People often schedule consultations with our office to explore questions about their alcohol use. Drinking is so ubiquitous and our culture is so alcohol-centric, that frequently people aren’t sure whether their drinking is “normal” or if they are developing a troublesome and dangerous relationship with alcohol.

A podcast that I frequently recommend is The Bubble Hour. Each episode is an interview with someone about their recovery from addiction.The host of the podcast, Jean, also writes a blog documenting her journey from early sobriety and has created an online platform to connect people struggling with addiction.

One of her most frequently visited blog articles is about when she knew she had a drinking problem. Here are a few of the things she lists:

  • Unable to stop drinking daily
  • Unable to reduce or limit amount
  • Drinking alone
  • Shame about bottles in recycling bin
  • Hiding extra alcohol in cupboard
  • Continual concern about having enough alcohol on hand
  • Obsessive awareness of alcohol at every event – planning when and how to get in the "right" amount to get through the evening while still managing to drive sober to and from events, and appear "normal" to the outside world
  • Becoming very agitated when unplanned changes disrupted my pattern – specifically I recall a friend dropping by and my husband poured her a glass of wine. I began to panic knowing that it meant there would not be enough to get me through the evening. I secretly drank shots of scotch before bed to compensate. I felt guilty about resenting my friend for visiting unannounced.
  • Spending the last hour of work each day deciding if I would stick to my plan of quitting drinking or stop at a liquor store on the way home, all the while knowing I would certainly pick up more wine.
  • Rotating stores because I was embarrassed about buying wine every day, but never buying more too much at once because I was planning to quit "tomorrow."
  • Finding out that my drinking habits fell into the "high risk" and "heavy drinking" categories. I knew my drinking was only increasing, never declining, and I was running out of categories. Next stop: rock bottom. No thanks.


The National Institute for Health has a very comprehensive website that includes multiple tools for people to assess their drinking. I will often direct my patients to look at these categories, paying particular attention to their drinking patterns.

Many people are shocked to learn that they fall into a High-Risk pattern, assuming they are normal social drinkers.

Not everyone needs medical help to detox off alcohol, but the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine specializes in helping those at high risk to safely stop drinking. We have locations around the country, and in confidential, compassionate, and competent settings, hundreds of patients have detoxed from alcohol.

If you are questioning your own drinking pattern, or are concerned about a loved one, please give us a call. Freedom waits on the other side.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP