You're likely reading this because you think that you (or someone you know) might have an alcohol issue. But you might not be sure. You might have an idea of what an alcohol issue looks like, but it just doesn't fit with your situation. Does that mean there's no issue?
All kinds of people can struggle with alcohol use. There is not one way to describe a person with an issue. Many people think it means people who aren't working, don't pay bills, don’t meet responsibilities, or have to drink every day. This is not the case. When you continue to do something despite negative consequences, it's an issue. Anyone can have an alcohol issue.
People who struggle with alcohol use are all different. They drink differently, have different issues, and lead different lives. People with alcohol use issues might:
Here are 2 examples of what an alcohol issue might look like. Remember, these are just examples and don't describe all people who use alcohol.
Bill is the foreman on a construction site. He's married to Linda and they have 2 teenage daughters. After work, Bill always has 4 or 5 beers before dinner. Then, he drinks several more until he falls asleep watching TV. Bill has been having trouble at work. His boss has asked him if he has a drinking problem. When Bill and Linda go out, Bill always drinks heavily, even if he says he only plans to have 1 or 2 drinks.
Linda has told Bill that she doesn't like him drinking so much and that it embarrasses her when he gets drunk. Bill tells her that she doesn't know how to have fun. She's tried to talk to Bill about this, but she doesn't feel like she's getting through to him. When Linda tells Bill he needs help, he yells at her and throws things. Linda is scared of Bill when he's drinking. She often thinks about divorcing him. Bill used to drive the girls to school every morning. But about 2 months ago, Bill was charged with impaired driving and lost his driver's licence.
Carly is in her first year of university. Carly and her boyfriend have been fighting a lot lately about her drinking. When they go out, Carly gets intoxicated and says and does things that embarrass both of them. Carly’s boyfriend said he needs time away from Carly to think about their relationship. Now instead of going out, Carly stays at home every weekend and drinks. She has missed a few classes because of her drinking. Her grades have gone down. Carly has spent most of the money her parents loaned her on alcohol. Now she has no money. Carly’s friends have sent her messages asking where she is. She hasn't called or texted her friends back.
Both Bill and Carly have an issue with alcohol. But they are different people with different challenges. They will both need different kinds of help.
About 80% of Albertans drink alcohol. Most people don't have alcohol use issues, but some people do. There is likely an issue if a person keeps drinking, even when it has negative effects on their life.
Alcohol use issues can range from mild to very bad. Some factors to think about are:
The factors above aren’t the only signs of an alcohol use issue. A person with an issue usually has challenges in some or all of these areas:
Let's think about what Bill's use is doing to his life. Clear signs that his use is an issue are that Bill:
Carly’s use is also causing issues, but her challenges are different than Bill's. Clear signs of an issue are that Carly:
Bill and Carly both need to get help for their drinking, but they might get different kinds of help.
Expressing love and concern for a friend or family member with an alcohol use issue can be hard. Sometimes it’s even harder because the person might think everything is fine and that you're the one with the issue. These are normal reactions. The most important thing to remember is you can't make anyone change or see things the way you see them.
If you want to talk to your friend or family member about drinking, focus on how you feel about it. For example, Carly’s boyfriend might say "When you got drunk and passed out at my parent’s anniversary party, I felt really mad and embarrassed." Carly’s boyfriend has focused on a real event and explained how it made him feel.
Be supportive and say clearly how you feel about the person. For example, "I love you very much and I'm worried about your drinking and how it's affecting your life and our relationship."
If you can, say clearly what you want or expect from the person. For example, "I want us to see a counsellor about your drinking." If you don’t get a positive answer, you might need to set limits on what you're willing to do. The limit you set should be something you can stick to. Don't say you're going to move out if the person doesn't stop drinking unless you're willing to do it.
It is very important to take care of yourself first. If someone’s drinking is causing you so much stress that you can't function like normal, you might want to see a counsellor. You can see a counsellor about someone else's drinking even if they won’t get help.
There are different kinds of help for people struggling with alcohol use like:
You can start by reading about alcohol use or making an appointment to see a counsellor.
There are services for your friend or family member, if they decide to get help. If you have a friend or family member with an alcohol issue, you can get help through (even if the person with the issue isn’t in recovery):
To find out about help or to find an addiction services office near you, call the 24-hour Help Line at 1-866-332-2322 (Alberta only).
Current as of: May 18, 2022
Author: Addiction & Mental Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.