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Let’s face it, beer is delicious. The thought of an ice-cold brew on a hot summer’s day is enticing, for sure. Beer is woven into our social pastimes, like baseball games and picnics, backyard barbecues, Superbowl parties, and music festivals. But what happens when you overindulge—when one beer after a long day at work morphs into a six-pack…or a 12-pack? What happens when you can’t stop drinking beer, even when you know it is causing harm? When did that frosty mug of beer become an out-of-control habit?
Getting a handle on a beer habit is challenging. Breaking free from compulsive beer consumption takes commitment and patience, and a new perspective on one’s lifestyle. The first step is to recognize that it is considered an alcohol use disorder when you can’t stop drinking beer, and that requires some professional help to overcome.
How Your Beer Drinking Is Leading to an Alcohol Use Disorder
Everyone has heard the wise admonition to do everything in moderation in order to stay out of trouble. The same wisdom pertains to beer consumption, although some may find it difficult to believe that beer could possibly be harmful. But beer contains alcohol, and alcohol intake must be self-regulated or it can quickly spin out of control. Just like any other alcoholic beverage, beer has the potential to evolve into alcoholism.
The alcohol content in one bottle of beer is equivalent to a 5-ounce glass of wine or a shot of hard liquor, each of these considered a “standard drink” by the Centers for Disease Control. According to CDC guidelines, women should not drink more than the equivalent of one standard drink per day, and men drinking no more than two. This equates to one daily beer for a woman and two daily beers for a man. When those recommendations are exceeded on a consistent basis, alcohol consumption has become problematic.
- UNABLE TO CONTROL THE NUMBER OF BEERS CONSUMED, EVEN THOUGH YOU WISH TO LIMIT IT
- OBSESSED ABOUT DRINKING BEER, PLANNING FOR THE NEXT OPPORTUNITY TO DRINK, MAKING SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH BEER ON HAND
- INCREASED TOLERANCE TO THE ALCOHOL EFFECT LEADS TO HIGHER BEER CONSUMPTION
- LYING ABOUT HOW MUCH BEER YOU ARE DRINKING
- NEGLECTING FAMILY OR WORK RESPONSIBILITIES
- FINANCIAL PROBLEMS THAT MAY STEM FROM A JOB LOSS OR LEGAL PROBLEMS (DUI)
RELATIONSHIP TROUBLE DUE TO DRINKING
- EXPERIENCE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS WHEN BEER IS UNAVAILABLE OR TRYING TO QUIT
The longer-term effects of excessive beer drinking are serious threats to health. These include:
- WEIGHT GAIN, OBESITY
- IMPAIRED LIVER FUNCTIONING
- DIGESTIVE TRACT PROBLEMS
- COGNITIVE PROBLEMS
- HEART DISEASE
- NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS
- PANCREATIC DISEASE
- MODERATE TO SEVERE ALCOHOLISM
Strategies to Give Up Beer
For those with a mild alcohol use disorder, meaning a recent increase in beer consumption habits, it may be possible to strategize ways to decrease consumption on your own volition. This is when alcohol has not become alcohol addiction or dependency. You may just notice weight gain and that you aren’t feeling well, so decide to cut way back on beer. Cutting back over a week or two can help ease you into the desired range. Strategies might include:
- REMOVING ALL ALCOHOL FROM THE HOME
- REPLACE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES AT EVENTS WITH SPARKLING WATER
- RESTRICT YOUR INTAKE TO ONE BEER, AND NO MORE
- AVOID SITUATIONS WHERE THERE WILL BE HEAVY DRINKING
- TAKE UP EXERCISE DURING THE USUAL TIME YOU WOULD BE DRINKING
Getting Help for an Alcohol Use Disorder
For those individuals who have developed a more serious alcohol use disorder due to consistent excessive beer consumption, detox and rehab would be the appropriate course of action. During the intake process at an outpatient or inpatient rehab program the clinician will assess the level of the alcohol use disorder and be able to anticipate possible withdrawal risks. A medically monitored detox program will assist the individual with medications and other interventions to help guide them through the detoxification process.
The treatment phase of recovery involves a milieu of treatment interventions that are designed to provide a comprehensive approach to helping the individual overcome addiction behavior responses. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are two excellent approaches that are highly effective in shifting dysfunction thought patterns. Recovery skills, such as relapse prevention strategies, stress management, conflict resolution, and improved communication skills, are also a fundamental aspect of rehab. Peer support is provided through group therapy sessions and recovery meetings, such as 12-step or similar. Finally, relaxation techniques are often included in addiction recovery programs, as stress is a significant trigger for relapse.
Creating a Sober Lifestyle
Changing the focus of one’s life from beer-drinking opportunities to those that lead to health and wellness is essential in recovery from an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol is very hard on our physical and mental health, so restoring wellness should be a priority in recovery. Some excellent ways to create that new healthy, sober lifestyle might include:
- TAKING UP A NEW FITNESS ACTIVITY OR SPORT
- JOINING SOBER MEET UP GROUPS FOR HIKES, WORKOUTS, OR SOCIAL EVENTS
- CHANGE YOUR DIET BY REDUCING PROCESSED CARBS AND SUGARS AND INCREASING LEAN PROTEINS
- REVISIT AN OLD PASSION, SUCH AS MUSIC, ART, THEATER, OR A HOBBY
- TAKE TIME FOR MEDITATION OR PRAY
- VOLUNTEER AT LOCAL CHARITIES
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