In my experience as a bartender, I have learned that a general rule of thumb is that if you think that someone’s drinking is problematic / abusive, it probably is. I’ve noticed three types of drinking behaviors in the customers that I wait on. People who drink alcohol can be classified into three major categories: social, problem, and alcoholic. First, let us consider the social drinkers; a person who usually only has drinks on occasion. For example social drinkers may consume only a small amount of alcohol on the holidays or a special occasion.
They will drink slowly, by limiting themselves to only one an hour. This way they do not overdue it and become drunk. The social drinkers know and obey the laws related to drinking; therefore they never drive during or after drinking. Next, there are the problem drinkers; he or she drinks to cope with problems or stressful life events. A few examples of these are loss of employment, a fight with a loved one, or financial problems.
The problem drinkers may experience personality changes or mood swings, such as becoming loud, angry, violent, reclusive and withdrawn. They could even experience blackouts (alcohol induced amnesia). This is a period of memory loss while drinking and they cannot recall what happened, though they seemed “normal” to people at the time. The next day the problem drinkers will seem confused as to the events of the previous evening. The final category is the alcoholics. They need to drink before facing a stressful situation. The alcoholic drinkers will hide their drinking and keep bottles hidden for quick pick me ups. They experience an inability to keep promises to self about limiting drinking. The transitions from having hangovers to more dangerous withdrawal symptoms can be fatal.
A few examples of the symptoms of a hangover are headache, nausea, and dehydration to name a few. Yet these pale in comparison to the symptoms of withdrawal, such as fever, the shakes, agitation, convulsions, and delirium tremens ( DT a state of confusion and hallucinations). Consequently, these three categories can be used to classify drinkers into particular groups. These three groups all have different characteristics. It is not necessary for a person to exhibit every characteristic to fit into a certain category and sometimes the “line” between categories is quite thin. The experience I have had with all three types of drinkers has taught me valuable lessons.
As a social drinker, I have learned to pace my drink so as to enjoy the evening out with friends. The problem drinker has helped me realize that the answer is never in the bottom of a bottle. The problem is still there the next day only now with a hangover as well. The most important lesson is from the alcoholic, that excessive drinking can do irreversible damage to one’s health. I find that the decision to not drink a responsible one; whereas, those who decide to drink should carefully consider the choices they make after they have been drinking. Their lives and others could very well depend on it.