Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Singles and Alcohol Abuse, Part I

Did you know that singles tend to drink more heavily than married folks? (See "Sources" below.)

It's not hard to imagine why. What do you do when you go over to a friend's house to watch the game? Have a beer. Where do you go to meet other singles? The bar. If you get together with a colleague, how do you talk shop? Over a drink. Alcohol consumption is part and parcel of our social gatherings, especially when we're young and aren't expected to put a baby to bed at nine o'clock or wake up in time to ferry the kids to school. In very young singles (teens to mid-twenties), alcohol is often more than a backdrop to social ritual; it is the ritual. If you don't participate, you're voted off the island.

According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of young people who had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days was 46% at age 18 and 71% at age 22. Although these percentages fell somewhat with age, they remained high throughout the twenties, thirties, and even forties, dipping no lower than 56.7% among the 40-44 age group. The greater problems for adults beyond the college frat party days were binge drinking, defined as "five or more drinks on the same occasion...on at least 1 day in the past 30 days," and heavy use, defined as binge drinking on five or more days in the past 30. Of adults in the 21-25 age group, 29.3% were binge drinkers and 16.7% heavy users, and of those aged 26 to 29, 26.4% were bingers and 11.9% heavy users.

Since Chardonnay with dinner and Guinness at the sports bar are cultural institutions, it can be difficult to pinpoint when alcohol use becomes abuse. Is it when you get drunk once a week? Twice a week? Once a day? Is it okay if you get drunk but don't black out or have a hangover? Is it acceptable if it makes you late to class but you're still an A student? How about if it wreaks havoc with your relationships but you're the top performer at work? Alcohol abusers are notoriously defensive of their nightly bottles, but many times they don't realize they have a problem. Here are some signs and symptoms of a drinking problem:

1. Disobeying Doctors' Orders
By the time a heavy drinker develops alcohol-related health problems, a diagnosis of alcoholism is a no-brainer. But even before the liver rebels, alcohol abusers may reveal themselves by drinking when a physician prohibits it because of its impact on another health condition or on medication.

2. Slacking Off at Work or School
If someone is spending more time pouring over a bottle than over tomorrow's presentation, there's a problem. Anytime one's performance at work or school starts to suffer, that's not a good sign. And just because you can still ace that exam or lead your management team doesn't mean you're okay to have another round with your friends. If a boss, teacher, or other authority figure is displeased because you've been tired, irritable, tardy, or a no-show, your position in the workplace or classroom is in jeopardy even if you can still pull off your assignments.

3. Financial Insolvency
When the problem gets really bad, those who suffer from alcoholism may forget or be unable to pay the bills. Or they may spend so much of their pocket change at the bar that they run out of cash for necessities. If a heavy drinker is in financial trouble, it's time to get help.

4. Driving Under the Influence
Whether or not they get caught, people who drive while intoxicated show poor judgment and an inability to drink responsibly. While nonalcoholics may make this mistake on occasion due to immaturity or impaired reasoning, repeat offenders may have a deeper problem.

5. Risky Business
Driving under the influence is only one risk that an alcohol abuser may take. Problem drinkers might engage in other dangerous activities. These can land on the wrong side of the law, such as theft, vandalism, fistfights, trespassing, and drug use, or they may be personal risks such as gambling, unprotected sex, or life-threatening dares.

6. Personality Change
People who have a problem with alcohol are often noted to undergo a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality transformation when intoxicated. They may lash out physically or verbally, hit on anything that moves, or generally behave in ways that would make their sober alter egos blush (naked table dancing to the tune of ABBA comes to mind). They may also forsake their friends and family for a crowd more supportive of their habits and react angrily to anyone who suggests that naked table dancing is best left to Lindsay Lohan.

7. Secrets and Lies
Alcoholics may go to great lengths to keep their drinking under wraps. They may drink alone, hide secret stashes, or travel out of town to a bar no one knows. If someone asks if they've been drinking, they might deny it or downplay it.

8. The Highlight of Their Day
Alcohol abusers may schedule their days around their favorite activity. Anytime they invite you out, liquor must be on hand. They may plan drinking and recovery time into their daily routines.

9. Thinking Through a Fog
Heavy alcohol users may black out and forget entire drinking episodes. Hence, they may be mortified when you remind them of the naked table dancing. Or they may just deny it or offer excuses. "I wasn't myself" is a favorite.

10. Dependent Behavior
As alcohol abuse crosses the line to dependence, alcoholics may not have the willpower to resist drinking (or stop drinking once they've started) and may need greater and greater quantities of alcohol to obtain the desired effect.

Not all alcoholics will exhibit all of the above symptoms, and some non-abusers will occasionally use alcohol irresponsibly, especially when young. Be alert for a consistent pattern of multiple signs and symptoms. Also be aware of what an alcoholic or alcohol abuser doesn't have to be:

--A secretive drinker
--A social drinker
--Wild, loud, or violent
--A "loser"

For more information on alcoholism and a complete screening test, check out the following guides:

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Early Signs of Alcohol Problems
Symptoms of Alcoholism
About Alcohol Abuse

Do you or does a single you know struggle with alcohol abuse? What other signs and symptoms of alcoholism can you think of? At what point do you think frequent drinking becomes alcohol abuse?

Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Single Adults
Effects of Early and Later Marriage on Women's Alcohol Use in Young Adulthood
Families As a Cause of Alcohol Problems
How to Tell If He's the "Marrying Kind"
Why Marriage Matters
Women and Substance Abuse
Maturing Out of Problematic Alcohol Use

Fun Link of the Day


Anonymous said...

Plus, alcoholics don't kiss as good as normal folks, cause they're just looking to score their next fix.

Granted, they may be easier to get to kiss you in the first place, then all that's left is to unbutton their pants with your tongue, and then, if lucky, you may have yourself the ever-coveted Alcoholic pregnancy.

Blister H.

Clever Elsie said...

Yeah, I think we can file this under the category of "impaired motor skills." No tongue control. :)

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