Tips with Trish

Dear Trish,

How can you tell if you have a drinking problem? I did the miracle mile and got really sick. I think I freaked out a few of my friends and maybe even myself. What is considered an acceptable amount of alcohol?


A mile too far


Trish says,

This answer is a bit involved. First of all, good for you for asking. Taking a look at one’s own drinking patterns is not easy. Part of the nature of the development of an alcohol or drug problem is denial. A person will deny to their self and others that their use interferes with their life and that the drug has begun to control them. As a problem develops, the craving or compulsion for the drug will grow, tolerance increases and negative consequences occur more often like blackouts or mood swings.

If a person perceives that their drinking is affecting their life in a negative way, it is likely that alcohol is a getting to be a problem. Getting sick is an indicator that you drank too much during the mile. It probably wasn’t smart but it may not indicate that alcohol is a problem in general for you.

What will help answer this question is to take a look at whether drinking impacts your life in a significant way. Does it affect your ability to get your school work done, get to work regularly or just maintain your routine? Another thing to look at is how your drinking affects your relationships with other people. Do you end up fighting with those you are in relationships with when you drink? Does your ability to make good decisions for yourself decrease when you drink? Have you broken the law when you using has gotten out of hand? If you answered yes to some of these questions, you likely need to cut back on alcohol.

Another rule of thumb is that if you begin to frequently find yourself looking forward to the drink at the end of the day, it is time to change. Even if you find yourself looking forward to the weekend or the next time you can drink, you might want to take a step back.

In regards to the question about an “acceptable” amount of alcohol use, this is different for everyone because of body weight, etc. Low-risk use of alcohol means abstaining if you have a family history of addiction or otherwise limiting consumption to no more than one to two drinks on any given day. To stay healthy drink little or infrequently and check into more substance-free ways to have a good time.

If drinking does seem to be a problem for you, help is available. Talk to one of the counselors on campus or consider getting an evaluation downtown at Substance Abuse Service Center. They have walk-in appointments open on Wednesday morning. This is a good place to share your story and see if treatment is a fit for you.

It is a courageous decision to look at your drinking patterns. I can assure you that addressing it now may help you before the problem gets out of hand. Another good option for help and support is to consider attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the Dubuque area. There are several locations so you can find one near you. For a complete list, visit their Dubuque website.



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Tricia Borelli is the Director of Counseling Services at Loras College. In Tips with Trish, she will answer student questions concerning anything that relates to keeping it together while doing this crazy thing called college. Send questions or comments to Ms. Borelli, Loras Box 100, or to the e-mail address All names of those sending questions will be kept confidential.

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