People with a drinking problem do not start out in life having trouble the first time they consume alcohol. Generally speaking, it can take several years before alcohol consumption begins to show up in the form of a problem. It may initially show up with some simple signs like increased mood swings. The body develops a tolerance for alcohol; therefore as the tolerance grows, an individual will need to consume more alcohol to obtain the same effect. Hangovers and/or blackouts may become more prevalent. A person may start losing interest in fulfilling responsibilities at home, work or in relationships. They will tend to let go of the things they normally did very punctually (e.g., showing up for work on time, paying bills on time, coming home at a reasonable hour, going to their children’s school functions). They generally can fall into an attitude of caring less about drinking responsibly. They tend to do things that lend themselves more to the consumption of alcohol. The problem drinker will usually be surrounded by people that binge drink like they do. Being surrounded by these same types of people helps the problem drinker to rationalize that they are normal and that the things they are doing are normal. Therefore, they do not see a problem with their lifestyle. Thus, they do not see themselves as having a problem with alcohol.
Usually the person with a drinking problem will be very dismissive about their difficulties. By the time their alcohol consumption has reached the problem stage, they tend to minimize or blame everyone else for the troubles. This makes it difficult to approach someone who concerns us. Denial is one of the primary problems in overcoming problem drinking (with the extreme form being the disease of alcoholism).
The first step in altering the course in order to live the good life is admitting to yourself that there is a problem. Once this hurdle is crossed, the door of willingness and the desire to accept responsibility for self makes moderate drinking or recovery easier. It is not an easy thing to do, and it requires a great deal of courage to admit there is a problem. The next step is also difficult, and that is to reach out to another and admit we need help. The problem drinker might feel that this is admitting defeat and turn back to relying on large amounts of alcohol. I might point out that there is honor, not disgrace, in trying to improve one’s life.
Every one of us was born with the ability to overcome obstacles placed in our path. The day we tried to walk we fell down, yet we continued to try to walk until we mastered the task. Sometimes we needed the helping hand of a parent to guide us on this journey. The problem drinker must initiate the reaching, perhaps to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or the Peace Officers Fellowship (POF) for sworn.
In the event that you find yourself unable to control your drinking or any other substances, there are multiple resources available to help you. The Peace Officer’s Fellowship is one of those resources. It is a group of peace officers committed to living sober lives and helping others achieve and maintain sobriety. It offers support with confidentiality, and each month a few of its members’ names and phone numbers are printed in the Star News. In addition to the POF, help with drinking in moderation is available through Psychological Services Bureau’s Substance Abuse Resource Program (SARP) at (213) 738-3500, the Peer Support Program, the Chaplain Program, and outside private entities (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous). We are here to help you take that first step to overcome any signs of a substance problem.