Before I quit alcohol, I had many firmly held beliefs about what constituted ‘problem drinking’. There was a line out there – somewhere – and there was no way I’d ever cross it, because that kind of thing didn’t happen to people like me. Yes I drank a lot, but I bought posh wine in the supermarket. I had a good job. I went to the gym. It wasn’t as if I was pouring vodka on my cornflakes.

I was pretty sure I was on the right side of the line. And if I did start approaching it, then I’d know about it, right?


It turned out that ‘the line’ was more of a grey zone. Easy to spot with hindsight, but not so obvious when you’re in the thick of it.

The thing about drinking too much is that it’s so easy to rationalise it. You can always find people who are worse off than you, or drinking more than you. You can keep filling out those online tests until you get the answer you were hoping for. You can convince yourself that everything is fine, until one day it really isn’t.

Here are 21 signs that you might have a drinking problem.

  1. You love the idea of ‘one or two drinks’, but once you start, it’s hard to stop.
  2. You set limits, but you regularly drink more than you intend to.
  3. You spend a lot of time thinking about drinking.
  4. You spend a lot of time rationalising your drinking.
  5. You feel ashamed of your drinking.
  6. You google things like ‘do I have a drinking problem?’
  7. When you start drinking, you worry about your supplies running out.
  8. You always have one eye on how much everyone else is drinking.
  9. You drink to manage your emotions. You reach for booze when you’re stressed, or sad or want to relax.
  10. You enjoy drinking alone.
  11. People close to you seem concerned.
  12. The idea of socialising, networking or partying sober bores you silly.
  13. You feel annoyed when your drinking is interrupted – e.g. having to drive.
  14. You hide how much you’re drinking.
  15. You regularly blackout. There are long periods of time that you cannot recall.
  16. You find yourself doing damage control the morning after.
  17. Your sleep is disturbed. You’re permanently exhausted, yet you wake up at 4am.
  18. Your physical appearance is changing. Hello, puffy face. Bye bye waistline.
  19. You’ve given up other hobbies and activities you used to enjoy.
  20. You suspect that drink is preventing you from doing the things you know you have the potential to do.
  21. You find yourself on websites like this.

Ultimately, if your drinking feels like a problem, then it probably is. And most problems don’t go away on their own.

With hindsight, I wish I’d spent less time filling out online quizzes and weighing up the evidence. A better use of my time would have been to acknowledge the problem and then move on to looking at the costs. What was I sacrificing in order to keep alcohol on the scene? When everything was taken into account, was drinking really worth it? Eventually I decided the answer was no.

What about you? What will you decide?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. If you’ve already stopped drinking – how did you know it was time to stop? What prompted you to take action? Please share your thoughts, tips and hard won insights in the comments!



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