As someone who coaches others in relationships I realize that navigating the dating scene can be difficult enough. Getting to know someone in the early stages of a relationship takes time, observation, and trial and error. When you couple this with trying to determine if the person you are dating has a drinking problem, it can make things even more difficult.
Binge drinking – having five or more drinks (for men; four or more for women) – increases the risks for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other serious conditions.
Drinking has become a central part of the social scene, so someone who is a drinker can often hide their drinking habit. And, if the person is a highly functioning alcoholic, they will throw in other distractions, making their drinking habit one which is harder to detect. Oftentimes, however, there are red flags along the way. Blackouts, extreme mood swings and belligerent behavior are more obvious signs. Yet, there are also some signs which are more subtle.
The next time you are trying to figure it out, here are some signs that might indicate that you are dating an alcoholic:
1. Each and every event involves drinking. No matter what you are celebrating or the event you are participating in, alcohol is always a part of the equation. This can be hard to decipher in the early stages of getting to know someone because you may be meeting at bars, concerts and festival-type activities where alcohol and drinking can be part of the norm. But, if every activity you are participating in with your significant other involves partaking in alcohol, keep your eyes wide open as this is a sure sign that something might be awry.
2. You meet with your date and he/she is already drinking. If you make plans to meet up with the person you are dating and he/she is already drinking and has had several drinks, this could be part of their regular routine. While it may be understandable for a person to order a drink if they are waiting for you, if they have already gotten the party started with several drinks, this could be a sign of a deeper problem.
3. They change from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde randomly. Alcoholics, like anyone else, can still be fun, witty and intelligent. These are all character traits which can disarm you from thinking they have a problem.
It can be more complicated to detect if they are a highly functioning alcoholic. People who are highly functioning alcoholics can appear like they are functioning well at work, with friends and family which can make it harder to decipher how their drinking is impacting other parts of their life. However, if they are constantly swinging from one mood to another, up one day and then down the next day, something bigger is going on. Pay close attention to their mood swings and triggers. If there are inconsistencies in this area, something bigger is at play.
4. They don’t have enough money, except when it comes to alcohol. When you opt for a different dining experience or adventure with someone you are dating that does not include alcohol and they opt out and claim they don’t have the funds to pay unless it includes a drinking experience, this is another sign they may have a drinking problem. If their only suggestions for entertainment include those in which alcohol is easily accessible, this is another red flag. You will note that they are all in and ready to cover the entire bill in these scenarios, but may state they have limited or no funds available in situations in which the entertainment does not include a chance to drink. Drinking in moderation is fine, but if every activity you do with them has to include drinking, this is not normal.
5. Their friends and peers in which they associate are heavy drinkers, too. Alcoholics and highly functioning alcoholics tend to surround themselves with people who like to drink. This way the drinking problem looks less obvious. When everyone is drinking, it is harder to pick out someone who is an alcoholic. But, if they are constantly in the company of heavy drinkers, this is a sign that they, too, probably have drinking issues.
6. They finish other people’s drinks and aren’t discerning of what they pick to drink. At picnics, concerts, family events and the like someone who has a drinking problem will often finish a drink that is left on the table. They may joke about doing so, but this is another sign of someone who doesn’t discriminate about what they drink, but more so focused on getting another drink.
I went on a date with a guy who exhibited this type of behavior. We were attending a picnic-style concert with some friends. All of us were sharing the same wine and some mixed drinks and he kept drinking others’ leftover liquor and grabbing drinks indiscriminately. This was my red flag that something wasn’t right because he seemed to crave the next drink and ended up finishing all of the alcohol which was present versus the rest of us at the concert who were just having a couple of drinks.
7. They have a high tolerance for alcohol. In most social scenes, people will have 1-3 drinks. But, when you are with someone having a greater number of drinks, e.g., a 6-pack of beer, 4-6 drinks with no impact on them becoming buzzed or more relaxed, this is a sign they have a high tolerance for alcohol. If they keep going and the alcohol still does not have any impact, then this is a huge red flag.
Now that you know what to look for, you won’t have to second guess your intuition that might be telling you that something is not right.