Dynamics of Alcohol Abuse
anonymous Asks ...
We moved for my work a year ago. Since that time my wife’s drinking has gotten increasingly out of control. She drinks a bottle of wine at least every day. We are scheduled to move back home in 6 months. She says she is only drinking so much now because she is so bored and once she goes back to her life at home she will cut back to a healthier amount. I am kind of worried that she is becoming an alcoholic. Is it very risky for me to wait 6 months to see if what she is saying is true? Should I force the issue now or wait and see? She is not causing any problems to our relationship but I just do not think it is healthy.
Dr. James Strawbridge Says ...
With the information you mention, the following are my thoughts.
The consumption of alcohol can have positive as well as negative effects. There is some evidence associating light drinking with improved emotional, mental and physical health. But there is an emerging picture of alcohol use as a way of masking problems, and helping us cope with emotions we would otherwise find it too difficult to deal with.
Alcohol is tied up with many areas of our lives, and we use it in a plethora of ways: to help us relax, feel brave, introduce ourselves, seal business deals, celebrate life events, drown our sorrows, remember, forget, welcome people, say goodbye to people, get to know people, manipulate people, because we feel like it, because we need it, to numb ourselves, to feel grown up, to feel young, to belong, to distinguish ourselves, and sometimes, because we’ve forgotten how to do anything without alcohol.
There are two potential problems in using this as a coping mechanism. Firstly, self-medicating with alcohol can become self-perpetuating. Underlying anxiety leads to increased alcohol use, which changes the physiology of the brain and leads to a depletion of the neurotransmitters (the brain’s ‘messengers’) that it needs to reduce anxiety naturally. Therefore, the individual feels more anxious and needs more alcohol to ‘numb’ their anxiety. In the long term, this can lead to an individual becoming tolerant of alcohol – that is, they need increasingly large amounts of drink to experience the same reduction in their anxiety.
I would posit that drinking a bottle of wine each day can lead to a tolerance that will require more alcohol to get the same results...and this can lead to alcohol dependence. An assessment will objectively answer many question you may have in an effort to help.