ASK DENISE: Drinking creates problem in relationship

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Denise Harrison

Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.


Dear Denise: My girlfriend is always getting mad at me because she says I drink too much. I don’t know why she gets upset; it is not like I get sloppy drunk. I don’t even get buzzed half the time. I can hold my liquor just fine. What can I tell her to get her off my back? This is causing problems between us.

Dear Reader: So you can “hold your liquor” without getting “buzzed.” It sounds to me as though you have a high tolerance. Tolerance is the ability not to feel alcohol quickly. 

We are born with an initial level of tolerance, but the more we drink, the higher our tolerance levels can become. Unfortunately, those with high tolerance tend to consider it to be an attribute when, in reality, it is a liability. 

Let me try to illustrate why this is true: Let’s say you and your girlfriend decide to take a trip to the beach. The beach you choose to go to is not a popular one, so the sand is not groomed and is instead rocky, with sharp stones, maybe broken glass and shells. Your girlfriend has very delicate, well-cared-for feet. You, on the other hand, walk barefoot a lot, so your feet are tough and callused. So, as the two of you start walking on this rough and uncomfortable surface, your girlfriend quickly feels the sharp objects under her feet and stops walking. But since your feet have lots of calluses, you don’t feel a thing and keep walking. But guess what? Your feet are still getting cut up, but you don’t feel it. This is very similar to how tolerance works.  

Whether you feel the effects of alcohol, you are still getting impaired. When I do DWI assessments, I often hear the client proclaim, “but I wasn’t even buzzed.” But their blood alcohol content, or BAC, was still high enough to be over the legal limit. 

Whether we feel impaired, research has shown our judgment, reaction times and decision-making skills are compromised at certain BAC levels. So, no, tolerance is not a badge of honor. 

Another thing that concerned me was your comment your drinking is causing problems in your relationship with your girlfriend. Relationship issues because of alcohol use is a criterion used in an alcohol assessment and is one of the factors in determining potential dependency. I feel you are on a slippery slope right now, and you need to re-examine your use of alcohol. 

If you think you need help, contact a professional. But I cannot see anything positive coming from your current behaviors.   


Dear Readers: I know these are challenging times for everyone, and the danger of depression, paranoia and anxiety overwhelming us is just as disturbing as the fear of getting sick. 

Please get help if you feel as if your feelings are getting out of control. I am continuing to offer video sessions and am here if you need me. 

You don’t have to deal with this alone. Hang in there.


Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor in Spruce Pine. Email questions to or leave a message at 828-467-0037. Submissions are anonymous.