Do you see what I did there . . . a little double meaning? The fact is that many people do have some regrets after they've had a few drinks, but they have begun to use alcohol to deal with stress, not thinking about the reality that it actually exacerbates their problems. They may not be to the point of being alcoholic, but they certainly can be classified as what a pair of Harvard-trained professionals call "almost alcoholic" (Doyle & Nowinski, 2012, Almost Alcoholic).
Excessive alcohol consumption is a typical response to stress for those who have neglected to maintain more healthy coping mechanisms. Sadly, this is especially true among police officers. Two words every veteran police officer knows: “choir practice.” Stressful day on the job? The shift gets together afterwards for choir practice. Even so-called “tee-totalers” (total abstainers from alcohol) are likely to believe that consumption of alcohol in moderation has little, if any, ill effects on the consumer. But that is not what we are talking about here. The relationship between alcoholism and stress is not in dispute, and the relationship between police officers coping with extreme amounts of stress and attempting to find relief through alcohol consumption is not in dispute either. It is no coincidence that in a study done regarding police suicide, data showed that the majority of the individuals completing a suicide had alcohol in their system at the time.
While a drink, sometimes two, can be okay, excessive drinking can cause a great deal of turmoil in other parts of the individual’s life and contributes to greater amounts of stress in the long run. It is best to find other methods of coping with stress that do not actually exacerbate the problem. With the right kind of help, you can:
- identify and assess your patterns of alcohol use;
- evaluate its impact on your relationships, work, and personal well-being;
- develop strategies and goals for changing the amount and frequency of alcohol use;
- measure the results of applying these strategies; and
- make informed decisions about your next steps.
If you are struggling with stress, not coping well, and need a place to start learning about how to make it better, please reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/. I promise you, there will be no regrets.