Kate's Blog

31 Clues Your Drinking Is Becoming A Problem

“You’re hardly an alcoholic!”

That’s the kind of reaction I used to get whenever I spoke to my friends about my drinking. 
And to be honest, it’s the kind of thing I often said myself. 
When I thought about problem drinking, I used to think in stereotypes and extremes, often picturing down-and-outs, who drank all day and had lost it all. 
My life was a million miles from that. So I was fine… right? 
What I didn’t realise at the time is that there’s a pretty big grey zone in between ‘normal drinking’ (whatever that actually is) and full blown, pouring-vodka-on-your-cornflakes type of drinking. 
And guess what? A lot of harm and unhappiness can happen in the grey zone. 
If your drinking is worrying you, but you’re not sure whether things are ‘bad enough’ yet, this blog is for you. 

Here are 31 signs that indicate your drinking is becoming a problem:

1 – You spend a lot of time thinking about drinking – what, where, when, how much.
2 – You often promise to ‘just have one’, but that rarely happens. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
3 – You’ve created lots of rules around alcohol e.g. not drinking before a set time, only allowing yourself certain types of drinks.
4 – You frequently break your own rules.
5 – You’re ashamed of your drinking and beat yourself up about it.
6 – You try to hide how much you’re drinking from those closest to you.
7 – Your partner has expressed concern.
8 – Your drinking feels like a big, heavy secret – it’s a source of stress and anxiety.
9 – You dread putting out the recycling bin. Sometimes you dispose of empties away from your home so no one else notices.
10 – Given the choice, your favourite way to drink is by yourself. Alone, you can have as much as you like without being judged.
11 – When socialising, you keep a careful eye on everyone else’s glasses to make sure you don’t drink too fast.
12 – In public, you work hard to be moderate. People would be surprised to discover quite how much you drink at home.
13 – You’re passionate about running or yoga, so everyone assumes you must be super healthy. This makes you feel like a fraud.
14 – You’re disappointed – angry, even – if you’re unexpectedly asked to be the designated driver. 
15 – When someone makes a joke about your drinking, you’ll analyse it for hours, wondering why they said it and what they really know. 
16 – You’re often anxious about whether there’s enough alcohol available. Will your supplies last? Should you get more? 
17 – You buy your wine from different shops on rotation because you’re worried the store staff will judge you.
18 – You’ll often delay eating so you can drink without a full stomach dampening your ‘buzz’.
19 – You feel bad about rushing through things, such as your child’s bedtime story, in order to be able to drink.
20 – You’re regularly blacking out. There are long periods of time that you have no memory of.
21 – Mornings often begin with you trying to work out who you called last night and what you posted on Facebook.
22 – You frequently argue with your partner whilst drunk and then cannot remember why the next day.
23 – You drink to manage your emotions. It’s your go to whenever you’re stressed or sad or tense. You have few other coping mechanisms.
24 – After a change in circumstances, e.g. retirement or leaving a stressful job, you thought your drinking would naturally wind down, but it hasn’t.
25 – You’re permanently exhausted. Alcohol is seriously affecting the quality of your sleep.
26 – You rarely have enough energy for the hobbies you used to love. 
27 – Your physical appearance is changing. Your face looks puffier.
28 – You diet hard during the day, but you’re still putting on weight – you know the empty booze calories aren’t helping.
29 – You’re scared something bad is going to happen. You’re not sure what, but you’ve had a few close shaves recently, e.g. driving when you shouldn’t.
30 – You keep googling things like ‘am I an alcoholic?’
31 – You find yourself on websites like this.

Ultimately, if your drinking feels like it’s becoming a problem, then it probably is.

You don’t need to wait for things to get worse. You don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to change – you can raise your standards any time you like.
If you need support to quit drinking or take a break from booze, you can find out more about my online course here.

Let me know in the comments…

How many of these 31 clues resonate with you? And if you’ve already quit – how did you know it was time to stop? What prompted you to take action?

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


87 Responses

  1. This was eye opening – I can relate to so many of these. I know it’s time for me to stop for a while. Or maybe even quit forever this time. Thanks Kate.

