And how often does your hobby go hand-in-hand with a few drinks? Do you always take a box of beers on the boat or to the game? Does a trip to the cinema always involve a bottle of wine? Are book club and “a walk with friends” just euphemisms for a few more beers and wines?
If you answer yes to all these, then there’s a likelihood that alcohol itself is becoming your hobby and you may be slipping into low-level problem drinking.
In New Zealand, alcohol is so wrapped up with many people’s social lives that it’s easy to become flippant about its effects. But low-level or low-risk drinking is not the same as no-risk drinking, and it’s still important to realise the potential harm that goes alongside perpetually combining your downtime with a “few quiet ones”.
The regular advice for drinkers in New Zealand is:
- To reduce long-term health risks: No more than two standard drinks for women and three for men each day, no more than 10 drinks for women and 15 for men each week, and at least two alcohol-free days per week.
- To reduce your risk of injury: No more than four drinks for women and five for men on any single occasion.
But if drinking has become your hobby and become a habit, it’s easy to see those units quickly add up and, certainly, to find it hard to keep two days free.
Good ways to help keep your drinking under control include:
- Fully understanding what a “standard drink” means – a full glass of red wine or high strength craft beers can easily be double “standard”.
- Don’t let habit take over – keep count of your weekly amounts.
- Set limits and nominate alcohol-free days.
- Drink non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks, drink slowly, and eat with alcohol.
- Never drink and drive – the new New Zealand limits have highlighted for many people how much they were prepared to drink when going out. If you put yourself at risk of harming yourself or others – or even getting into legal trouble – through your drinking, then it’s a good sign that you ought to address your behaviour.
The risk of drinking becoming a habit or hobby is that it fits into the typical picture of the functional or high-functioning alcoholic, who fits heavy drinking into a seemingly successful social, family and work life.
Because drinking is so part of the normal routine for a functional alcoholic, it is easily denied or ignored: after all the bills still get paid and commitments, responsibilities and friends don’t seem to suffer.
If you think you or anyone in your family has turned their drinking into a habit or hobby, then it’s time to start to address this behaviour. For more information on Robert Street Clinic’s range of family and addiction services, and a full list of our fully trained specialists contact us on 09 973 5950 or via email.