Do I Have a Problem if I Drink Alcohol to Relax?

Drinking alcohol to relax is a common occurrence. Individuals find that alcohol helps them unwind or de-stress, because the drug is a central nervous system depressant. By slowing down brain activity alcohol can mask feelings of stress, pressure and anxiety while improving mood and lessening inhibitions. People drinking alcohol to relax are not drinking for social purposes or simply because they enjoy it. They have a specific goal in mind and see alcohol use as the only way to achieve that goal.

When Can I Drink to Relax?

You should never use alcohol as a solution to a problem. The following behaviors indicate alcohol abuse and can lead to a problematic relationship with alcohol:

  • Drinking after a fight, argument or quarrel
  • Drinking when under pressure
  • Drinking to escape from family, marital, work or financial troubles
  • Drinking to avoid negative feelings like anger, disappointment, depression or anxiousness
  • Drinking to improve mood or to feel “better”

Individuals who drink for any of the reasons listed above need to examine their relationship with alcohol. This type of drinking can be considered abusive and can lead to larger problems.

Why Drinking to Relax Is Dangerous

Drinking to relax or de-stress is dangerous, because it greatly increases the chances of building a tolerance to or dependence on alcohol. It can lead to addiction and physical and mental health concerns. Individuals may not believe that an occasional drinking habit puts them at risk for alcoholism, but they will be surprised to learn how common and quickly alcohol dependence can occur.

Using alcohol to relax or de-stress is a coping mechanism and a poor one at that. This coping mechanism is known as abusive situational drinking, because an individual begins to rely on alcohol whenever he or she is faced with a problem. If a stressful situation rises again, an individual will turn towards alcohol because it “worked” before. Eventually this behavior develops into a habit or a compulsive act or dependency. Increasing the use of alcohol will lead to tolerance, and an individual will have to drink more to achieve the intended effects, to find any relief, to calm down or to relax. As the individual increases the amount of alcohol used, both a physical and psychological addiction quickly follow.

How to Relax without Alcohol

Drinking alcohol to relax or de-stress is problematic, as it puts users at risk for tolerance, dependence and addiction. Being under the influence of alcohol can create many serious problems that are health and non-health related. Learning how to relax or cope with stress in a healthy manner can prevent many injuries, illnesses and problems. The following are a few tips on how to relax without drinking alcohol:

  • Talk to someone about your problems
  • Exercise physically by running, swimming, dancing, bicycling or other activity you enjoy
  • Exercise the mind through yoga, meditation or other calming practices
  • Learn and practice stress reduction techniques
  • Pamper yourself by taking a nice bath, enjoying a glass of tea or indulging in other simple pleasures
  • Try a new hobby or participate in an old interest such as gardening, reading books, listening to music, creating art or taking classes
  • Make time for family and friends
  • Seek professional help

Find Help for Stress or Problems with Alcohol Use

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have a problem with alcohol, now is the time look into getting help. Please call our toll-free helpline to voice concerns about or find solutions for drinking problems. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to offer a listening ear and provide helpful guidance and information. If you are ready, counselors can even connect you with a treatment program that meets your exact recovery needs. Please call now.

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