    1. No problem Linda. If you need any support to make that break happen, my online course is a step by step guide to quitting drinking that will really help you. The class only runs a few times each year, but the next one starts soon. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course

      1. 21 out of 30. I went four days without drinking and felt great. Then Monday came and it was such a stressful day at work that I used that as an excuse to drink. I had made up my mind to commit to 30 days AF. Today is day one again. I am signed up for the class too.

    2. Six of these statements resonated with me, starting with the top 4
      Getting into bad habit and definitely need to stop… generally good Monday to Thursday unless stressed at work.. weekends .. that’s another story!

    3. I have been reading your info for a few weeks and knew I needed to stop drinking. I would make drinks for me and my husband, but I would drink more in the kitchen secretly. I found I needed more to drink to feel good. I haven’t had a drink since last Wednesday, I have used some of your tips, do a list of why I want to stop, have plenty of soft drinks,which I enjoy and got my daughter involved to give me motivation. I am taking one day at a time.

      1. I feel like u r talking about me personally. This is me except for 4 things. I never thought other females were as bad as me. Work gym thru day and a lot of wine at night. Always going to be only 1…. 1 is so small. Always a bottle…. I am trying to listen to Kate’s talk while driving home so I don’t stop at bottle shop. 4 nights no wine…. I just need to keep it up. I always drank almost every nite hating myself most mornings. With Kate’s help I will give it my best shot. Thank u kate

    4. When reading through the list I didn’t relate to any of them except the last one where you said you find yourself on websites like this .
      I realize that since the age of 15 I’m now 35 there hasn’t been a weekend where I haven’t drank . I’ve lived most my life with some form of relationship with booze . So after reading about the sober school in the paper something clicked and now I have given myself a 55day challenge of sober living and boom I’m half way through and feel unreal.
      I’m sleeping better and my mind is clearer . I laugh more .Basically make a chart and tick off each day that you complete making it a kind of game/ritual. Ok rant over . Whether it’s one day or 100 of sober living your doing amazing .

    5. I succeeded with dry January but my overriding motivation was how much I could drink on 1st Feb. That’s when I knew I had a problem. I’m still drinking every day after work.

      1. 27 out of 31, this has scared me. I’m signed up for the April
        Course and I know this is my time. My carerer, health and looks are suffering… I just feel exhausted. Can’t tell you how grateful I am I came across this site.

    1. This is all me…all! I am terrified of life without booze. I’m going to try to not drink anymore, but I don’t know if I can get through even one night.

      1. Oh my so disappointed in myself 20-22 of the 31 apply to me. So glad I’m on the list for the class that starts in April. But I’m going to start it today. That’s for the wake up call

        1. You’re in good company here Leisa – I know lots of people here will relate to many items on this list. I look forward to working with you in April! 🙂

          1. Wow! I surely relate to many of these especially the going to different wine stores. I was drinking champagne some costly some not every night 7 days a week. I relate cooking and cleaning to my sipping from the pretty flute. I don’t drink for the buzz, I drink because it became “my friend”. Loneliness is a big issue. I’m on day 5 AF. I find myself nit thinking about it as much but the temptation is always there. I have health issue too so the drinking has to stop.

      2. 29 for my, only cause I don’t exercise and haven’t retired!
        Day 9 Af for me,heavy drinking every day came to a head for me last week when I drank too much, took some painkillers and ended up in a psychiatric ward!
        Definitely the wakeup call I needed. I have never contemplated anything like that before and I know it was a cry for help, that place scared the life,and the will to drink out of me.

      1. 16 out of 31..!
        This is day 12 AF and I am so happy every morning when I wake up without a hangover, full of energy and feeling free for the first time in a very long time. I am aiming for 100 days alcohol free in the short term and hoping that when I reach that goal, I will be able to continue for another 100 days. At times it’s not easy but it’s so worth the effort to feel so free and empowered. Thank you Kate, this website is invaluable.

