Having a beer or glass of wine or two in the evenings after work or with dinner is something many people indulge in from time to time. For many, this time spent relaxing (and possibly alone) offers a chance to unwind and treat themselves before going back to work, school, or attending to other important life obligations.
The average person who is generally stressed out or experiencing mental health or emotional issues may never find themselves progressing into full-blown alcoholism. However, others find their condition beginning to thrive as they escalate their alcohol use to cope with ever-increasing problems, such as trauma, guilt, shame, and despair.
Am I an Alcoholic?
Drinking by oneself does not automatically mean a person is an alcoholic. However, it would be to monitor how much and how frequently drinking alone occurs, as it could be a sign of a much more dangerous problem that urgently needs to be addressed.
Although drinking alone or has the potential to be a crucial symptom of burgeoning alcohol addiction, there are many other warning signs for which to look, including the following:
- Temporary blackout or short-term memory loss
- Irritability, agitation, and marked mood swings
- Inability to stop drinking despite attempts
- Making excuses for drinking patterns and behaviors
- Prioritizing drinking over meaningful relationships
- Increasing alcohol tolerance
- Engagement in risky behaviors, such as driving while impaired
- Feelings of withdrawal and isolation
When a person is experiencing any combination of these adverse mental states in addition to drinking alone, their drinking habit is likely turning into an alcohol dependence or addiction. An increasing amount of problems might seem obvious to others who aren’t falling into harmful drinking habits. Still, those in the throes of abuse cannot always see how misguided and problematic drinking alone can become, especially when they have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety.
Why Drink Alone?
Solitary drinking is commonly mentioned as a significant symptom of alcoholism. Still, when done on occasion and in moderation, this behavior does not necessarily automatically mean a person is an alcoholic. However, when a person starts drinking alone more frequently, this can turn into alcohol dependence or addiction.
There are several reasons why a person might decide to drink alone. Some of the most common issues that individuals use alcohol to cope with include the following:
- Depression and anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
Unfortunately, drinking alone to relieve uncomfortable feelings or co-occurring mental health conditions is a behavior that has become quite common. Although an estimated 51.5 million Americans have a mental illness, most do not receive treatment for their disorder.
And even worse, about 50% of American adults suffering from a mental health issue abuse a substance, such as alcohol, as a coping mechanism. Without intervention and professional treatment, a drinking problem can rapidly spiral down into chronic alcoholism.
A few of the so-called “perks” of drinking alcohol alone include the following:
- Being in control of where one drinks
- Determining the speed at which one drinks and what type of beverage
- Escaping social tension or awkwardness
- Enjoying quality time with oneself
In essence, many people who regularly drink alone do so in an attempt to exert some level of control. Others can’t express concern over habits or try to intervene. Also, relatively severe alcoholics may drink at home because it’s less expensive and they can avoid drinking and driving.
Dangers of Drinking Alone
Drinking alone comes with a myriad of potentially dangerous consequences. For example, it can place people who are getting intoxicated in unsafe situations. Alcohol abuse can dramatically impair decision-making skills. The more alcohol that an individual consumes, the worse their judgment can become.
Without any sober friends or family around to supervise, a person may be more likely to participate in risky behaviors like drunk driving, physical altercations, and sexually aggressive or violent behaviors. These actions don’t just place the affected individual in danger but others as well.
Drinking in secret also puts you at risk for excessive drinking or binge drinking—a practice of ingesting large quantities of alcohol in a single episode and usually within a short period. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that binge drinking is the most lethal form of heavy alcohol use and often results in addiction.
As drinking alone becomes more ingrained in a person’s daily life, the deeper the cycle of alcohol dependence will become. As a person continues to drink alone, alcohol becomes a sort of panacea for getting his or her through difficult, stressful, or awkward moments.
In turn, the brain and body will begin to rely solely on alcohol to manage your daily life. Eventually, behavior that once started as a means of self-medication will have foundered into alcoholism, and in many instances, it happens without the user even realizing it.
Drinking Alone, Addiction, and Isolation
By nature, addiction is a disorder that flourishes in isolation and despair. It can force a person into hiding to feed the disease and foster feelings of denial, guilt, and fear. As they start to feel overwhelmed by these unpleasant emotions, they will begin to cover up these feelings with other abusive behaviors and even more alcohol.
Addiction is a disease that can shame an individual into more profound isolation and keep one trapped in a never-ending cycle of abuse. The seclusion of drinking alone can make a person feel socially and emotionally disconnected, unworthy of love, hopeless, helpless, lonely, and generally unhappy and unfulfilled.
These emotions often drive individuals to drink more alcohol, and they are relatively common among those who drink in isolation. Research has shown that consuming alcohol while alone can lead to depression or thoughts of suicide. Due to the vicious cycle that tends to exist between alcohol abuse and depression, the two often occur as comorbid disorders.
While occasionally drinking alone may not indicate a person is an alcoholic, it could, especially if a person begins to drink more alcohol more frequently. If you or someone you love is engaging in solitary drinking that has become more frequent, ask yourself why you (or the only person) feel the need to drink more and why doing so alone is necessary. Often, those that drink alone are doing so in order to mask a far more severe problem.
Getting Help for Alcoholism or Drug Addiction
Occasional social drinking may not ever become particularly problematic. Nonetheless, frequently drinking alone, especially to numb feelings of depression or loneliness, is very risky and can quickly advance into alcohol dependence and addiction.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive, individualized treatment programs in both partial hospitalization and residential formats. Our addiction approach includes treatment for co-existing mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and more.
Services and therapeutic activities we provide include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- 12-step peer group support
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- Art and music therapy
- Life skills training
- Relapse prevention
- Substance abuse education
- Health and wellness education
- Aftercare planning