One’s relationship with alcohol is wholly unique. Not only will alcohol affect each individual differently, but one’s environment and attitude surrounding drinking can significantly impact how an individual views their drinking habits. However, it can be difficult to determine when an individual has developed a problematic relationship with drinking because of this personal relationship with alcohol. 

Asking oneself how much is “too much” to drink can have numerous interpretations and answers. Determining how much is “too much” isn’t only a question of the number of drinks that an individual may imbibe in one sitting, but also how often one is drinking and what circumstances influenced one’s desire to drink in the first place. 

The Problem With Setting a Definite Number

Drinking is a personal venture, and while one may look to find a guideline in terms of “how many drinks is too much,” such a question is most often prompted to justify one’s drinking habits. In truth, there is no single guideline of how many drinks one should or should not drink, and there is no empirical metric to effectively quantify one’s use of alcohol. Basing one’s nights around an arbitrary number, rather than gauging how one feels or one’s reasons for drinking in the first place can lead to a number of misconceptions about one’s relationship with alcohol. 

Likewise, those looking for a concrete number may also compare their drinking to others around them, further justifying one’s third drink because someone else is already on their fourth. However, this does little to gauge one’s own attitudes surrounding alcohol, often leading toward a more destructive mindset. 

Another’s drinking habits should not inform one’s own. Not only do different people have varying levels of tolerance and experience different effects of alcohol, but gauging one’s use against another also may cause an individual to incorrectly assume they aren’t suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs) or unhealthy relationships with drinking themselves, creating an incredibly dangerous precedent. 

Definitive numbers also don’t dictate how heavy a particular drink may be. Depending on the drink, the alcohol used, and the amount of alcohol, two drinks that look similar may have drastically different effects on an individual, further compromising the idea that one’s drinking can be effectively quantified in this manner. 

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The Many Forms of Substance Use Disorders

Addiction is a complicated topic, and many images may come to one’s mind when imagining what addiction may look like. Stumbling downstairs and slurring speech at all hours of the day is only one way an individual may have an unhealthy relationship with drinking, with this one image being just the most pronounced of addiction’s many forms. 

Others may suffer from addiction by taking sips throughout the day, even if they never reach a point of belligerent drunkenness. Sneaking drinks alongside breakfast, while on a work break, in between classes, with dinner, and more are problematic relationships that need to be addressed, even if they are much more difficult to identify. This kind of consistent drinking can still damage one’s physical and mental health and put an individual at risk for legal repercussions. 

Some may also find themselves unable to stop drinking once they have begun, even if they only drink occasionally. An individual may be able to abstain from drinking for weeks or months, but once they begin to drink, they may quickly lose track of how much they are drinking, leading to blackouts and severe intoxication. This inability to put down a drink can be just as destructive as any other form addiction may take. 

With the many forms of addiction and unhealthy relationships, there is no set number of drinks that are “safe.” However, prioritizing drinking to the detriment of one’s responsibilities and relationships — or drinking to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression — may all benefit from a deeper analysis.

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Looking Past a Number

Without a definite number that can act as a universal guideline, each individual may seek to answer the question of their drinking in a different way. Tackling this question can have a number of different approaches, but focusing on one’s attitude around drinking can be a great place to start. 

Finding the reason one drinks can be very telling about one’s relationship with alcohol as a whole. Drinking as a celebratory event can be very different than drinking due to workplace stresses and relationship strains or to “uplift” an individual from feeling sad or depressed. Seeing drinking as a solution to a problem can impart a very skewed perception of alcohol, making its use seem like something positive that overlooks many of its physical, mental, and emotional ramifications. While the amount one drinks can indicate if one needs assistance overcoming a SUD, the unique reason and relationship one has with alcohol can be just as telling. 

However, those asking themselves, “How much is too much?” often are aware that their relationship may not be the healthiest or may have an inkling that they are destructively engaging with alcohol. Asking this question can be incredibly difficult, especially when asking it about themselves. However, with the power to question and analyze one’s drinking habits comes the first steps toward acknowledgment and change, and one’s journey to sobriety can begin, including inpatient alcohol treatment. 

There isn’t a set number of drinks that can tell you how much drinking is too much, but your attitudes and relationships can help explore what “too much” may mean to you. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we champion this individualized approach to recovery, embracing your unique history to create a personalized plan for you not just to address your relationship with alcohol but to begin exploring a transformed lifestyle in sobriety. Your time at our inpatient alcohol treatment facility is filled with yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, and extensive cultural and experiential programming to help you find your best sober practices and your spiritual self. Our community is built with like-minded professionals and peers, all exploring and supporting each other through the recovery process. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique circumstances and goals, call us today at (866) 390-5070.

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