        1. What did you replace your alcohol with? I love a gin and tonic so I suppose I could just have the tonic , but I’d like other choices too

          1. 29 of the 31 describe the old me, I’m now 132 days AF and loving life more than I have in the past ten years. There’s no way I’m going back now. I knew I needed to stop when the “work” I put into drinking caused me so much anxiety I couldn’t live my life how I wanted to (or needed to) anymore

      2. At least 24 out of 31
        I’m 8.5 years sober now as I recognised my drinking was getting harder to hide and it was starting to affect everything in daily life.
        I looked hard at myself and my ageing boozing face and made the decision to stop. At that point I hated myself and the horrid vicious person I was becoming.

    1. All 31 of them!! Never ever did I think I could go 1 hour without having a drink never mind 1 day, but somehow 6 and a bit years later I am alcohol free. Always ODAAT but it gets so much easier. It has taken until the last year probably to go to the pub with my friends and can honestly say I love sitting with my Diet Coke people watching, knowing I can up and leave and drive home and be as fresh as a daisy waking up in the morning. Good Luck to you all. X

      1. Nearly all of these I can relate to… but it was number 7 which did it for me! My partner and I were arguing the night prior after a wedding where I drank to much as usual… he doesn’t drink. I accused him of all kinds of things and called him nasty names. The next morning when dipping my head in shame we spoke about the arguement and my partner kindly said how ‘Ehh I don’t want to say this because I know you like wine but some people just shouldn’t drink’ he was right some people including ME should not drink. It had been on my mind for months before this discussion. To this day I haven’t drank alcohol and never intend on doing it again! I thought I had a good life before, fit, funny and ambitious but now Life is already so much better

  2. This list is horrifying, but it is true. I know I have a problem, and sadly, this list just reiterates what I already know and need to fix. Thank you, Kate, for another well-put blog. I am looking forward to the upcoming school.

      1. So many of the comments make me want to cry. But, it gives me strength in knowing I am not alone. I look forward to my sober journey with so many of the wonderful people here that are struggling, that currently are succeeding, and those that have never turned back. I’ve been sober before and know how rewarding it is. I believe there is strength in numbers, so hopefully when the April school opens up, we can get each other through this.

  3. Almost all of these statements applied to me and I am so thankful that as of today I have 178 day alcohol free…almost six months. The difference is almost night and day. I’ve lost weight without really trying and am so much clearer in my thinking and my actions. Forever alcohol free is my goal!!

      1. My wake up call yesterday terrible tummy cramps had to ride thru them at stables . 3pm till nine pm ! I’ve now got a bladder infection alcohol made This worse

  4. Today is my 21st day without alcohol. Every one of the 31 things on the list I have thought and/or done. The reasons I stopped was to see if a couple of minor but chronic health issues would be improved or eliminated all together including faster results losing weight.
    I went to my first social function where there was a LOT of drinking and I just had water and lemon or coffee. I don’t miss it. It’s like making coffee every morning. It’s just a habit.

  5. This is a great list. I had (when drinking) about 25 out of the 31. I would actually qualify the one about “dedicated to yoga or running or working out”. I didn’t feel like a fraud per se, but I did feel like I was getting over. Showing up at a gym with hangovers felt very wrong, but it kept feeding my denial. Happy to say I am 16 months alcohol free. Thank you for that great list. I will save it to remember what it was like.

    1. It’s easy to forget just how alcohol affects us. I’m glad to hear things are different for you now Kelly 🙂

  6. I can relate to all of these. I kept saying no I don’t have a problem, knowing I did. I am 71 days sober today and feel great, look healthier, lost weight and doing things that I wouldn’t have done if I was still drinking.

  7. 10 of these. I know I’m getting in a mess and need to do something soon. Keep check of units per week and now up to 26-28 where 12 month ago it was around 20.

  8. I can relate to these all and abit more. One other big reason is That it really affected my children (grown up now) I stopped I hit rock bottom but I was lucky enough to do it all by myself and today I haven’t had a drink for 6years this year and I don’t miss it one bit. It can be done and I don’t care if people think your boring if you don’t drink, that is clearly not true it’s something to be proud of and you are the one that’s more healthier don’t forget….

