Just as our interpersonal relationships can differ in terms of intensity, so can our "relationship" with drinking. Moreover, these differences aren't separated by sharp lines; rather, they tend to blend into one another. Helping friends and family identify their relationship is an important part of creating a healthy interaction with alcohol. Let's look at these different relationships.
1. Casual Relationship
People whose relationship with alcohol falls into this stage drink primarily in social settings. This is what we mean by "normal social drinking." It's a glass or two of wine at a wine-and-cheese get-together among friends, a couple of beers at the Sunday afternoon football party with friends, or an occasional happy hour cocktail with people from work. If we do drink alone at this stage of use, it is not typically on a daily basis, and it involves only a drink or two in one sitting. Social users never binge, and they are neither psychologically nor physically "dependent" on drinking, for example, in order to overcome social anxiety. Viewed in terms of a relationship, at this stage alcohol can best be thought of as a casual friend.
2. Serious Relationship
alcoholWhen we say we've gone from being casual friends with someone to having a "serious relationship" with them we are implying a stronger connection. So it is with alcohol. In this second stage, a person has learned to use alcohol consistently for one of two reasons: either to create certain positive feelings (e.g., relaxation, euphoria) or else to avoid certain negative feelings (e.g., anxiety, loneliness).
Rather than stepping over a sharp line in the sand, a person gradually slips away from social drinking and into the almost alcoholic zone. At some point the symptoms and behavior patterns associated with being an almost alcoholic start to appear.
The man or woman who is developing a serious relationship with alcohol is someone who may begin to drink alone, as well as socially. This is an important change in drinking behavior because as a person crosses that boundary from drinking mainly in social situations to increasingly drinking alone their relationship with alcohol gets serious. It's no longer just a casual friend but rather a reliable "buddy."
Click here to learn about other relationships with alcohol...