When We Ask About Alcohol...

The narrative around alcohol in the world of science is quite complicated.

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On the other end, the National Health Service in England released new guidelines around alcohol: English citizens are advised to cut drinking to two days per week. In fact, their claim is there is no safe alcohol limit. Researchers in Scotland (like England, a heavy drinking nation) have worked to disprove the idea that drinking provides coronary health: men who drink heavily are 60% more likely to die of heart disease, women who drink heavily are 50% more likely.

There’s a key word in that last statistic: Heavily.

I can hear you think to yourself, “Well I’m not a heavy drinker. I only drink on the weekends with my friends. I have one or two glasses a night.”

By the way, the CDC identifies moderate alcohol consumption as women having one drink per day, men having two. Heavy drinking is defined by men having 15 or more drinks in a week and women having 8 or more. The CDC would suggest there’s a thin line between moderate and heavy drinking.

But this blog post isn’t about identifying if you drink too much.

When we ask you in our first session about how much (quantity and the number of days) you drink in a week, what types of alcohol you consume, what setting (place, time of day) you find yourself most likely to drink, we aren’t assessing whether or not you’re an alcoholic, “functioning” or otherwise.

It’s far too easy to get caught up in a semantics game regarding the quality and characteristics of the way you drink.

What we do know is that drinking affects the way that you present yourself to others. Most adults that we talk to describe drinking as a relaxer, something that numbs emotions and anxiety, something that makes them more fun. After awhile, alcohol rewires our brains to make us feel more lethargic, depressed, and stress. It affects our body image, adding calories and diminishing our ability to burn fat. Moderate-to-heavy drinking over longer periods of time increases the likelihood of experiencing hypertension, liver disorders (namely, cirrhosis), and earlier onset of dementia.

More importantly, drinking, even in moderation, affects your relationships. People interact with you differently. They have sex with you, but the erection doesn’t last very long, the vagina doesn’t get wet, the orgasm isn’t as intense, assuming that either of you actually orgasm.

So when we ask our couples to not drink during the course of couples therapy, we aren’t attempting to impose the Prohibition into your relationship.

We’re doing a science experiment of sorts that asks: What happens if/when alcohol isn’t a part of your relationship?

Alcohol becomes a variable that we can isolate and remove so that we can observe the types of relationship changes that happen in the absence of alcohol.

Are we saying that alcohol use is the only cause of problems in your relationship? Not necessarily.

But in the absence of alcohol, you may learn some valuable things about yourself and your relationships. Perhaps you don’t need to drink to have fun. Perhaps you notice yourself feeling more motivated and less angry and/or sad. Perhaps you and your partner can solve problems in a productive, more rational way.

If you are worried that alcohol use may be influencing your relationship and perspective on life, please call us at 617-750-0183, or schedule an appointment with one of our therapists online.