Dear Annie: A slippery slope – with a beer chaser

Dear Annie: I work in a big city. After work, I enjoy going to the local bar. I’ve been doing this for three years, and everything was fine — with occasional problems — until the past few months. Now it is what I seem to be living for.

My work is not very challenging, but I consider myself lucky to have this job. Many people would give anything to have it. At five o’clock, I leave the building and head straight for the bar. When I started doing this, I could take it or leave it, but gradually going to this pub has become an obsession. I can’t wait to get there and to order that first drink. It’s as if I perform busy work all day long, and I can only enjoy life and really be myself at the bar.

In the past few months, I have noticed that I think about going to get drinks after work all day long. It is what I live for. I used to stay for one or two drinks, but now there are many nights when I will have six or eight and then leave well past midnight.

I live alone in an apartment in the city, so there is no worry about drunk driving. But more and more often, I get home and don’t feel like dinner at all. I might have a beer or two, or maybe a whiskey — just something to nurse as I gradually fall asleep.

One of the things about going to the same bar every night is that I have made a few friends — the same people who are there every night.

When I wake up in the morning with a hangover, which is maybe four or five days a week, I vow to limit myself to one or two drinks that night. But after I get off work I always feel like a different person and want to celebrate once I am in my favorite pub.

I have questioned whether I’m an alcoholic, but I don’t think so, and I would never want to give up the friends that I have made at the bar. Do you have any advice to help me cut down so I can have the best of all worlds — drinking every night with my friends without becoming an alcoholic? — Big City Drinker

Dear Big City Drinker: One of the sure signs of alcoholism is an obsession with alcohol. When 5 o’clock comes around, instead of heading to the bar, why not head to the gym or a yoga class? You might meet a new group of friends who are into healthier habits and ways of relaxing.

Try not to drink for 30 days. If you find that really challenging, or even impossible, then check out an AA meeting. There are dozens in every big city, and you are bound to make new friends who have found themselves in a similar situation to yours.

Whether you find yourself at AA, this quote might offer you some guidance. (If you do not believe in God you could say Universe or Spirit.) “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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