Social drinking is something that many adults take part in from time to time. You’ll go to a party, meet friends for happy hour, or celebrate a friend getting married. No matter the circumstance, you engage in healthy, casual drinking as part of your adult life. But, what about when that drinking becomes more frequent, private, and more emotionally driven? Most adults can learn their limits and observe them. However, for some, social drinking becomes binge drinking, which can then become alcoholism. This is not to say that the progression will happen to you. But, acknowledging that it is possible is key to making sure you avoid it in your own life…

Social Drinking: Avoiding a Progression into Alcoholism 

Tolerance goes up

One means of social drinking taking a turn is that it becomes more frequent, which leads to your tolerance increasing. Next thing you know, that one drink to relax after a long day at work becomes two, then three, and so forth. When your tolerance goes up it can be pretty easy to pass up your limits and fall into a pattern of drinking heavily in a casual setting. Not to mention, you might find yourself doing that drinking and then driving home — which can lead to a whole other set of issues. 

Alcohol is the only way you can unwind 

Going back to that happy hour for a moment: we mentioned having a drink after work with colleagues to decompress after a long day at the office. While this is a common way to practice social drinking— it can quickly progress. One important thing that all adults must do, especially when you have a stressful job, is to find coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms are practices you put in place to help you deal with stressors in your day-to-day life. Some people do yoga, boxing, meditation, or even just taking a nice bath with a glass of wine. However, some people rely on alcohol entirely, or come to do so over a period of time. This is when social drinking can start to lean into problematic territory. 

“I only had one…” 

The largest, and most damaging sign of a shift towards alcoholism is lying about your intake. This behavior can indicate that you feel as if you have something to hide or be ashamed of. However, that secretive nature isn’t enough for you to quit what you’re doing. Instead, you find ways to mask it. Then, you get more and more comfortable masking it, therefore you might begin to hide more and more drinking. Social drinking is casual, typically safe, and doesn’t push too far into binge drinking territory often. However, alcoholism (and even casual alcoholism) can do quite the opposite. 

If you suspect that you’re developing a problem, or someone close to you might be— it’s important to acknowledge the signs and get ahead of them. If your social drinking is beginning to edge into a different territory— you still have time to self-correct before the issue becomes more serious. After all, alcoholism doesn’t start in a day but recovery and change can.