What Does Drinking Too Much Look Like?

“So what if I enjoy unwinding from long days and weeks with a couple drinks?

I’m grown, I’m doing a kick-ass job at all of the things, and I deserve to relax and have a little fun!”

If you’re anything like I was, this is something you tell yourself regularly, and to an extent, you’re right. For the most part, a few drinks here and there can enhance your life. Alcohol makes meals, holidays and girls’ nights out that much sweeter. But I have the sneaking suspicion that if you’ve landed on this page in the first place, a small part of you is concerned that your drinking is out of control.

Though this list is not exhaustive, it’s a great place to start.

As you consider each point, be totally honest – no judgment over here. Does this sound like you? If so, don’t worry! You’re not alone, and you don’t necessarily have to become a teetotaler if you don’t want to. You have options, and you’ll be okay. Without further delay, I share with you seven signs your drinking may be out of control.

Your Drinking Is Out Of Control If…


1. You Lose Productivity

This one can be tough to gauge. Some loss of productivity due to drinking is considered normal, so it can be hard to see if things are out of control. Alcohol is a depressant after all, and it’s a known fact that it slows you down in more ways than one. You must dig deep and determine what is “okay” to you.

For me, leaving the office changed things. While corporate, I thought nothing of stumbling into work hungover on Monday morning. Slogging through the day with minimal effort was good enough to get by. Tuesday would be a little better. Wednesday through Friday I would kick ass, make up for it, then do it all again without issue. This went on for years. After leaving corporate, I’d spend the weekend sauced up, then be totally useless Monday morning.

My husband would say “oh you’re okay, you don’t have to be anywhere, just relax!” But that wasn’t acceptable to me. The plan was to take the energy I was pouring into someone else’s business and pour it into my own. Laying in bed with a flippy stomach, pounding headache and cloudy thoughts was no longer okay. Lost productivity became a bigger issue with more on the line.

That’s an example of one of my personal limits.

Think about many different areas of your life. Consider your career, your relationships, your health, your goals. What’s your threshold for lost productivity? Have you reached it? Have you passed it? Are you close?


2. You Have Longer Hangovers

woman with headache, migraine, stress, insomnia, hangover

Hangover recovery is no fun. While it leads to a loss of productivity and could technically be grouped in with #1, I believe it deserves a bullet point of its own. When they worsen in length and degree the way mine did, it becomes obvious that your drinking is out of control.

Early in my drinking career, I would get wasted quickly and easily. I’d deal with the consequences, but it was easy enough. Sure, I’d have the headaches, nausea and vomiting, lethargy and general malaise. But I swear I could eat some greasy food, sip some coffee, take a shower and be fine by like 1 pm the next day.

As I grew older and perhaps more alcohol dependent, something changed. Not only were my hangovers lasting longer, but they were more intense. By the end, I would have three days of recovery for every day I binge drank. And I would be completely incapacitated. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend an entire 24-hour period vomiting. Or still be unfit to drive 3 days after my last drink. Through it all, I maintained my career, my marriage, and my finances. You don’t have to look like you have a problem on the outside to really be struggling internally. 

I understand that maybe your experience with hangovers isn’t as drastic as mine. But that’s not the point. What I’d like you to take from the anecdote is the change that occurred over time. Look at your own situation. Over time, is it taking longer for you to recover from hangovers? Are your symptoms worsening?


3. You Can’t Stop When You Want

intermittent fasting results weight loss

One of the things problem drinkers like to tell themselves is “I can stop anytime I want to, I just don’t want to!” This may seem true at first. It’s when you start and can’t stop that it might be time to take a closer look. It became a glaring sign that my drinking was out of control when “just one or two” lead to making entire bottles disappear like Houdini. Or all those Saturday mornings I’d wake up feeling like absolute crap, declare I wasn’t drinking the rest of the weekend, then by Saturday night be in another bottle. It was like alcohol began to control me – not the other way around. Do you ever find yourself drinking more than you intend to? Can you really stop whenever you want?


4. Increasingly More Occasions Call For Drinks

Two young women expressing concern over drunk friend at nightclu

There are many occasions where drinking is totally appropriate. A glass of champagne to celebrate a new bride and groom. A cup of eggnog around the holidays. If you find yourself making excuses to drink on increasingly more occasions, however, your drinking may be out of control.

Drinking eventually became such a huge part of my life that I was using it for everything – good or bad. If I had a stressful day at work, I’d pick up a bottle on the way home. When I reached business goals, I poured up. When my grandmother passed away, I drank to numb the pain. Going out for the evening meant first pre-gaming at home. Waking up with a hangover meant I should drink a little more to “taper down” (ha)!

When hubby would go out for the night, “me time” meant bath bombs, candles, a good book, and I drank. When I was bored, I’d drink and listen to music. On and on and on. There were few situations where drinking wasn’t appropriate, and that really didn’t sit well with me. In fact, I felt really out of control when I was invited to a housewarming at a dry house. I almost didn’t attend because “who has a housewarming without drinks”? It got so bad that I found sober events inappropriate.

