The definition of a problem is different for each person. The most valuable indicator is to ask yourself: “Is my substance use causing problems in my life that I don’t find acceptable”?
Consider the ways your substance use affects your life. Some problems will be obvious (“my spouse is always upset with me”; “I had a car crash while drinking last year”) while others will be subtle (“I just don’t feel a hundred percent when I go to work in the morning”). Substance use can cause problems in different areas of your life—intimate and social relationships, work or school performance, physical health, and financial wellbeing. It can also decrease your ability to enjoy life.
Problems can occur with any amount of substance use; try to resist the urge to compare yourself to others as you think through your relationship with substances (“I don’t drink as much as my friend Jennifer”; “I’m not one of those people who misses work because of drinking”). If you can connect distress in any area of your life to your use, it’s reasonable to consider changing your relationships with substances. You may be surprised to discover the range of options available if you decide you could use some support.