Why Do You Drink Alcohol For Stress Relief?

One of the statements I hear often is “I like to go home at the end of the day to unwind with a drink” or “It’s been a stressful day and I need a drink to relax.” You get the idea and I’m sure all of us have said something of the sort at some time. I know I did. This however, can become a very slippery slope and a behavior that can often lead to much bigger issues. Now I know what you’re saying “not me” “I have control” “I only have a few” “I can quit anytime I want too.” What happens when you pause and take an honest (a real honest) look at things. First, is every day that stressful? Really? If every day is stressful, what does a good day look like? What do you do on those days when you get home, have a drink(s) to celebrate a good day? Are you finding different ways to tell yourself it’s OK and you deserve it, you worked hard today, it’s hot out, boss was a jerk, everything went wrong today, traffic sucked. You get it. How long are you home before you have a drink in hand? Has it become the priority of walking in the door? Do you now say that you can’t deal with the home stuff until you have a drink? Has your glass size increased? What thoughts go through your head if you only enough for one drink but you “needed” two? Are you skipping meals?  Does drinking get in the way of being a family and activities? You have no time for the kids because you had a stressful day. Is it getting the way of your relationship?

I Need Alcohol To Help Me Sleep

You know you’re right. Having a couple of drinks will help take the edge off the day, and help you relax. Have you thought about why this happens? Alcohol is a depressant. I’m sure you have heard this before but do you understand it. In simple terms alcohol works on the central nervous system, actually it effects all systems in our bodies. In the central nervous system it slows down our brain, and how it works, and the connections it has with all our systems. This why speech gets slurred, motor skills suffer, poor decision making, risk taking,  at times feelings are difficult to control, sadness, anger, depression, memory lapses, and many other things. These systems are controlled by neurotransmitters within the brain. One neurotransmitter for example that can be related to the misuse of a substance is dopamine. Dopamine is our reward neurotransmitter, so when you arrive home and pour that drink, that sense of relief, and satisfaction that you feel is a dopamine release. When we do something we like that’s dopamine. So what happens? You liked this, it feels good. This is where the problem can start. We keep seeking this feeling, and each time we seek it we need a little bit more to achieve the Same feeling, or we start seeking it more often. This in part is where addiction starts.

What If You Address The Cause of the Stress Instead of “Treating” the Symptom? 

The agitation, anxiety, frustration, anger, worry, sleep problems, digestion issues and others are signs of stress. What is causing the stress? What can you do about it? By seeking relief through alcohol it will often in reality make the issue worse? Because as the body processes the alcohol and comes down off the “high” this in turn causes other body systems to respond, making our bodies normal stress fighters even less effective. Alcohol use can or will actually disrupt sleep. Using alcohol can prevent the brain from entering REM sleep, you will wake and toss & turn through the night. What you’re drinking to relieve stress, actually highlights the issue and often makes it worse. Have yet to see drinking “fix” a problem. You come home from work and have a few drinks because the boss was a jerk today, right. Now that you’ve had drinks the wife is nagging on you for having a few drinks and that is now stressing you out! You can see how this can become a perpetual cycle.  We may say that we are happy and have “no real stress” that we can’t handle. If this is the truly the case than why is the need for mind altering substances?  For stress! I drink because I enjoy it, right, is the next thing we tell ourselves or I can quit anytime I want. This where the being honest part comes in. Has the end the of the day stress reliever become what you look forward to during the week? What about the weekend, you don’t work on the weekend? That’s different, it’s the weekend, and the game is on. Once the connection with the need for alcohol and stress relief is made, this is a setting for developing dependency issues. Remember that dopamine part, it’s a brain thing.

There are a Ton of Ways to Reduce Your Stress


You have to start with “what is causing it?” What can you change about it? What changes are you willing to make? These are not easy questions. We all have stress, and some days our stress levels are much different than on other days. We can’t control all stress and not all stress is bad. Stress is our body’s way of protecting itself. When systems are balanced and working correctly stress helps you stay focused alert, and energized, can help you meet the challenge, provide that little extra drive that may be needed. Stress can save your life in an emergency situation. I’m sure you have heard of fight or flight response. This is a stress response that our bodies produce.  But balanced is the key here. Too much is not good thing either. We have all heard the long list of health concerns that is associated with too much stress or made worse by it. Interesting that alcohol use health concerns list is for the most part is the same list.  Just a couple of ways to reduce stress are exercise, even just a 10 minute walk can have great effects, breathing techniques, music, yoga, meditation,  real big one is diet, getting enough sleep. There are many, many ways that a quick Google will show.


To wrap this up, the fact is we all have stress! There’s no way around this. What and how you deal with it and process the stress is the important thing. If you’re highlight of the day is the “stress relief” waiting for you when you get home let’s take a look at it. If you’re concerned where this is at or turning into, don’t risk it. Remember we’re being honest here. The alcohol road can be a very lonely and destructive one. One that I’ve have walked. Make the call.

Schedule a FREE consultation With Steve by CLICKING HERE.  Steve works at Kick Recovery Solutions located at Cardinal Point.