in your head where you talk yourself out of any worries? Might be a problem.

And if you are thinking about drinking before you do it? Planning when and what you’ll drink later in the day, looking at the clock to see what time it is and if it’s okay to start? Then alcohol has a hold of you.

9. Is your drinking having knock-on effects?

Are you ignoring friends so you can drink alone? Is it at all affecting your career if you are hungover the next day? What about your budget? Are you spending money you don’t actually have, and letting debts get out of hand?

10. Can you actually stop - or are you just telling yourself you can?

An addiction is something that controls us more than we control it.

If you keep saying your drinking isn’t a problem, then prove it. Stop. For a few weeks, a month. If it’s easy, if you don’t think about alcohol, if your life continues as normal and you feel fine? Great. There probably isn’t an issue.

If that’s not the case, then time to get honest with yourself.

But is alcohol really that dangerous?

According to research put out by the UK government, misuse of alcohol is the bigget risk factor for health issues, disability, and death in 15-49 year olds. And it's the fifth biggest risk factor throughout all age ranges.

So if you are worried about coronavirus, statistics would say you should be just as worried as that glass of booze in your hand.

Time to talk to someone about your alcohol use and why you feel so bored, lonely, and low? Book an online therapist now and get talking.

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