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Am I An Alcoholic?
Alcoholism in General
Member Name: kenjohn
Alcoholism in General
Date: 24/06/01, updated on 25/10/09 (911 review reads)
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I have been sober ever since, for over 22 years now, a day at a time.
It's not my intention in this opinion to revisit old ground; if any of you are interested enough then my own experience is fully documented in my opinion called "To Hell And Back", which you'll find somewhere in my op list.
The question I want to address here in this opinion is one that I am asked constantly by people who think they may have a problem with alcohol.
"DO YOU THINK I AM AN ALCOHOLIC?"
~ ~ Let me say straight off that I don't think there is a definitive answer to that question.
Because until the person believes themselves that they actually have a problem, then no problem will exist in their consciousness. And until they actually believe themselves to be in trouble with booze, then they simply wont believe anyone who tells them otherwise, whether it be a doctor, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, priest, minister, or friend.
So to anyone out there who may think (or know!) that they have an alcoholic friend or relative, all the preaching and persuasion in the world will be to no avail, until the alcoholic themselves come to the decision that they are in trouble, and need help to overcome their addiction.
Certain steps can be undertaken to help the suffering alcoholic to reach this fateful decision however, and it is these I want to write about here.
Allow me to pose some questions that anyone who has a notion that they might be in trouble with "Old John Barleycorn" would do well to ask of themselves.
Many of these questions are borrowed from the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I make no apolology for "plagiarising" from this source, as the questions posed by AA to a newcomer who thinks they may have an alcohol problem are by far and away the most relevant I have ever come across when it comes to diagnosing this illness.
The commentary on the questions is entirely my own thinking on the topic.
"Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?"
~ ~ Now here's a poser for you. We've all done it, or at least most of us have.
You wake up the morning after the night before with a hangover fit to kill a horse, and utter the immortal words, "Never again!!"
You vow there and then that you are going to stay off the grog for a week/fortnight/month, whatever, and start to get your act together.
And yet the very same day, or the day after, you find yourself back at the bar, and inveigled into yet another drinking session with friends or work colleagues, and the same old round of heavy drinking starts all over again.
Anyone with alcoholic tendencies will know EXACTLY what I'm talking about here, whereas a normal social (or even heavy drinker) will be saying to themselves, "What the Hell is he on about?"
People without a problem/dependency on alcohol will not have any difficulty in staying away from alcohol for whatever period of time they decide they want to.
The alcoholic, or problem drinker if you prefer that term, will find every kind of excuse under the sun to rationalise in their own head the reasons that they HAD to have a drink.
If you think you might fit into this category, then here's a little test for you to try out.
Try for a week to go without alcohol entirely. No excuses, no exceptions, no rationalisation. One solitary week when you will not drink alcohol at all, of any description.
The normal social drinker will be able to manage this without any problems whatsoever. The alcoholic; well, what do you think?
" Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking - stop telling you what to do?"
~ ~ So you've been "on the sauce" a bit heavy for a while, and your wife/husband/boss/friend approaches you and asks what the hell you think you are doing? It may be put politely, or it may be a rant, depending on just how bad your drinking has become.
The question here is how do you find you react to anyone who suggests that you may be drinking too much and too often.
The normal social drinker will never really find themselves in this situation, apart from maybe the odd comment now and again when they go slightly "OTT" at a party or function of some description, and even then it is usually couched in a fairly friendly or jocular fashion.
The alcoholic drinker however will be well used to this sort of comment.
In most cases it is their POSILQ (person of opposite sex in living quarters) who first broaches them on the subject.
If you find you start to become over defensive of your drinking habits, and liable to fly off the handle at the merest suggestion that you may have some sort of problem, then the chances are extremely high that it is actually because you HAVE the very problem you are so vehemently denying exists.
A common "defence" of the drinking alcoholic is that he/she would be fine, if only they were left alone to their own devices, and people would stop nagging at them and telling them what they should or shouldn't do.
THINK AGAIN, and this time try being honest with yourself when you answer.
"Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk?"
~ ~ This is a common ploy that the alcoholic drinker adopts in order to try to rationalise in their own heads their out of control drinking habits.
"I keep getting legless when I drink whisky, ergo from now on I will only drink vodka. Oops, that didn't work, now I'm getting pi**ed on voddy. Better try only drinking beer." And so on, ad infinitum.
A variation on this theme is the alcoholic who will try to only drink at weekends, or after a certain time of day.
I know one guy (now a long time sober) who put himself through needless hell for years, and all because he NEVER had a drink before six in the evening. So he couldn't have a problem, could he?? Never mind the fact that he probably got through the best part of a bottle and a half of spirits between six and midnight, each and every night!!
