Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Am I an alcoholic?
I received this e-mail yesterday and I thought I should respond openly so that others may have the benefit of my response. I want to emphasis here that I’m not a professional anything. I’m also not an alcoholic and so my viewpoint is from someone who has not had the painfully gripping experience of addiction. That is – except for my morning coffee.
Hi Linda –I've been reading your blog for probably a year or so now. I don't recall how I stumbled upon it exactly, but I immediately took an interest. I'm 24 years old and I'm working on figuring out the extent of my problem with alcohol. I identify with a lot of what you have written in your blog, enough so that it causes me to worry about what the future may have in store for me if I continue along my current path.
It's certainly been addressed to some extent in what I have read in your blog, but I'm curious about Riley's history with alcohol. I would like to know how he got to where he is now. I'm very curious how much drinking it takes to wreck the havoc upon one's body that it has in Riley's case. How long did he drink and how much? I realize this may be a somewhat nebulous question, but as I read your blog I always find myself wondering how much does it take for a person to end up like Riley has.As well, if it's not too difficult or personal to discuss, I'm also curious about your son, and his drinking in contrast to Riley's and the fact that Riley has some how managed to survive despite all odds.
If this is something you would like to post on your site I have no problem with you sharing my email.Thank you.
SteveIn one of the pages on my blog, I write about the different stages of alcoholism. For the most part, Riley’s drinking route follows that road map. In my opinion, Riley’s alcoholism kind of snuck up on him and once it was there it was a permanent resident. I don’t know if it is that way for most alcoholics, but no one ever says “I’m going to start drinking booze until I become so addicted that I cannot live without it.” No one has ever made a conscious decision to become an alcoholic.
Back in the Navy days of the late 70s and early 80s, alcohol was an accepted form of beverage at recreational activities. There were “beer ball games” and “initiations” and “balls” and “cook outs” – and getting drunk was a pretty accepted way of celebrating. In Riley’s case, when the recreational time was over, he had difficulty making the transition back to serious work mode. While others were able to put aside the beer and wine, Riley was hooked on the euphoric feeling of drunkenness. I don’t know of ANYONE in Riley’s group during the late 70s and early 80s who became alcoholics from all the carousing that was done during that time. There may have been – I just don’t know about it.So, for Riley, I believe it all started honestly enough. I think he truly believed he was not an alcoholic, but thought he was able to maintain his askew mental state by drinking small amounts each day. The only problem was that as he continued to drink, he was unable to drink in large enough quantities to keep up the desired “high” that he no longer wanted – but, in fact, needed.
Brian, on the other hand, follows a different scenario. In his teenage years into his early twenties, he did all the experimentation that parents frown upon. Alcohol did not seem to be something he was most interested in – it was other drugs that called his name. But, fortunately, he out-grew that craziness and went on to a wonderful job travelling the world and enjoying his bachelor life. He became a rational, responsible young man.Alcohol did not become a part of his life until he became involved with a woman who was an alcohol abuser. To make a very long story shorter – he ended up quitting his travelling job and trying to settle down with this woman to whom he lost his heart. His life was never the same after that. He joined her in drinking and was often as drunk as she was. That relationship ended, but the drinking remained.
It was only three years later, that Brian’s new girlfriend tried to communicate to me that his drinking had become a problem. In my opinion, she didn’t try hard enough to make me understand what was happening. I heard bits and pieces of things – innuendos and comments – but nothing that would alarm me to take a more proactive stand.Less than one year after that brief communication by his girlfriend, my son was dead.
The bottom line to all this is that there is no true and correct answer to the question of how long it will take for the alcohol level to become so high as to cause death. The style and progress of the drinking doesn’t really matter. The end result is the same – death.Steve – my suggestion to you is to honestly look at your drinking and why you are imbibing. If you’re trying to maintain a certain level of “float-y-ness” then you are certainly on your way to a life of craziness. The fact that it is disturbing to you is also a cause for concern. Ask yourself this – is drunkenness the goal of a social function or is the goal enjoyment of family and friends? Would you decline an invitation to an event that doesn’t include alcohol? Do you leave the non-alcoholic event just to find the nearest means of getting drunk? If you are drinking at lunch or going to happy hour every night – you have a problem.
No one can say for sure if someone else is an alcoholic. Only you can make the determination. But, before you decide you are NOT, maybe you should go to a few AA meetings and talk to the people there. OR just listen -- you don’t have to say anything. The meetings are free and they are taking place everywhere.One more thing you can try – just stop drinking. After a few days you will either be anxious to find a drink or you will not really care one way or the other. But, this is a dangerous precedent because often alcoholics say “I’m not an alcoholic because I quit drinking for (X number) of days and I was fine.” But, if that alcoholic returned to drinking and increased the intake – well – Houston -- there is a problem.
There is an excellent book named “Almost Alcoholic” that may help you. I’m not sure if it’s even been released yet. It was sent to me for review. The authors are Robert Doyle, MD and Joseph Nowinski, PhD and the book is being published by Hazelden. It was supposed to be out in April 2012. I think it might answer a lot of questions for you.In my opinion, if you have the slightest little inkling that you MIGHT have a problem with alcohol – then stop drinking. If you find out you can’t stop – seek help. Do it now. Don’t wait until you’re under hospice care in a nursing home and think that you spend each night in the back of a truck at a residential fire. Don’t wait until you have no idea where you are or where you live or the names of the people who visit you. Don’t wait until you end up like Riley.
at 7:31 AM