A Cocktail Every Night. Okay or No Way?

When it comes to alcohol, how much is too much? And is it okay to drink in front of the kids?

After a long, busy day filled with stress, deadlines and anxiety, what do you do to relax? Many people choose to have a cocktail every night, like Rachel G., a 42-year-old working mother of 3, who has a glass of red wine every night at 6 p.m. “It takes the edge off. After a long day, I look forward to it,” she says.

But when does drinking every day become a problem?

Dr. Virgilio Arenas, director of the Addiction Psychiatry Division at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and assistant professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says it depends on several factors, including the size of the drink and the number of drinks.

“A standard drink is a 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of liquor or 5 ounces of wine,” says Arenas. “Drinking starts to be an issue when it’s not just one, when it becomes 3 or 4 or more, and when the person cannot stop.”

Dr. Laura Parise, an addiction psychiatrist and the director of the NorthShore University HealthSystem Doreen E. Chapman Center at Evanston Hospital, says, “The definition of addiction is compulsive use, loss of control, and pre-occupation with the identified substance. If someone thinks about it all day, and is thinking ‘I can’t wait to get home to drink’ or if they have one and say I need more, or if they lose judgment, it’s a problem.”

Arenas says if a person is concerned, you should ask yourself these four questions:

  • Have you ever felt you needed to cut down?
  • Have you ever felt annoyed when someone commented on your drinking habit?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt the need for a drink, especially first thing in the morning?

He says if the answer to any of these is yes, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem, but he recommends seeking advice from a professional.

Drinking in front of the kids
“It’s like smoking. I wouldn’t smoke in front of my children and you can equate it to that,” says Parise.

But Arenas offers a different perspective, “The key is to educate kids about drugs and alcohol. Talk to your kids. We don’t want to be hypocritical and tell them not to drink and then they see us drink. So, do not drink to excess in front of your kids, but if it’s a part of your life and you have it with meals or with friends, it’s okay.”

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