When is drinking wine a drinking problem? Let’s face it – drinking wine is considered socially acceptable, even some medical providers recommend red wine – in moderation. Moderation is the key to safe wine drinking.
It is important to be honest with yourself about how much wine you drink and the reasons you do. One or two glasses of wine with dinner or a glass of wine before bed may be just what the doctor ordered. However, if you find you cannot sleep without the wine or you “need” wine to relax in the afternoon or evening, you may have a wine drinking problem.
Use these questions to determine if your wine drinking is an drinking problem:
- Why do you drink? Is wine one of many drink options to accompany your dinner, or is it a requirement? Would you drink something else without complaining if wine were not available or would you scramble to get home for your nightly drink? Is it possible for you to relax before bed without wine? Is wine a way to calm your anxiety or lift your depression?
- When do you drink? Is drinking wine part of a daily ritual for you? Do you use it to transition from work mode to being at home? Is it something you must do to avoid upsetting your whole day? Do you drink wine with lunch or even earlier in the day?
- How often do you drink? Do you drink every day or night? Does your body or mind crave alcohol? Are there withdrawal symptoms if you miss an evening of drinking (irritability, headache, sleeplessness or shakiness)?
- What happens if you are unable to have your usual drink? Do you go back out after returning home for the day to buy wine? Do you complain when there is no wine available? Does thinking about how much you want or need your daily/nightly drink distract you? Do you dread events that do not include wine?
- Does your behavior or attitude change significantly when you drink? For some people, even one glass of wine triggers a personality change that is obvious to everyone except the drinker if s/he is in denial. I am not talking about being drunk as much as a change in disposition. For many, a glass of wine lightens the mood; for others it may darken the mood and result in harsh words or short tempers.
What to Do if Drinking Wine Becomes a Drinking Problem
In considering your responses to the questions above, compare your answers to those of another person you know that only drinks wine socially. What would his/her responses be in these situations? Perhaps you have a sister or a friend who can take or leave wine, how would s/he react to these scenarios? Do not compare yourself to your image of a drunk, as it is often unrealistic. Problem drinkers and alcoholics are not the same. Both come in all ages, shapes, sizes, socioeconomic groups, races and genders. The idea that problem drinkers and alcoholics are only winos on Skid Row who have lost everything due to the bottle is a fallacy. Some respectable men and women who “only drink at home” or “only drink wine with dinner or before bed” become addicted to alcohol. For some, it is because of genetics; others may begin as social drinkers and become physically or psychologically dependent.
Is it time to see a Doctor?
If you have concerns that wine is becoming more important to you than it should, talk to your doctor about it. Be honest – otherwise s/he cannot help you. To prepare for your visit:
- Monitor your consumption over two weeks by writing down exactly how much wine you drink each day, when and where.
- Write about your mood before and after you drink and any other relevant information, i.e. could not go to sleep without wine.
- Jot down any thoughts you have about wine, such as “I can’t wait to get home and have a glass of wine.”
- Do not drink wine (or anything else) for a few days. Write about your experience. Were you miserable, uncomfortable, unable to relax or sleep?
Your medical provider will likely want to do a physical and may give you ideas for cutting down or giving up alcohol. Some people find it useful to talk to an alcohol counselor for help.
We can help you stop drinking
We offer ideas about how to change old patterns of drinking in other articles on the site. We also provide some useful information on ways to how to stop drinking other than the traditional 12-step programs. If you decide to stop drinking wine, or use it more moderately, you may find our Give up Alcohol Course helpful. Check it out to see how others have benefitted from this resource.