It's a common scenario: You have a stressful day, so you have a glass of wine or a cocktail at the end of it to relax and perhaps blow off a bit of steam. While that doesn't seem to sound that bad, using alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety on a regular basis isn't healthy. Alcohol abuse and dependence can take a big toll, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. And if a Service member's health and well-being is suffering, so is their family and their unit.
Recognize When It's a Problem
Alcohol abuse and dependence can happen gradually or in a short amount of time. Warning signs of an alcohol addiction may include irritability, financial problems, poor performance, decreased energy levels and conflict in personal relationships. Alcohol abuse can tear families apart and have a big impact on personal and unit readiness. Encourage those in your community who are struggling with alcohol abuse to reflect on their drinking habits and, if needed, get help if they feel they can't cut down or stop on their own. Share the following tips with your military community to help Service members face their alcohol dependence issues.
Four Helpful Strategies for Combating Alcohol Abuse
- Find alternatives. It can be tough to separate drinking activities in social situations. If/when you do imbibe, plan the maximum amount of drinks you'll have in one sitting. Sip drinks slowly and space out your alcoholic beverages, alternating with non-alcoholic ones, like water or soda. If you find you can't stick to your plan, cultivate interests and activities that don't involve having a drink.
- Know your triggers. Triggers can be very strong and come in many forms, including places, people, emotions or certain activities. Think about your specific triggers and do your best to avoid them. There will be times you'll be offered a drink. Practice declining firmly. It's OK to leave a place or situation that is making you uncomfortable.
- Plan ahead for cravings. Even with a person's best efforts, the urge to have a drink will come. Make a plan to deal with these moments. Engage in a calming activity that will take your mind off of drinking, such as going for a bike ride or meditating. Pause to remember the commitment you've made to yourself, your family and your fellow Service members.
- Lean on your family and community. Overcoming a dependence on alcohol can be very hard, but your loved ones will always want to see you make better, healthier choices. When you're experiencing stress or having a bad day, take the time to talk with a trusted family member or friend. All service branch's offer substance abuse programs to help Service members overcome their issues with alcohol dependence and abuse.
As program managers and community leaders, it is your duty to encourage Service members to be mindful of their drinking habits and to provide reliable, timely guidance and resources to keep them on the right path. For more information on substance abuse products available to purchase for your service community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Freedom from Alcohol. Looking for a customized outreach product? Speak with an Account Manager today!