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  • Writer's pictureAuthor: Angelique Zaks, LSW, LCADC-I

Putting the AWARENESS Back Into Alcohol Awareness Month

Updated: 6 days ago

Putting the AWARENESS Back Into Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month

April has been marked as Alcohol Awareness Month. While April may be ending, our awareness can continue to grow! What I love about “Alcohol Awareness Month”— the time of the month of April that speaks to the impact of alcohol use and its surrounding culture, is that all of us, whether we are frequent, occasional, or non-existent drinkers can participate in what it's asking us to do — practice awareness!

When many of us think of problem drinking, it is often associated with the most extreme of visualizations and circumstances; detox facilities, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, AA support group interventions, and profound suffering of the afflicted individual and their loved ones. Such events often feel so different from our current experience, unrelatable in its entirety, that we may typically shrug off the idea of “problem” alcohol use. If we had a problem with alcohol, we’d be having problems at home, maybe needing to go to a detox facility, and using alcohol from dawn to dusk…right?

While disorderly or excessive alcohol use certainly does have the potential to harm, we often miss a crucial step before these problems start to occur: this “step” being awareness. 

In my many years of conducting admissions in an alcohol and drug detox, I would meet with clients on their very first day, often their very first time in a treatment center ever, and ask them what brought them here. The one commonality among these diverse groups of people, regardless of age, race, circumstances for use, family history, or other individualized reasons, there was almost always one commonality … the notion of being completely shocked that this was happening:

“I couldn’t tell you how it even got to this point.”

“I never thought I would end up like this!”

“This isn’t me. I don’t understand how this could’ve happened…  is this what life looks like now?”

These hundreds upon hundreds of interactions have taught mental health and addictions professionals like myself, to not only recognize, but more importantly value the role that awareness has in substance use. In actuality, it can really apply to any behavior or action that evokes desirable effects, or has the potential for misuse or overuse (misuse meaning using it inappropriately or in ways that are not typically intended, and overuse speaks to the quantity of use). While in this blog post we’re going to stick with the discussion about alcohol, we can apply all the same principles that are provided here to any other behavior that could become habitual or addicting (eating chocolate, Amazon shopping, online gambling, etc.).

The presence and use of alcohol in the majority of cultures and countries worldwide cannot be ignored. Its versatility to be used for family events, a “right of passage” in young adulthood, an essential part of the “fine dining” experience, and even within religious events, speaks to its ever present role in our lives. Therefore, we may identify the thoughts, preferences, and behaviors associated with alcohol and these various roles as a type of relationship. So how do we increase our awareness surrounding alcohol? Thinking about the impact of this relationship is the first step to awareness,  which can help us with evaluating the role or impact that alcohol has in our lives. When evaluating, it is important to approach it non-judgmentally, curiously, and gently, just like we would with any social relationship.  

Here are some questions to help you get started on your path to mindful alcohol use and awareness of its role in your life:

  1. What is my purpose for using alcohol; is it recreational or does it protect me from experiencing things I don’t want to experience? (Thoughts, feelings, etc.)

  2. How often do I use alcohol? Does it exceed the “recommended” amount for someone of my age/size/gender/etc?

  3. Is there a certain time of the day/week/year that my pattern of use tends to change? (Increases, decreases, etc.)

  4. Is it particularly challenging to limit or stop my alcohol use when in social situations? When alone?

  5. Has my alcohol use led to interpersonal problems with my loved ones? With poorer work performance? 

  6. Has my alcohol use led to feeling foggier, more anxious, and/or more tired? How often? 

These are just a few questions to get you started. In my experience as clinical alcohol and drug counselor, asking ourselves questions like these can assist us in reflecting on our behavior and can allow us to address misuse of alcohol or a growing unhealthy relationship with it before it gets to what feels like a “point of no return”.  

It’s important to note that answering ‘yes'  to one or even all of these questions does not have to be indicative of alcohol misuse or abuse, but rather just an opportunity to reevaluate the relationship you have with it! Awareness of a pattern or of undesirable outcomes does not necessarily indicate the presence of a problem. Rather, it may indicate that it’s time to patiently, objectively, and kindly reflect on if we feel content with our behavior — if we feel comfortable with our ability to moderate alcohol, use it appropriately, and set boundaries with it.

Building such awareness of our alcohol use, or any other behaviors that may bring unintended consequences, is one of the many things that can be addressed with psychotherapy. This, along with a safe environment for exploration of thoughts, feelings, and strategies to change your relationship with such behaviors, is one of the many reasons building awareness may be beneficial to do with a therapist.

Scheduling an initial consultation may be the first step to a prosperous and healing relationship.

Happy awareness month!


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