The simple fact is that, if you are alcoholic, no amount of changing what you drink or when you drink it will make the slightest bit of difference. Sooner rather than later you will end up in your usual state, "wide-eyed and legless again". (Remember the song, anyone? Can't for the life of me remember who sang it)?
"Have you had to have an eye-opener upon awakening during the past year?"
~ ~ This is a sure sign.
In common everyday parlance its called a "hair of the dog", or here in Ireland, a "cure".
Have you ever found that you just can't shake a hangover, no matter how hard you try, and that the only thing that seems to make you feel any better is to take another drink.
Or even worse, do you ever suffer from the morning "shakes", and can't even face shaving or having any breakfast, until you first of all have a little eye opener, just to "steady your nerves".
This is a very steep and slippery slope. Take it from one who has travelled its full length, and who ended up sleeping with a half bottle of whisky under his bed, which I used to drink before even getting up in the morning.
And don't try kidding yourself by thinking you're OK if you can manage through to pub opening time before taking your "cure". That's just yet another rationalisation.
Again, problem drinkers know EXACTLY what I'm talking about, whereas a normal social drinker is again at a loss to understand.
"Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble?"
~ ~ Do you ever find yourself wondering what it is about you that makes you "different" from your contemporaries or drinking companions?
Why it is that so and so can come into the pub at nine and leave at ten, content and happy with his couple of drinks?
Whereas YOU are never happy until you know where your next drink is coming from, and are always the last to be literally flung out the pub door at closing time, usually with a "carry out" for consumption once you get home.
If you find yourself becoming envious of people who can "take it or leave it", and wishing that you could be more like them, then again the chances are high that you have an alcohol problem.
"Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?"
~ ~ This question is a hard one, because it requires you to be rigorously honest with yourself.
The plain and simple truth is very unpalatable.
If you have a problem with alcohol, and you continue to drink, it will never get any better, only worse.
Sooner or later you will either end up dead, or locked away in some sort of institution for the mentally disturbed.
This is a KILLER disease, and the nasty fact is that nine out of ten alcoholics never recover, and end up dying from a drink related illness, or through an accident caused by alcohol.
The only hope for an alcoholic is to stop drinking entirely. Any other method is doomed to failure.
So, just this once, try being totally honest with yourself when you answer the above question. It could end up saving your life!!
"Has your drinking caused trouble at home?"
~ ~ Do you find that you are having constant rows with your partner/parents/kids, and that never a day seems to pass without some sort of open warfare breaking out at home?
And mostly over the simplest and most trivial of things.
And do you sometimes find that you are much more irritable and "touchy" than you used to be, and seem to fly off the handle for practically no reason, only to feel sorry for having done so almost immediately, until you actually end up despising the grouch you have become.
A common ploy of the problem drinker is to blame their home life for their drinking.
"If only my wife/husband/kids were nicer to me. Who WOULDN'T drink with what I have to put up with?"
The alcoholic NEVER lays the blame where it truly lies, in their own excessive and compulsive behaviour, but always finds some way to twist a situation so that they appear blameless, and the other person at fault.
This illness makes you both cunning and very devious.
Just this once, try being honest with yourself, and answer truthfully who you think is truly to blame for your unhappy home life.
"Do you ever try to get "extra" drinks at a party because you do not get enough?"
~ ~ Boy, was I ever an expert at this one.
If I was going to a party, I would always make sure that I had a "secret" bottle s
tashed somewhere on my person, that I could use to top up my drinks, or give them a little extra "bite".
And even before I ever got to the party or social gathering, I would make very sure that I had a good belly full of booze on board, so that if it turned out that people weren't drinking fast enough for me, I would still manage to get the amount of drink I required in order to function.
If I were out in company, I would always be sneaking in little "extra" drinks at the bar when it was my turn to buy a round, or asking the barman to give me a "double/double" instead of an ordinary measure.
Once, when I'd promised an ex-girlfriend that I would temper my drinking habits, I even took to getting the barman to put a double whisky INTO my pint of beer, so that she wouldn't realise the amount of my consumption.
Do you recognise any of these little "traits" in your own drinking habits?
If so, then think on!!!
"Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don't mean to?"
~ ~ This is a common cry of the alcoholic.
"I don't have a problem. I drink because I LIKE it. I could stop anytime I wanted to."
Yeah, right!!! Pull the other one.
Here's another little "test" for you.
I'm not too sure how they measure drinks these days, with these "units" of alcohol.
