The slippery slope of alcoholism is easy to fall down.

Most found it through positive earlier experiences, giving a false positive attachment to alcohol, and a conclusion that it solves a problem in life, of some kind.

Every alcoholic came to alcohol believing it was the solution to a problem in life….in some way. An alcoholic believes the substance will allow them to continue the same old patterns in life, and leave unaddressed the life pillars that need desperate attention.

In this way alcohol becomes a friend, we find solace in the bottle when there appears to be no love around.

And when the alcohol pattern results in events that cause even more pain. Well then, the only solution is back to the old friend….

But what’s the difference between using alcohol in healthy moderation, as opposed to a habitual coping mechanism, in an unhealthy way? Where do the boundaries lie?

Moderation .v. Out Of Control

Moderation is a loose term of course. Moderation for you could be 2 drinks; for me, 2 bottles.

One yardstick they often use in AA and 12 step work is – has life become unmanageable?

Does alcohol intervene in pre-made plans that you thought you’d follow through on? Do you find yourself making excuses to avoid certain events or make up other events to avoid responsibilities you “should” be tackling, day-to-day?

When life’s stressors occur, do you have an immediate hunger for the bottle? Or, turn to other supports instead?

I’m not here to judge, but make an honest assessment of your own behaviour, free from the cloud of fear you have about tackling the underlying problems that need to be addressed.

99.99% of all fears in life are unfounded. So have a truthful conversation with yourself about your alcohol use.

Compulsion .v. Light Relief

A compulsion is something we must do, or act out, in order to feel ok. Those who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about (e.g.) cleaning, can spend an extra 30 minutes attempting to leave the house, or simple chores like doing the dishes, compared to the rest of us.

There is a point to which cleaning is functional, and a point where it becomes…..not only unuseful, but harmful to the individual.

Likewise for the booze.

Do you obsess about your next drink? About having alcohol available? Do your thought patterns revolve around when you will next have a drink? And maintaining access to alcohol over time?

Is your behaviour suffering as a result? Maybe you’ve had more fervent arguments than normal with your partner, or family.

Is drinking, or your obsession with drinking, impacting upon day to day life, to the extent where it is causing relationship, work, or family difficulties?

Initially, I got alcohol rehab advice myself from Edinburgh Rehab Centre, and they helped me realise that we often assume there’s more pain in giving up the bottle and facing what needs to be faced, than is actually there.

When we ask for a little support, and admit that we’re struggling, it’d be rare for loved ones to turn a cold shoulder, unless the alcohol has already impeded upon things, of course.

Light relief from life’s struggles is fine. Obsession Is not. Know the difference.

Tough Day At The Office .v. No Day At Any Office

The heady atmosphere of alcohol fuelled meetings, and triple scotch for breakfast, looks great in Mad Men. Desirable, even.

Hollywood is good at rationalising bad behaviour, and advertising agencies know their job well – to tie together pleasure, with alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or whatever product they’re payrolled for.

The reality is sadly different.

The rest of us must deal with life’s ups – and downs. And stay balanced in the process.

If you’re in the habit of having a few drinks to cope with work’s stresses, and that’s all it is. Then you’re lucky.

Wine o’clock probably used to be an in-joke with colleagues. Now it’s wine o’clock every hour of the day.

If you’re missing work, as a result of last night’s excesses; or if you’re already drunk on the job – well, I don’t need to tell you that’s not going to work out.

Employers don’t generally view excesses well, and when it affects your effectiveness at work – it will become apparent.

No matter how well you think you’re hiding it at work – believe me – they know.

Take responsibility, reign it in, ask for help.

Transparency .v. A Double Life

In most of the above scenarios, there is some duplicity on the part of the alcoholic – some deception at some level – that starts out mild, and ends up out of control.

Usually, family members are the first to get hurt, relationship break ups, absence from work, financial difficulties to fund the habit – things can snowball quickly.

You’ll know – within yourself – how transparent, how truthful, you’re being, with those around you.

More important though, is how truthful you’re being with yourself.

In the end, no matter how much you resist, no matter what consequences there are, no matter the heartbreak in your life, I don’t have to convince you that there’s an alcohol problem, that you need help.

It’s you that has to convince you.

The only way past, is to take responsibility, and get help for alcohol recovery. It’s up to you.