If everybody’s working for the weekend, some are working for that weekend a little bit harder than others. While most unwind on the weekend with the beach, sleeping-in, or long hikes, others enjoy their weekends with more than a few drinks to ‘take the edge off.’
So, what’s the difference between classic college or summer binge drinking shenanigans and weekend drinking? Well, in some cases, there is no difference. These two concepts can greatly overlap and often merge completely in the minds of many people. This can cause some confusion as some believe that the partying lifestyle is merely a phase that someone will quickly age out of, while others believe that any instance of weekend binge drinking is indicative of a larger problem. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
What is Party Drinking?
Party drinking can take many forms. For some, a few social drinks can ‘loosen’ them up to feel like they’re having a good time. For others, party drinking requires throwing up and blackouts. The threshold depends on the person.
However, across colleges in the United States, the expectation of binge drinking alcohol is extremely popular. The days of the week have even been renamed in celebration of mass alcohol consumption: Messed Up Mondays, Turnt Up Tuesdays, Wine-Day Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, F’d Up Fridays, Sloppy Saturdays, and Sunday Fundays.
For someone with little experience with excessive alcohol consumption or an emerging addictive relationship with substances, this culture of excess may seem like the norm, or that everyone is participating at such extremes. Down the line, this can become an addiction through sheer repetition, or a vicious cycle of drinking to try to escape the anxiety brought on by drinking.
There is some conflation with partying or nightlife lifestyles and alcohol abuse. These realms often intersect, which can make it impossible for some to separate the two.
What is a Weekend Alcoholic?
A weekend alcoholic is a person who gets intoxicated every weekend, regardless of circumstances. The signs of a weekend alcoholic include a one-to-three-day cycle of excess drinking, blacking or browning out, waking up with a hangover, sobering up, and repeating the cycle again. This can look like a college student hitting the bars Thursday through Sunday, or it can be a successful family man going to the local pub to unwind from the stress of the week.
Many weekend alcoholics (or drug users) claim that they do not have a problem with alcohol abuse or other substances due to the limited amount of times per week that they are consuming that substance. They label their behaviors as “casual drinking”. They feel that, because most of the week is spent without substances or with manageable amounts of substances, they could not possibly have a dependence or emerging issue.
However, heavy drinking does not have to be spread across any number of days to still be considered heavy. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, heavy-drinking in men is consuming more than four drinks on any day. For women, that threshold is only three drinks per day. If your unwinding habits take on the form of binge drinking, you’re likely going above and beyond these numbers.
Partying as a Coping Mechanism
Partying is an effective, although maybe not ideal, avenue to handle stress. The oversaturation of your senses, when you’re at a bar or club, provides a sense of almost total escapism that few other environments provide. For some, the loud music and dim lighting is enough to help them relax, but others feel that they need substances to fully immerse themselves in the environment and step out of their heads to unwind.
Trying to escape one’s own thoughts and feelings is not necessarily a bad thing. However, using substances as a coping mechanism to numb those negative feelings or to keep from feeling them is a dangerous tightrope to walk.
One of the biggest risks that you run when you use partying and substances as a coping mechanism is developing a strong association between social environments and substances. If you are always drunk when you’re social, you might then begin to feel anxious or distressed when you’re asked to be social and sober. This can isolate you, which can make feelings of shame even worse, which might then increase your desire to drink even more.
Another considerable risk is creating a physical dependence upon alcohol or other substances. With alcohol dependence, the body develops a strong physical attachment to a certain blood alcohol level to continue functioning. When this blood alcohol level drops below a threshold, the withdrawal effects can be quite serious, and sometimes fatal. Some serious symptoms include seizures, hallucinations, and dehydration. If you’ve had these serious withdrawal effects, seek medical attention immediately.
When Weekend Drinking Becomes a Problem
If it is becoming difficult for you to tell if you are a weekend alcoholic or not, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
First, do you find yourself looking forward to the end of every week because it means you’ll be able to drink, not because it means you’ll be able to unwind? Be very critical and try to separate the two. An inability to separate the two may be a clue into your inner workings.
When you’re drinking, do you find yourself doing embarrassing things that you normally wouldn’t do sober? Are you shocked when you wake up in the bushes or learn that you got home by drinking and driving?
Are you experiencing relationship, identity, or work problems from your alcohol intake? Are you starting to feel shame or anxiety related to how much you drink?
Have you started to drink alone, regardless of social plans or responsibilities?
Have you ever tried to stop weekend drinking, or failed at staying sober when you actively tried to?
Do you find yourself craving drinks during non-drinking times, like in the morning or during the work week?
Do you feel like relaxing is impossible without one or two drinks, or that your substances are the only truly effective way to treat your stress?
Do you only truly feel like yourself after you’ve gotten drunk or high?
If you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to a significant portion of these questions, you might have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Consider taking a break from substances to gauge how serious your situation might be and think about seeking help.
Break the Weekend Drinking Ritual
If you or a loved one are displaying signs of alcohol use disorder or is a weekend alcoholic, we can help. At New Life House, we help young men in the Los Angeles area get sober and maintain their sobriety. Our sober living program offers peer support, supervised care, and medical detox services to kickstart your journey.
Last Updated on September 1, 2023