But try this one on for size for a month.
You are allowed THREE drinks a day. Three glasses of spirits, three pints of beer, glasses of wine, or whatever your favourite tipple is.
You can drink them at any time, or at separate times, but you are not allowed any more than three, whatever the circumstances, be it death, murder, World War 3, divorce, marriage, birth, you name it.
Three a day, AND you can't "save them up", and have nine on one day because you didn't have any for the previous two days.
If you can manage this then the chances are high that you don't have a real problem with alcohol, because any true alcoholic I have ever known would no more be able to manage this feat than sprout wings and fly the Atlantic.
One of the best "definitions" of alcoholism I ever heard was that the alcoholic was a person who after taking their first drink, could never guarantee when they would take their last.
In basic terms, once alcohol has entered the system of an alcoholic, then all good intentions and control is lost.
The second part of the question is simple.
Have you ever found yourself getting legless, and going right OTT, in circumstances where it is not at all appropriate, causing embarrassment both to yourself, your partner, and to the assembled company.
If the answer is yes, then think on!!
"Have you missed days of work or school because of drinking?"
~ ~ This is a simple question. All that is required is to answer it truthfully.
Now I'm not talking here about the "odd" day, which most normal people will take from time to time, when they have had a "strenuous" party or session the day before.
Most people would be guilty of this.
What this is asking is if you are missing work (or school/college, etc) on a fairly regular basis, simply because you feel so bad in the mornings that you simply can't face it.
Or if you are "skipping off" early to go on drinking sessions, or even secretly drinking during the working day.
Or maybe it has even progressed beyond this stage, and you have actually lost a job as a result of your drinking.
Lord, the amount of creative thinking I used to have to put into my job applications to "cover up" for lost months and jobs where I'd got the boot.
Does this ring any bells??
"Do you have "blackouts"?"
~ ~ The proper medical term for a blackout is alcoholic amnesia.
This is where you wake up the morning after a heavy session, with a total or partial loss of memory due to the amount of alcohol you have consumed.
This got so bad with me that I used to fairly regularly awaken in strange beds with even stranger people, wondering just how the hell I had got there.
I once drove over 300 miles without so much as a glimmer of a recollection of having ever done so.
And, while I was still a salesman, I once received a commission for a substantial order that I had written for several thousands of pounds, which I had NO MEMORY of ever having called upon, never mind selling the company anything.
A "blackout" can be either partial or total, and can last for anything from a few minutes to several days, but it is a SURE sign that your drinking is way out of control.
Normal social drinkers just don't experience this type of thing.
"Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?"
~ ~ Again, try to answer this honestly.
Nobody starts out drinking with the intention of letting it take control of their lives or destiny, but usually because drinking makes life seem a little better and happier, at least for a while.
By the time an alcoholic reaches the stage where they are "drinking to live, and living to drink", they usually feel totally trapped and hopeless about their situation.
Most yearn to return to a normal way of living, but think that it is totally beyond them to accomplish this.
If you get to the stage where you are "sick and tired of being sick and tired", and want to do something about it, then consider asking someone for help.
You'll be very surprised how many people have trod this same path before you, and how much help is actually available, but the first step is to be prepared to admit you have a problem and to ASK for help to overcome it.
~ ~ Well folks, that's Ken's little questionnaire complete.
A simple rule of thumb is if you answered "yes" to four or more of the above questions, then the chances are very high that you are in trouble with alcohol.
How can I make this assertion?
Well, nothing is ever cast in stone, but I have been a "recovering" alcoholic myself for 30 years plus, and have both "talked the talk" and "walked the walk", and have happily been instrumental in helping many drinkers during this time to rediscover their lives and to manage to rid themselves of this terrible killer disease.
There are many avenues of help available to you if you think you may have a drinking problem.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the way that finally worked for me, after years of trying to come to terms with my illness, and after years of self-denial.
If you want to give AA a try, then their telephone number is listed very close to the front of any telephone directory you care to pick up, almost anywhere in the world.
Over the years, this has proved itself, beyond any shadow of a doubt, as the single most effective method of an alcoholic both getting sober and then STAYING sober.
If you want, then you can contact your own doctor, who will be able to put you in contact with someone who can help, or to refer you to a clinic or hospital that specialises in the treatment of alcoholism.
But my own experience is that many GP's show remarkable ignorance when it comes to this particular illness.
And last, but not least, my own email is listed on my profile page here at dooyoo.
If you have any further questions of a confidential nature, then feel free to drop me a mail at any time, and I'll do my level best to render any assistance or advice that I can.
Summary: The hell of all diseases