Q: Drinking a glass of wine every night is the only way I can relax. Do I have a problem?

A: There is technically nothing wrong with enjoying one drink each night. But if you truly find that you can't unwind without having your evening sip, that concerns me. Using alcohol to manage stress and anxiety makes you far more likely to develop issues with addiction and substance abuse. Why? People acquire a tolerance to alcohol; over time, it will take more booze in your system to create the same relaxing or soothing effect you're looking for. Eventually, a single glass of wine won't help you find your calm, so you'll need two, or three, or more. Also, by drinking wine every day, you increase your risk of becoming dependent. If you decide not to imbibe one night, you may experience some withdrawal, creating stress or anxiety—and that, in turn, could make you want to drink.

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My advice: Develop some other tools to relax. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, yoga, even watching your favorite bad TV are all great, healthy ways to unwind. You don't have to swear off the wine completely, but do make it less of an every-night thing. After work, go for a mind-clearing jog. Take a relaxing bubble bath and put on some soothing music. Check out a Netflix show you've been dying to see. If these new habits don't adequately take the edge off your day, you should consider seeing a therapist who is experienced at treating anxiety. 

 

Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.