June 12, 2024

How to Stop Drinking to Cope

image depicting people talking about drinking to cope

Drinking to cope with stress or emotional pain is a common yet harmful practice that can lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. Instead of finding real solutions to life’s challenges, relying on alcohol only deepens the problems and affects your well-being.

Read on to learn more about drinking to cope and find out how to stop this unhealthy way of dealing with stress. 

What Is Drinking to Cope?

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Drinking to cope means using alcohol as a way to deal with stress, anxiety, or other tough emotions. It’s a coping mechanism – a habit people develop to handle difficult situations or feelings. Some coping mechanisms like exercising or talking to a friend can be healthy, but drinking to cope is harmful and can lead to serious problems.

When someone drinks to cope, they might reach for a drink when they feel overwhelmed, sad, or anxious. At first, it might seem like alcohol helps to numb the stress or makes them feel better. However, this relief is only temporary. Over time, drinking to cope can lead to alcohol dependence or addiction, making the original problems even worse.

Alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism doesn’t solve the underlying issues. Instead, it creates a cycle where a person needs to drink more to achieve the same relief, leading to more stress and health problems. Understanding that drinking to cope is a destructive habit is the first step toward finding healthier ways to handle life’s challenges.

Signs You’re Drinking to Cope

Knowing if you’re drinking to cope is the first step to making positive changes. Here are some signs:

  • Drinking when stressed or upset: Do you grab a drink when stressed, anxious, or sad? This might mean you’re using alcohol to handle your feelings.
  • Increased tolerance: If you need more alcohol to feel the same effects, it could be a sign you’re drinking a lot to cope with your emotions.
  • Avoiding problems: Using alcohol to avoid dealing with work issues, relationship problems, or personal struggles shows you’re drinking to cope.
  • Drinking alone: If you often drink alone, especially when feeling down, it’s a sign you’re using alcohol to escape.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: When drinking gets in the way of your job, school, or family duties, it’s a sign that you know you’re drinking in an unhealthy way.
  • Hiding your drinking: Feeling the need to hide how much or how often you drink can be a sign that you’re aware of using alcohol in an unhealthy way.
  • Feeling guilty about drinking: Guilt or shame after drinking often means there’s a deeper problem with using alcohol to cope.

Recognizing these signs can help you understand your relationship with alcohol and take steps to find healthier ways to deal with your feelings.

image of woman discussing treatment for drinking to cope with stress

How to Stop Drinking to Cope

Stopping drinking to cope requires finding healthier ways to manage stress and emotions. Here are some effective strategies to help you replace alcohol with better coping mechanisms:

Reach out for support

Talk to friends, family, or support groups about your struggles. Sharing your feelings can provide comfort and help you feel less alone.

Engage in physical activity

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood. Try activities like walking, swimming, or playing sports.

Practice mindfulness

Techniques like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, or deep breathing can help you stay calm and focused, reducing the urge to drink.

Find healthy distractions

Engage in hobbies or activities like reading, watching TV, or listening to music, to take your mind off drinking.

Develop social skills

If social anxiety leads you to drink, learning and practicing social skills can help you feel more comfortable in social situations without alcohol.

Talk to a therapist

Professional help can be invaluable. A therapist can work with you to understand the reasons behind your drinking and develop healthier coping strategies.

Explore creative outlets

Activities like painting, writing, or playing an instrument can be powerful ways to express and process emotions.

Remember, the goal is not just to stop drinking but to replace it with positive behaviors that help you manage stress and emotions more effectively.

Long-Term Risks of Drinking to Cope

Using alcohol to handle stress and emotions can be very harmful over time. Here are some risks to be aware of.

Physical health problems

  • Liver damage: Drinking a lot can hurt your liver, causing diseases like fatty liver, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
  • Heart disease: Too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.
  • Digestive issues: Alcohol can cause stomach problems like gastritis, pancreatitis, and ulcers.
  • Weakened immune system: Drinking alcohol can make it harder for your body to fight off infections.
  • Cancer risk: Long-term drinking is linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and colon.

Mental health issues

  • Depression and anxiety: Alcohol might feel like it helps at first, but it makes depression and anxiety worse.
  • Cognitive impairment: Drinking too much can damage your brain, making it hard to remember things and make good decisions.
  • Dependence and addiction: Using alcohol regularly to cope can lead to addiction, making it hard to stop without help.

Social and behavioral consequences

  • Relationship strain: Alcohol abuse can cause problems with family, friends, and coworkers, leading to conflicts and isolation.
  • Work and financial problems: Drinking a lot can hurt your job performance, cause you to miss work, and lead to job loss and money troubles.
  • Legal issues: Behaviors like drunk driving can get you into legal trouble, including arrests and fines.

Decreased quality of life

  • Reduced enjoyment of activities: You might lose interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • Neglect of responsibilities: Ignoring personal and work duties can make life chaotic.
  • Emotional numbness: Using alcohol to cope can make it hard to feel true happiness and connection with others.

Understanding these risks shows why you should find healthier ways to deal with stress and emotions. This can lead to a happier and more stable life.

An image of a woman using addiction hotline's to find out about alcohol as a coping mechanism

Call Addiction Hotline for Help Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

If you’ve been drinking to cope with stress and you want to quit, call our addiction hotline today. You can speak in confidence with an expert trained to help you get alcohol addiction treatment.

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous without medical supervision. We can help you find detox centers throughout California for a safe and smooth withdrawal.

We can also connect you with inpatient and outpatient rehabs so you can learn relapse prevention and coping skills. Hotline staff can also locate support groups if you need extra help in recovery.

For help with alcohol detox and addiction treatment, call 855-701-0479.

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