How much is too much?

For a lot of women, a glass of wine is a way to relax after a hard day at work. But how often, and how much, are you drinking? Lifestages blogger Sunny de Bruyn looks at problem drinking...

At the end of a long day, I desperately look forward to enjoying a glass of wine (sometimes I start looking forward to it at about 10am, but that’s beside the point). Come 6pm, pouring that glass of heaven is like a little reward for making it through the day and managing to meet deadlines, organise the house (and perhaps clean it a little) and feed, clothe, teach, nurture and play with my 2 children.

But it occurred to me when chatting to girlfriends about alcohol recently that looking forward to a drink at the end of every day could constitute ‘problem drinking’.

Interestingly, one friend posed the question – are you able to not have that drink each day? My answer was unequivocally yes, I could definitely go without it without any physical hardship. The catch of course is that I don’t want to – I simply look forward to it so much.

I realised then that it isn’t the ‘buzz’ of the alcohol that I want (and there’s certainly no craving), it’s merely the act of savouring that reward for having made it through the day and not killed anyone (some days are harder than others!)

So what is considered problem drinking? According to the organisation ReachOut, someone may have a problem with the amount of alcohol they consume if they are:

  • neglecting studies/work tasks;
  • getting into hassles at school/work/home;
  • feeling hung over in the mornings;
  • thinking about drinking a lot during the day;
  • feeling edgy;
  • drinking more alcohol than intended; and/or
  • finding that they need to drink more to get the same effect.

And DrinkWise Australia says that the following are signs that a person may need some assistance because of their drinking. Even if only a few of these indicators apply, it can still be considered a problem with alcohol:

  • If you cannot control when you start or stop drinking;
  • if you cannot control how much you drink;
  • if you suffer nausea, vomiting and headaches after drinking;
  • if you are verbally or physically abusive;
  • if you are unable to meet family, personal and work commitments after drinking;
  • if you suffer legal or financial problems as a result of your drinking; and
  • if your Doctor, family members, friends or workmates have told you that they are worried about your drinking.

Fortunately, none of the above apply to me. Phew!

The key of course is to enjoy alcohol in moderation. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the Australian Alcohol Guidelines in 2009 which aims to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.

Its recommendations are that healthy men and women should drink no more than 2 standard drinks on average per day (in order to reduce the risks of alcohol related disease or injury over your lifetime). It also says that healthy men and women should drink no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion.

So, while I am now relieved to discover my enjoyment of a glass of red each day is perfectly fine, I think as a test of will (and as a favour to my liver) I will give myself a few days off alcohol each week. And if nothing else, I’ll be helping to maintain my weight as there are about 125 calories in a glass of wine. That’s incentive enough right there! And I can reward myself for not having wine by eating a bar of chocolate...

If you or someone you care about is worried about alcohol consumption, check out the following resources: