I should avoid tobacco, mood-altering recreational drugs and excessive use of alcohol.
It is estimated that 7% of individuals in military settings have Substance-abuse Disorders and overall this translates into approximately 1.8 million veterans affected by substance abuse. A survey of 16,000active-duty military personnel revealed that 43% identified themselves as “binge drinkers,” which is defined as the consumption of five or more standard drinks in one sitting for men; four or more drinks for women, at least once in the preceding 30 days. Individuals who engage in binge drinking are five times as likely to have interpersonal problems with their significant others, five times as likely to admit that their spouse had threatened to leave or did actually leave the relationship, and nine times as likely to report they were asked to leave by their partner.
Note: one standard drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer or cooler (5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits (40% alcohol). The average person metabolizes about 1 standard drink per hour.
What is Your Drinking Pattern?
- How many times in the past year have you had five or more drinks in a day for men or four more drinks a day for women?
- On average how many days do you have an alcoholic drink?
- On a typical day, how many drinks do you have?
- Do you have more than 14 drinks a week (for men), and seven drinks a week (for women)? (Men and women metabolize alcohol differently).
Do You Drink Too Much?
There are a number of self-report scales where you can determine if your drinking alcohol is a problem for you. You can take these assessment tools and keep the scores confidential. These are listed here for your own private analysis. Also included are websites where you can find helpful information. Let us begin with the simple and straightforward widely used CAGE (see italicized words below in questions) measure.
Answer each of these four questions yes or no.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?
If your answer is yes to two or more questions, then you should consider further assessment of your drinking behavior and the need to obtain assistance.
Another more detailed self-assessment test that you can take is called the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test that is available online at: counsellingresource.com/quizzes/drug-testing/alcohol-mast
Fill out these checkups when you have a chance. You do not have to report your scores to anyone. It is for your own information.
Here are some additional signs that alcohol or drug use is becoming a problem:
- You feel guilty about your alcohol or drug use.
- Your family or friends comment on how much you are drinking.
- Your drinking or drug use makes it hard to live up to your responsibilities at home or at work.
- You need more alcohol or drugs to get the same effect.
- You have tried to cut down on your own, but can’t.
- You have not been able to cut down or stop.
- You have not been able to stick to drinking limits.
- You have shown signs of withdrawal such as tremors, sweating, nausea, and insomnia.
- You spent a lot of time drinking or using drugs or planning on ways to obtain substances.
- You have had relationship problems, role failures and run-ins with the law because of alcohol or drug use.
- You have engaged in risky behaviors like driving, swimming, using dangerous equipment while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If your answers to these Hinge Questions are “yes,” you should consider what triggers your drinking in terms of people (who are you with), places (where are you) and activities (what are you doing). Help is available. To read stories of individuals (“recovery heroes”) who have successfully quit various forms of addiction visit www.quitandrecovery.org.
Additional resources that may be of assistance in helping individuals who have substance abuse problems include Alcoholic Anonymous and Smart Recovery which provide peer-to-peer supports. For instance, see the following websites.
SMART Recovery at www.smartrecovery.com
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at www.niaaa.nih.gov
Safe Drinking Tips
- Set drinking limits for yourself and stick to them.
- Drink slowly. Have no more than two drinks in any three hours.
- For every drink of alcohol, have one or more non-alcoholic drinks.
- Eat before and while you are drinking.
- Reduce your long-term health risks for men by drinking no more than 15 drinks per week, with no more than three drinks per day, most days, and for women, 10 drinks per week with no more than two drinks a day, most days.
The newspaper headline read ‘Alcoholism, bankruptcy beset super-agent’ and went on to detail the journey of Leigh Steinberg, the model character for Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Jerry Maguire. Steinberg who has now been sober for two years observes:
“I am an alcoholic today and will be for the rest of my life. I don’t want anyone else to go through the pain and denial that I did. You only live this life once. I still think I can be of service.” (USA Today February 21, 2012, David Leon Moore)