And the worst possible time to “figure out” the root cause of your problem drinking is…
This article was originally published in The Good Men Project on January 30, 2016.
Q. Are more women becoming dependent on alcohol or is it just a social trend to drink more? For example, there are tons of memes and e-cards about how women need their daily glass/bottle of wine. Do these images influence how women drink? -Worried about Memes
A. Yes, women are drinking more, AND they are influenced by their cultural environment, AND the differences between how men and women drink are diminishing.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) published a report in 2015 showing that women have increased the frequency of their drinking, whereas men have actually de...
Every year, I notice a consistent trend in my practice. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, a significant number of my clients either quit, no-show sessions, or chronically cancel appointments. New client inquiries plummet.
Most therapists experience a "Summer Slow-Down" when their clients go on vacation. As a substance abuse counselor, the trends I experience are a little bit different. My practice experiences a dramatic "Holiday Slow-Down." As my schedule clears up in December and my phone stops ringing, I prepare myself for the inevitable - the crushing demand that will come the first week of January.
The disappearance of my clients officially starts on Black Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving.
Most of my clie...
I write a lot about the problems alcohol creates in our relationships with others, but an even more devastating threat has taken hold of our society: heroin.
The parents I come across who have heroin-addicted children are almost always strangers I meet in passing. I've met them in the grocery store aisles, coffee shops, and in the waiting rooms of rehab centers. Their grief is palpable. They are mourning for a living death. They are half-alive themselves.
"I keep bringing him back to treatment, whenever I find him," one mother told me. "He's out on the streets the rest of the time. I don't know if he's alive or dead. At least when he's in rehab, I know that he's safe."
Our cultural memory is emblazoned with images of rock star heroin users shooting...
Q. I've learned over the years that picking up women when I'm plastered comes easy, the walls are down, and I can let loose. I feel that it's become damaging to my future. What can I do to stop chasing women every time I drink? -Tactically Astute Drunk
A. Too many men find themselves in your position by the end of their twenties and well into their thirties, TAD. We can break this problem down by understanding the difference between two types of alcohol dependence.
Physical (or chemical) dependence is characterized by the classic symptoms of frequent alcohol use - tolerance (needing to drink more than you used to in order to achieve intoxication), symptoms of withdrawal (shakes, sweating, and hallucinations, to name a few symptoms), and an increasing amount of time spent en...
Q. I've been with my partner for 2 years and while I don't find it essential, I still feel substantially less self conscious in the bedroom if I've had a drink or two. It's the difference between over thinking my performance and possibly losing my "inspiration", Vs Grooving my way through the night, trying new tricks without a care in the world.
Do I have a problem if I enjoy sex more while under the influence? -Fun in Bed
A. The science of sex and alcohol is surprisingly favorable, FIB, with one significant caveat: you cannot exceed the Buzz Zone.
If you are looking for the benefits of alcohol in your sex life, then aim for the intoxication sweet spot. A Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) between .04 and .06 offers you all of the good without the ugly: increased aro...
Q. How is the difference between social drinking and alcohol addiction assessed? What factors are considered? -Just Wondering
A. Defining problem drinking and whether or not it is social can be tricky, JW. One great way is to do a quick inventory, where you take an honest look at the consequences of your drinking. (Holding down a job, unfortunately, is not a sign that you are avoiding addiction). Check out the Drinker's Check-Up, where you can anonymously take a look at your drinking through a research-validated tool and get specific feedback. SS
Q. Do you think it is possible to drink moderately and be "successful" at some point once a person has crossed the line into physical dependency? - Trying Another Way
A. WARNING: Bad news ahead, TAW.
The success rate for engaging in moderate drinking isn't so hot for the chemically dependent. If you're a dependent drinker, then your body and brain have been permanently re-wired to accommodate a steady intake of alcohol.
How do you know if you're a dependent drinker? One pervasive misconception is that ALL dependent drinkers experience severe physical withdrawal symptoms (nausea, sweating, seizures, tremors, hallucinations, and delirium tremens). You can absolutely be chemically, physically dependent on alcohol and experience few, if any of those withdrawal symptoms.
Another misconception about dependent drinking is that you will IMMEDIATELY experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop dri...
Rise and shine! It's time to deal with that hangover. It goes without saying that the only cure for a hangover is not to get one in the first place. Lesson learned. That still doesn't help you today, though.
Rather than beat yourself up for drinking too much, take a few smart steps to alleviate the pain.
