Has Dry January made you realise you have an alcohol problem

Has Dry January made you realise you have an alcohol problem?

Has Dry January made you realise you have an alcohol problem?

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No doubt you will have heard about Dry January, the campaign by Alcohol Change UK for people to spend the whole month without alcohol. The aim is for people to have a break from alcohol and allow a total reset for the body and mind.

The charity suggests that the benefits of doing so are supposed to be an increase in energy, improvement in mental health and concentration and brighter skin, saving money and a sense of achievement [1].

Realising you may have an issue

But what happens if, in the course of the month, you find yourself realising you may have a problem with alcohol? Perhaps you are struggling to commit to Dry January, maybe having a drink and then re-starting again, or simply giving up on the idea altogether?

Perhaps you are aware that you are a binge drinker but are starting to acknowledge the severity of this? This could be a significant, although harsh awakening, to the fact that your relationship with alcohol is more serious than you imagined.

Alcohol dependence

Stay calm, if this is the case. There are many ways through this and a lot of help and compassion you can draw upon to help you. Research shows that treatment around the overuse of alcohol has improved significantly in the past 40 years [2]. One important step forward is the change from using the term ‘alcoholism’ to ‘alcohol dependence’ [3].

Alcohol dependence describes drinking at a level that causes harm to your health and is a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink [3]. This desire to drink can interfere with your everyday life to such a degree that it causes many problems in your personal and professional life. The Mayo Clinic, a rehabilitation centre, states:

“If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. It can range from mild to severe. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important.” [4]

Checklist of signs

WebMD, a leading source for health and medical information, suggests a checklist of signs that you may have an alcohol problem [5]. These include:

  • You drink more than planned
  • You spend a lot of time on drinking
  • Your tolerance level has gone up
  • You crave alcohol
  • You give up other activities
  • You’re dropping the ball on life in terms of deadlines
  • Your drinking causes friction in relationships
  • You have withdrawal as the effects wear off
  • You could have been hurt from poor decisions
  • Drink is making you sick and causing health problems
  • You’re in legal trouble because of your drinking
  • You want to stop but you can’t

You are not alone

If this sounds like you, take some comfort from the fact that you are not alone. In England there are over 600,000 dependent drinkers [6]. The number may be far higher in fact, when we consider that other people could be hiding their dependency and not included in that estimate.

It is easier for some individuals to hide their alcohol dependency. Alcohol dependency does not discriminate and can affect individuals at all levels in society, from the homeless person to the high-status executive [7]. ‘High-functioning’ dependent drinkers may still have the ability to perform and succeed, so the recognition of their condition may be more limited, by themselves or by others [7].

Causes are complex

Alcohol dependency does not have a singular cause, instead both internal and external factors can contribute. Internal factors include: genetics, psychological conditions and personality. External factors include: family, environment, social and cultural norms, amongst others [8].

Research found that people drink alcohol as a way of coping with stress [2] and stress can be found in all areas of life, from climbing the career ladder to coping with the pressure of family responsibilities. You’re not the first, and won’t be the last, to use alcohol for whatever reasons you do.

Help and treatment

All this adds up to alcohol being a significant problem for people from all walks of life. If you feel you are one of these people, your first step is to contact your GP who can assess the issue and refer you for treatment. Treatment can include: medicines or detox programmes to help you stop drinking safely. It can also include counselling such as talking therapies and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) [9]. Your doctor will advise you because your treatment will depend on your own personal circumstances.

In addition to contacting your doctor, you can access private and confidential help through My Family Psychologist. We offer a range of techniques including CBT. We are not a medical practitioner however, so it is imperative that you speak to your GP to access treatment as well. Our services can assist you in your journey towards a happier, healthier way of living. Call Luisa on 07801 079 555 or email luisa@myfamilypsychologist.com for a confidential chat.


  1. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/help-and-support/managing-your-drinking/dry-january
  2. Willenbring M. L. (2010). The past and future of research on treatment of alcohol dependence. Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism33(1-2), 55–63.
  3. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcoholism
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243
  5. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/ss/slideshow-signs-alcohol-problem
  6. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets/alcohol-statistics
  7. Benton, Sarah A. (2009) Understanding the High-functioning Alcoholic (Praeger Series on Contemporary Health and Living): Professional Views and Personal Insights (Praeger Series on Contemporary Health & Living) Connecticut: Praeger Publishers
  8. https://www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/alcoholism-causes-risk-factors
  9. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/

If you would like to know more about how My Family Psychologist can help, call us on 07801 079555 or email luisa@myfamilypsychologist.com

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