    1. Omg 21 / 22 out off 30 shocked but shouldn’t be I suppose and I’m even more shocked at the amount off us reaching same I really taught I was a minority but I love all ur honesty it’s so great to feel comfortable sharing n helping one another day 50 thy on April first cannot believe iv done it and will continue I admire u all n thank u kath at sober school ❣️ I have no problem been around alcohol which is funny I’m so much happier iv taken up meditation have a fab week all X

  9. Such a scarily true post.
    For me points 3 and 4, absolutely- making the rules and then finding excuses to break the rules I set for myself.
    Then beating myself up for breaking my self imposed rules!
    These bargains are exhausting.
    Now that I’m on my 3rd sober month, I actually sometimes forget a little about some of the horrible things and feelings that drinking brings, this has been a great reminder of why I stopped. Thank you! X

  10. Recognised quite a few of these in myself , was contemplating pouring a wine – it’s been a nice day , I’ve done a long walk , has a bit of stressful news … but now I’m going for a cup of tea instead , last week I had five alcohol free days out of seven , it’s usually one or two , so already making progress , I plan to stop drinking home alone by the time my first grandchild arrives in early October .

  11. 17 that’s really bad, I am really going to try this time, I hate the drunk me, I’m just embarrassing and never know when to stop. The next day anxiety is horrendous and I just drink again to overcome it, so glad I came across this blog

    1. Most of those apply to me. I really want to stop drinking and I’m alright in the week. But not drinking on a weekend is very hard

  12. Whew! Day 52 and I’m grateful that many of these are no longer my stresses of daily living. In my gut I knew I should be alcohol free; but was to afraid to let it go.
    I appreciate my weekly emails to your blog. I appreciate the education.
    I’m reading you, and a few other ladies and got my much needed Instagram page following the several
    #’s that relate to being sober. Being alcohol free.
    Thank you!!!!!

  13. I have felt pretty much everyone of the feeling and thoughts you have listed. I finally found the courage to talk to my Dr. about my drinking and it was such a huge burden taken off of me. She did not make me feel bad or ashamed and has been so supportive in helping me through quitting with out judging me. I just take everyday 1 step at a time and am gradually quitting and already feel so much better.

  14. Yes its me and i think i’m finally ready to admit it. have put my name down for the course. I really hope i can do this.

    1. Brilliant – I look forward to working with you and helping you go alcohol free. It is a fantastic lifestyle choice!

  15. Samantha
    12 of these applied to me. I am on Day 8 without alcohol. Got a cup of tea in my hand now. My hardest time of the day is when I finish work at 5 to 5.30, I now have a lemon pelligrano instead. I want to do this.

    1. Having an alcohol-free drink (and a snack if you’re hungry) at that time of day really helps with cravings. Keep going Sam!

    1. Almost all of them resonate! Especially number 10, 15 and 17. My alcohol dependence was my ‘secret’ and was always paranoid other people were onto it.
      The only thing that has finally motivated me to stop is falling pregnant. I don’t even have cravings or miss drinking, and can’t quite believe its been so easy.

  16. I could relate to all of these except for 3…2 of the questions involved a partner which I do not have and the other was #13 about appearing “super healthy” to disguise an alcohol problem and feeling like a fraud…(I had other reasons related to my drinking to feel like a fraud) So, other than those few points, I did it ALL…the good thing is I stopped 10 months ago and am very thankful that I quit before I wasn’t able to. That was the scary realization for me that there is a fine line between being a problem drinker & a full blown alcoholic. I did not want to cross that line. I had gradually developed a daily wine habit & felt like I was deceiving people. I could drink in moderation around others, but then when I got home I’d have a few more and OFTEN drank alone so I didn’t have to play the games; I could just drink. No more though! Best decision I ever made!!