Hack 1: Hydrate the right way. Don't waste your money on Pedialyte, Gatorade, or Vitamin Water. Sports drinks may have electrolytes, but the sugar and artificial flavorings negate any benefit you might receive. (Too much sugar after a night of heavy drinking actually can put you at risk for developing Wernicke's Encephalopathy - a sudden and permanent form of brain damage that will leave you spending the rest of your life painting water colors in a nursing home).Tap water works well and saves you money. There is some evidence that coconut water can replenish electrolyte stores without sending you into a diabetic coma.
Hack 2: ...
Counseling is a huge commitment of resources – money, time, and emotional energy. If you go through your health insurance, it also includes putting a mental health or substance abuse diagnosis on your medical record just to get affordable therapy.
You deserve to know when the counselor is not holding up their end of the deal and is wasting your time. Here are 6 signs that your counseling relationship is on life support and that you need to pull the plug:
Sign 1: Your counselor provides unsolicited advice. You come into the session and want to trouble-shoot a problem, only to find that your counselor provides advice before you can even describe the nature of the problem. The counseling session feels more like a conversation with a family member or friend who is weighing in with their personal opinion instead of offering professional expertise, research-based findings, or individually-tailored solutions.
Sign 2 ...or...
Our field is doing a terrible disservice to men.
Hear me out. I am a feminist. I acknowledge and realize all of the ways in which our society continues to oppress women, to hold them to impossible double-standards, to invalidate their feelings and experiences, and to limit their opportunities. The work in empowering women is hardly done, and in many ways has just gotten started.
An important aspect of feminism, however, is realizing ALL of the ways in which gender norms, standards, and societal expectations affect our society. This means taking into full account the lived experience of men, as well as transgender and intersex individuals.
Why focus on men? After all, our society in the USA is patriarchal, with a hierarchy dominated by men, with male standards dictating our culture, laws, and systems.
The problem is that, in focusing on male privilege and patriarchy, we have inadvertently neglected men in the field of psycholog...
Ah, denial: the hallmark of addiction. "He's in denial," a therapist will say to me, usually with a raised eyebrow and heavy sigh.
The field of substance abuse was built on a professional foundation of breaking through denial. "Therapeutic communities" like Synanon in California (basically a treatment cult) would break through the denial of their residents by berating, insulting, and humiliating each other into compliance. Threats, intimidation, and deprivation of basic needs was at times instrumental. Was there physical violence, such as mass beatings, fatal injuries, abductions, rattle snakes left in odd places, assault, and conspiracy to murder? I'll let you take a guess.
The good news is that there have been developments in the field of substance abuse treatment since the most controversial days of Synanon in the '60s and '...
Hey bro: Did you get drunk and fuck up?
If you’re reading this, then hey - at least you’re alive. At a minimum you should feel good about that. Yay!
Now, let’s get your shit back on track. These simple steps will help you develop an action plan for minimizing hurt feelings and negative consequences caused by a night of drunken fuck-ups.
Step 1: Stop beating yourself up.
You can and SHOULD take responsibility for the fact that you drank too much. Just don’t go down the negative-thought-spiral. Unless you are a sociopath incapable of remorse, your immediate reaction to doing something fucked up while drunk will likely be to spend the morning-after telling yourself negative shit. This is the hangover voice - a seriously depressing chemical reaction to being drunk the night be...
The term “alcoholic” not only is confusing – but it can also be harmful to those who really need help but don’t seek it out due to shame and stigma. Labeling someone as an “alcoholic” or an “addict” defines a person by their behavior, creating the illusion that the problem drinker is powerless and cannot take responsibility to change.
Before we define healthy drinking, it’s important to understand how alcohol is measured. In the United States, a standard drink is any drink that contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:
12-ounces of regular beer or wine cooler.
8-ounces of malt liquor.
5-ounces of wine.
1.5-ounces of 80-proof dist...
Drinking can be fun, pleasurable, and productive. When you go out for drinks with co-workers and clients, you can build a social bond that can help get you score a promotion. You can split a bottle of wine with your significant other over a nice dinner, kill a case of beer with your best friends while watching football, or sip a nice scotch with a Cuban cigar. Drinking is everywhere, and it's more satisfying to be a part of it than to suffer a serious case of FOMO.
Drinking becomes a problem when it CAUSES problems. The good news is that you can prevent a great night from turning into a disaster by implementing 10 simple strategies every time you go out.
1. Eat something. Make sure you eat SOMETHING before you drink. If you are drinking with a meal (brunch, lunch, or dinner,) make sure that you order at least...