Alcohol awareness is all about being aware of our own alcohol consumption and how alcohol can affect us. Drinking alcoholic beverages is so normalized in our culture, that many will dismiss any negative effects it may cause. However, it’s important to remember that alcohol contributes to 95,000 deaths in the US every year. The reality is, alcohol is a drug that has the potential to ruin lives if we aren’t careful.
What is Alcohol Awareness Month?
Alcohol Awareness Month was started by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in 1987, with the goal of educating the public on the dangers of alcohol consumption. Now observed annually throughout the month of April, Alcohol Awareness Month encourages community organizations to host events that increase public awareness and education about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism.
Why Addiction Happens
Alcohol dependence can happen quickly, but other times it is a gradual process. For those who have been heavily drinking over a longer period of time, their brains begin to rely on alcohol to produce certain chemicals. Initially, alcohol increases the levels of dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in the brain. However, over time, the brain will produce less and less dopamine, and the individual will find that they need a higher level of alcohol to achieve the same level of dopamine they got when they first started drinking.
Many people who suffer from an alcohol use disorder also suffer from a mental illness or emotional trauma, and they use alcohol as a way to escape from their emotional pain.
Risks of Excessive Drinking
It’s important to be aware of how alcohol actually affects your body physically and mentally in the short-term and in the long-term, since alcohol is a major contributor to many diseases and injuries. Here are just a few ways it affects our bodies:
Liver disease: Having just two drinks at a time can be damaging to the liver. The liver gets overwhelmed and starts to malfunction when it is trying to process too much alcohol. Fortunately, you can help your liver recover by cutting back or taking a break from alcohol.
Cancer: Women who have just three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. In general, women are more at risk for having negative health effects compared to men, even if she drinks less for a shorter period of time.
Risky behavior: Alcohol can lead to temporary feelings of extreme confidence. This is what leads many intoxicated individuals to get behind the wheel of a car or to engage in unsafe sexual activities.
Depression & Anxiety: Alcohol tricks you into thinking that it's making you feel great by producing a higher amount of dopamine in your brain. However, when you continue drinking to get that rush of dopamine, you are actually altering your other brain chemicals, which enhances feelings of depression. Alcohol decreases the levels of the brain chemical serotonin - a key chemical in reducing depression.
This starts the cyclical process where one drinks to relieve depression, which leads them to feeling even more depressed, furthering their need to drink.
Alcohol also disrupts your sleep cycle, which can contribute to feelings of irritability, depression, and brain fog.
Signs You Need to Cut Back on Alcohol
- Drinking in secret
- Frequently waking up with a hangover
- Drinking is causing tension between you and your loved ones
- Drinking to escape from unpleasant emotions or trauma
- Often drinking more than you intended
- Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol
If you relate to any of these, it may be a sign to take a break from or cut back on drinking. Remember that addiction is not a moral failing - it is an actual medical condition that needs to be treated as such. Individuals who struggle with substance use often feel too ashamed to ask for help, but it’s important that you address the problem as soon as you recognize it, in order to prevent it from getting worse.
Resources to Help You Stay Strong
With alcohol being available at many events, restaurants, and stores, and advertisements for alcohol being displayed left and right, it can be difficult to resist the pressure to have a drink. Fortunately, there are so many others who are in the same boat, who can offer their advice and support to help you change your perspective on drinking and sobriety.
I Am Sober: A simple app that tracks recovery using a sobriety counter to log milestones, tracks how much money the user has saved on drugs or alcohol in their sobriety, and offers motivational quotes for support.
Sober Grid: This social networking app allows people to connect with other sober individuals in their local community and worldwide.
There are also many Facebook groups and sober communities on Instagram to help you stay connected in sobriety. Simply search up the hashtags #SoberCommunity and #AlcoholFree on Instagram to find others living a sober lifestyle.
Recovery Happy Hour: This podcast, hosted by Tricia Lewis, celebrates inspiring stories of recovery from alcohol misuse. On her podcast, Tricia discusses life beyond the bottle and what happens after we get sober.
A Sober Girl’s Guide: A podcast featuring honest conversations about mental health, self development, wellness and spirituality and how they influence each guest's unique recovery journey.
This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol by Annie Grace: Annie Grace clearly presents the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use based on the latest science, and reveals the cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us.
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray: This book is about the escape, and why a sober life can be more intoxicating than you ever imagined.
In order to truly be alcohol aware, you need to ask yourself if your drinking is affecting any area of your life in a negative way. If it is, you may want to consider taking a break from alcohol and seeing how your everyday life improves as a result.
If you need support during this time, please reach out to us, and we can provide you with the help and resources you need to make your goals a reality.