  17. I can resonate with so many of these points. I know I can’t moderate and need to stop completely. I never had a problem with my alcohol consumption until about 4 years ago, and I have realized it started after my 20 year old son was held up in our home in an armed robbery. He wasn’t seriously physically hurt thank God. It was the first time I started drinking in the week. We sold our house and moved to make him feel safe and enable him to recover and it put a huge financial strain on us and was very stressful. It took him a year of therapy and a bout of depression to recover and I used alcohol to cope with my emotions as I had to hold it together for him. As we know alcohol dependency is progressive and it gets worse and worse. I am looking forward to your course Kate, I hope I am still on the list. I am very thankful for these blogs as it is enormously helpful to be able to pour your heart out in an anonymous and non-judgmental environment I have done day one after a real party weekend that made me feel awful and I don’t want to feel that way again, I am so done.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about the armed robbery – that must have been very frightening for your son and incredibly stressful for you and your family. Alcohol can certainly feel like a good coping mechanism in those situations, but as you’re now discovering, in the long term it can make us feel worse. I can see you’re on the waitlist for the April class Nicola, so I’ll be emailing you next Tuesday when registration is open 🙂

  18. #5 – You’re ashamed of your drinking and beat yourself up about it” is the reason for me. Just this reason alone. Nobody in my life would ever call me a problem drinker; but I know better.
    My drinking became an issue after a series of losses: March 2015 my father in-law (we were close) died and my father entered a nursing home for Alzheimer’s; in 2016 my parents both died – 10 weeks apart, and I had 2 emergency surgeries. I was overwhelmed and that 1 glass of wine multiplied. My emotions were amplified by the alcohol; I got very tired of me.
    I’m now 4 months alcohol free. It feels good – I like me better. I lost a friend to suicide last fall. That was actually the sobriety turning point for me. Grieving sober is better for me. I plan to stay on this path. Thank you for your blog –

    1. Congratulations on your 4 months Kay – it’s great to hear how well you’re doing, after what sounds like a very tough few years.

  19. 27 out of the 31! I have made alot of good head way in trying to stop but always seem to have a blip. I drank last night after around 22 days alcohol free. And straight away back to my usual self, sneaking bits of other alcohol from the kitchen cupboard secretly in addition to the wine I was drinking, just because I have that feeling that it wasn’t enough. But each time I have a blip it just reinforces to me why I want to stop and how good I have felt. So today is again day 1, and hopefully the last day 1 I have!

  20. So so so many of these resonated with me – especially those around shame and guilt. I have been casually reading your articles for the last few months but haven’t been able to commit. I bought your program for April and am so excited! I finally feel ready to tackle this beast and level up in life, as I’ve been putting it 🙂

  21. Wow so 25 of these were a fit for me. Early this morning like 4 am I did a drinks counter website and learned that those 187 ml bottles of wine are actually more than a serving. Who knew? It never once occurred to me to check, I was like, one bottle is one serving, right?, so I’ve been drinking twice as much as I thought. Ha ha. It is horrifying how much I’ve been drinking. I thought I was doing a good thing by not buying a bottle because once a bottle is open I must drink all of it but now I know the alcohol is much smarter than me. It will always defeat me. It’s time to throw it out and get it out of my life. Thank you for writing and helping.

  22. Well out of the 31 points, only 4 didn’t resonate with me. It really hit hard!! I gave up drinking 2.5yrs ago due to health going down gurgler and drinking taking over creating severe depression anger etc. I had about 12 drinks in that 2.5yrs and struggled to just have the 1, but my friends helped. Then 3 months ago we sold our house and moved interstate to be near family (which I’d been wanting for years), settlement happened, bought a caravan, went camping in beachy areas – my dreams coming true – but all this happened with a bottle of wine in hand. I felt I could only celebrate these big things with alcohol. I noticed the bad signs, so I decided to stop drinking again. I am now at day 25 and doing well. I did a workshop over the last few days where we were asked to refrain from drinking and I was excited to say ‘no worries, I don’t drink’, but geez that night I really wanted one. I’m excited to have found your blog for your support. Thank you!

  23. 28 out of 31 for me. I’ve just realised how big a problem I have and have chosen to stop drinking for good. Only on day 4 though. Am reading everything I can on the subject.

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