Hello SOTGC community,
Welcome to the beginnings of the 2014 doldrums! You know, that period after the manic rush to and through the holiday season where everything is cold and wet and devoid of anticipation? Well, as they say, you’re lookin’ at it.
Right now many people, if not you at this moment, are experiencing the heavy weight of malaise. It’s often a combination of a lack of momentum due to the fact that all of your contacts and colleagues have been periodically out of pocket for the last month, and the bizarre expectation that your New Year’s resolutions should have produced some measurable results by now (even though they haven’t had more than 2 weeks to work out the kinks) and that it’s just plain hard to be ‘up’ when it’s gray and gross and there are no parties to draw your attention.
This also happens to be the time of year when reports of binge drinking are the highest.
Whether you have concerns about your alcohol use or whether your attendance at work happy hours depends on knowing when to leave before people perform career ending feats of stupidity – here are some quick bits you can store away to help you make some solid judgment calls.
Recently I was lucky enough to score an interview with Jennifer Dorsey, NCC, LPC, CAC-I and Clinical Director of the Kolmac Clinic in Washington, DC.
She was kind enough to share her thoughts on binge drinking and our “let off some steam” culture.
We’ve heard a lot about binge drinking over the past few years, but it’s mostly in the context of people in their teens and twenties. Does this activity affect other populations too?
In my experience, binge drinking can impact any population. I have worked with adult professionals who experience binge drinking episodes, with periods of control in between.
Is a binge drinker necessarily an alcoholic?
Not necessarily. How much and how often someone drinks is not the only defining aspect of a person with alcohol dependence. Other important factors should be assessed in determining the level of problem drinking.
Some of these include:
- Loss of internal control (once I start I can’t stop – OR – I didn’t plan to drink, but I did anyway)
- Continued use despite adverse consequences
- Repeated failed attempts at stopping or cutting down
- Negative impact on social, work or personal functioning
- Withdrawal symptoms (not a factor that would be identified in binge drinkers)
Is binge drinking a “new” phenomenon? If not, why has it gained so much attention in the last decade?
I do not think binge drinking is a new phenomenon. I can only hypothesize that binge drinking has gained attention within the last decade because of our media focus on young celebrities who are engaging in binge drinking activities.
Why is this behavior so bad? Isn’t it just a way to have fun and blow off steam?
The risk with binge drinkers is that the period of abstinence or controlled drinking in between binge episodes provides a false sense of security and control, making problem drinking more difficult to self-diagnose for the individual.
Moreover, binge drinking typically includes consuming a very large amount of alcohol that can lead to blacking out, where the [individual’s] conscious memory is shut down but they are still functioning. There are significant health risks during these binge episodes, including alcohol poisoning, driving while under the influence and engaging in other high risk behaviors.
Should people who binge drink on weekends but abstain during the week seek help?
Anyone who is concerned about their drinking, or is hearing concerns from loved ones about their drinking, should consider seeking help.
What signs should people (parents, co-workers…) look for if someone is a binge drinker but not doing so in their presence?
Loved ones can be on the lookout for blackout experiences. Someone who binge drinks and experiences blackouts would have little to no memories of the night(s) they were drinking. They may have made phone calls or texts and not remember making them. They would not remember events or conversations. This is probably one of the most glaring warning signs.
So, there are a few bits of information to help guide your actions, be they on your own behalf or someone else’s.
If you need access to counseling or resources of any type, there are many options for you to choose from. If you have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) at work, they can guide you to resources in your area, many of which may be covered by insurance. If you are not comfortable asking for help from your employer, you can find local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings by logging into www.aa.org. If you are seeking treatment, contact your insurance carrier or search online using “alcohol treatment facilities” and your city to find resources in your area.
Credit: Margaret Casella, Casella Photography