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Time to take a break from the drink?

Overindulgence leads some drinkers to "take a break" from alcohol

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People take breaks from consuming alcohol for all different reasons. Sometimes, a person might over do it at a bar or party and feel so crappy the next day, he or she doesn't have the desire to drink for a while. But it's not always that dramatic.

Other people may find themselves drinking more than usual and they decide, therefor, to take a sabbatical from consumption just to "check in" with themselves and make sure they aren't dependent on the drink.

"This is often the time of year that people think about and / or decide to stop drinking for a period of time usually coinciding with Lent, but not always for religious reasons," says Kathryn Rutishauser, a psychotherapist located in the Third Ward. "But this is also a relatively popular experiment that people try at any time of the year when they get a little too uncomfortable with their drinking."

Rhonda Mason takes a breather from booze almost every January. She says she consumes at least twice her normal intake amount in November and December and by January she needs to "dry out."

Although she doesn't make a resolution to quit for the entire year, she usually tries not to drink for a month or so.

"I always come to the conclusion that I'm not an alcoholic and I'm perfectly fine with not drinking, but for some reason, I have to force myself to give it up for a while every year," says Mason.

But for Matt Dahl (last name has been changed) this was not the case. He decided to try to quit drinking to prove to his wife that he did not have a problem and he found out that he actually did.

"I really couldn't stop drinking or thinking about drinking," says Dahl.

Dahl says he attempted to quit drinking for three months, but didn't make it through the first day and started to hide it from his wife. He pretended to be working on basement or garage projects and had small bottles of whiskey hidden in storage boxes.

"Attempting to take a break from drinking didn't work for me, but it definitely made a few things clear to me," says Dahl, who has been sober for two years.

In general, Rutishauser does not recommend taking a break from alcohol to determine a drinking problem.

"The fact is that simply abstaining from alcohol for a period of time is not an indicator of not having an alcohol abuse problem because anyone can usually stop drinking for any period of time be it days, weeks or months," she says. "It is basically meaningless."

Instead, Rutishauser suggests setting a reasonable and safe limit for any drinking occasion.

"The meaning of safe and reasonable also includes that an occasion of drinking does not include any negative events such as memory lapses, hangovers, arguments or DUIs," she says.

Rabbi Mitchell R. Cohen is a counselor at the R.E.A.C.H. Mental Health Clinic and agrees that "taking a break" is not always the best way to figure out if there's as issue, but for some people, it might work. Everyone is different, and it really depends if the person is a social drinker or an alcoholic which sometimes must be determined through counseling.

"'Taking a break' from alcohol usually only serves to give a person who may actually have a real problem with alcohol a false sense of security that they don't have anything to be concerned about so then they don't actually change anything about their regular drinking habits," says Cohen.

"In the case of a social drinker, or someone who is dry sporadically, a few weeks might be enough. No one way works for all, rather it must be individualized."


sandstorm | Feb. 18, 2013 at 9:08 a.m. (report)

Rutishauser doesn't think somebody that thinks they have a drinking problem should quit drinking? Just drink less ya alky! Yeah, fixed that problem.

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