I look back and shake my head at how nuts that sounds.

So yeah, think about your most recent behavior, say the last couple months. Do you drink when you’re happy or sad? Do you drink when you’re already having fun, or to cure boredom? Is it to be social, or do you drink alone? Are there situations where drinking is off limits? (They even serve beer at Chuck E Cheese so kid events aren’t automatically exempt).


5. You Need More And More For The Same Effect

Two friends cheering up young depressed girl

In the beginning, I was a total lightweight. One or two drinks and I’d be hammered. At the height of my drinking career, I was able to put away an entire fifth of vodka by myself in one night. One or two drinks, I’d barely even feel. It was weird too. The other girls I’d drink with would be sloppy off like 3 drinks.

I clearly remember one St. Patrick’s Day when my best friend began swaying side to side about to tip over at the start of her third mixed drink. Meanwhile, I was taking shots back to back like a champ, priding myself on my high tolerance. That was nothing to be proud of, in retrospect. I’m not really sure why it is that some people seem to keep a low tolerance while others don’t.

My husband has a very tall, much heavier male friend who gets completely sloshed off 2 beers every single time. Meanwhile, I’m 5’2 and can drink him under the table. What about you? Do you find yourself needing more and more for the same effects? If so, how does that make you feel?


6. Drinking Days Outnumber Your Non-Drinking Days

advice to stop drinking

How many days in the past week have you had anything to drink? How about the past month? And how much each time?

If you have alcohol on more days than you don’t, it may be a sign that your drinking is out of control. This can be situational, however. We’ve all heard that some alcohol is good for the heart… blah blah blah. It’s about moderation though. Someone who drinks exactly one glass of wine with every dinner is likely okay. Someone who drinks 8 cocktails every Friday, Saturday and Sunday probably isn’t.

That’s why it’s really important to be honest with yourself.

Take note of your drinking patterns for a week, then substitute your behavior for that of a random stranger in a story.

If I come to you and say

“Tell me what you think. I have a friend who drinks maybe 3 to 4 glasses of wine a couple days a week, then lets loose on weekends and might have 6 to 8 per night Friday to Sunday. Does that sound like a lot to you”?

What would you say? Do you think your drinking sounds like it’s overboard to someone else?


7. You Start Hiding Your Drinking Behavior

sobriety recovery counseling

Feeling the need to hide your drinking from others in any capacity is a sign that your drinking is out of control. I’ve experienced this in many forms. It’s crazy to think about the lengths I’ve gone to. I once drank more vodka than I should have and tried to replace the missing portion with water. Another time I put vodka in a water bottle so I could drink without anybody knowing. I got mad when my significant other took a sip, thinking it was water, then chastised me for my behavior. I’ve hidden bottles so well that I lost them and have been shocked to find them later.

Maybe you don’t yet experience this (and I hope you don’t!). Or if you do, it’s not this crazy. But think about it. Do you ever hide your drinking from others? If so, it may be a sign that your drinking is out of control.


Lost Control Of Your Drinking – Recap

sobriety tattoo

To recap, this list is by no means exhaustive but if you are considering sobriety or wondering if you need to cut back a little, this is a great place to start.have

Here are the 7 questions and suggestions in a concise format:

  • You’re losing productivity: Think about many different areas of your life. Consider your career, your relationships, your health, your goals. What’s your threshold for lost productivity? Have you reached it? Have you passed it? Are you close?
  • You have longer hangovers: Over time, is it taking longer for you to recover from hangovers? Are your symptoms worsening?
  • You really can’t stop when you want: Do you ever find yourself drinking more in one sitting than you intend to? Do you drink more frequently than you tell yourself you will? Can you really stop whenever you want?
  • You’re finding more reasons to drink: Do you drink when you’re happy or sad? Do you drink when you’re already having fun, or to cure boredom? Do you drink to be social, or do you drink alone? Are there situations where drinking is off limits?
  • Your tolerance is increasing: Do you find yourself needing more and more for the same effects? If so, how does that make you feel?
  • You drink more days than not: Take note of your drinking patterns for a week, then substitute your behavior for that of a random stranger in a story. “I have a friend who drinks [how much] of [what] a couple days a week, then lets loose on weekends and might have [how much] Friday to Sunday”. Does that sound like a lot to you?
  • You’re hiding your drinking: Do you ever hide your drinking habits from others?


Is Your Drinking Out Of Control?

drinking out of control

If you are struggling with alcohol, you are in good company.

It may seem like you’re the only one going through it, but you aren’t.

People like to show the high points in their lives – the wins, rather the losses.

I’m willing to bet you know quite a few people who have similar concerns, they just aren’t voicing them. If you desire a change, remember you don’t have to do anything super dramatic unless you want to. The goal isn’t to make sure you never have another sip of champagne again. It’s to be in complete control and make decisions that enhance your quality of life, not diminish it.

As a next step, you might try temporary sobriety. I had wild success going 100 days alcohol-free.

While I can’t promise that changing your relationship with alcohol will always be easy or that you’ll completely nail it on your first try, I can promise that making it to the other side is worth it.

You are worth it.