Ask Lisa: How To Cope With A Potential Drinking Problem

Dear Lisa,

My name is James and I am concerned that I am developing a drinking problem. I retired about six months ago and I am feeling depressed. Alcohol is the only thing that helps me feel better. I am not sure where to start.

Hi James,

I think it is very brave to reach out and ask for help. I am wondering if the alcohol is really making you feel better, or could it be numbing those feelings you might not want to deal with? Retirement is a life-changing decision, and it is not uncommon that such a life transition will create some uncomfortable feelings.

You now have a lot more time available, which is new for you and could at times be difficult to tolerate. Feelings of boredom, not feeling productive, missing adult conversation and routine are some of the issues that have been expressed from those clients I have worked with who have retired. With those challenging feelings we want to come up with some coping mechanisms to help combat those thoughts that may lead you to drinking the alcohol.

I want you to think about what the alcohol is doing for you. What is its purpose? Then, you might understand more of what you are needing in this new phase of life and whether or not it is really the alcohol. I always recommend practicing good self-care, which is defined as any activity that we do with the intention of taking care of our physical, mental and emotional health.

It takes some effort, but it feels better and works more effectively than any substance out there. Some examples of self-care may include balanced eating, exercise, reaching out to friends to socialize, taking some time for yourself to do the things you enjoy and seeking out professional assistance if needed. There is so much support out there, such as Alcoholics Anonymous individual and group therapy, as well as sober retreats. Even your own family can be a source of support if you allow them to be.

James, we always want to examine how often you are drinking and how much, whether you have built up a tolerance to the alcohol and whether you might experience withdrawal symptoms once you discontinue the alcohol use. If you decide to seek assistance, that type of information will help both you and the professionals decide what the best modality of treatment would be for you. Wishing you the best.

Lisa Brown-Eisel, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice with an extensive history working with clients toward positive change in dealing with issues related to eating disorders, other addictions, anxiety and depressive disorders, college preparation and maintenance and couples counseling. To reach out with any questions, email Visit to learn more.

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