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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Comments wanted...

Back in April 2012, I had a guest poster, Dr. Joseph Nowinski. He wrote about being “almost an alcoholic”. It was an exceptional post with many great comments. I want to thank my readers for being willing to share their thoughts with the rest of the world.

I’m going to ask you all to share bits of your life once again. Please review the guest post (the link is here):

After reviewing the post, please comment on how you think your life would have been different if you had read or had access to the book Almost Alcoholic back when the alcoholic in your life would have been considered a “heavy drinker” rather than an “alcoholic.” Would the book have made a difference?

Do you feel that reading the book now in conjunction with counseling from a qualified therapist / medical professional could change your life at the present time and/or possibly avoid full-blown alcoholism?

Dr. Nowinski is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist and author. He has blogs on the HuffingtonPost.com and PsychologyToday.com websites. For more information on Almost Alcoholic visit www.TheAlmostEffect.com. Dr. Nowinski’s website is www.joenowinski.com.

Thank you for participating in this survey. Your opinions and input are always very important to me. As always your privacy will be respected.


Anonymous said...

I have not read the book, but I do feel like there is a huge percentage of people that fall into the "almost alcoholic" category.

I now can see them and see the issues that they may be experiencing and relate them to their "Almost Alcoholic" state. However, the problem becomes that people (family and friends) are not looking for help or solutions or other people experiencing the same issues yet. They just have not had the impact that a full blown alcoholic would have.

I think it is easy in retrospect to look back at our alcoholic(s) and think that we should have caught this while they were in the almost alcoholic stage, but we were not even aware that there was a problem yet.

With my Dad we got to him right as he traipsed along the edge of almost to full blown, before there were any serious withdraw symptoms and asked him to go to rehab and he was still eager to comply. However, it was already to late, we just didn't know it yet.

Anonymous said...

Hello all
I would encourage any commenters who would be interested in sharing more to contact me at

afterthefire1964 said...

Like anonymous, my late husband's issues would not have been caught because I was not aware that there was a problem. He was doing all his drinking in his "man cave" where I always allowed him his privacy. By the time he could not hide it anymore it was too late.

As for myself - I appreciate the post because it allows me to be aware of a potential pitfall that I might fall into. I have dealt with a lot - two rounds of cancer, six years of alcoholic husband resulting in his death, 2 sons to raise, holding down two jobs to make ends meet…it is easy to have a drink or two to blow off steam, eh? I try to be self-aware; this gives me a measure to be aware about. Thank you!

jennifer cassidy said...

I wish I had had this book 16 years ago. That was when my husband, Frank's, drinking changed from a few beers with friends to a six pack every night and shots to go with that on weekends.
You see, HIS mother got sick and he drank more to control HIS anxiety.
After his mother died, his drinking increased so suddenly and frequently, I insisted we go to counseling and he stop drinking immediately.
When we got to counseling, the therapist suggested that franks "social" drinking and my smoking where exactly the same thing.
That was all the ammo frank needed to keep on drinking.
I quit smoking and handed frank an ultimatum: I would not sleep with a drunk person for one more night and moved to the spare room immediately.
The next 16 years were pure Hell. I did all the correct actions one is supposed to do to discourage the drinking behavior. I did not purchase alcohol for him. I did not participate. He was required to not drink in front of our son.
Whatever was supposed to help, I did it. Failed rehabs, broken promises and dysfunction became the norm.
This past Christmas, as our son was grown and away at college, I told frank he had two choices: he could go to treatment and we get counseling, or he could leave right then and we were done.
Surprisingly, he agreed.
Frank was supposed to leave for a thirty day in- patient treatment center on 1/14/2014.
On December 28, 2013, right after the holiday we spent apart, he was caught drinking at work and was forced to leave for treatment in Nevada, right then and there.
He never made it to the treatment center.
He had a near fatal seizure Mid-flight, and was admitted to the hospital in Colorado, were he spent the next month.
I received updates daily of his MELD score and knew he was gravely ill.
It was an absolute miracle his doctor in Colorado was able to stabilize him enough to fly him back home.
After a week in the hospital here, we learned he was not a candidate for a liver transplant.
The last conversation I had with my husband was to tell him he was going to die and the only choice we had left was the way it would happen: fighting nurses for pain relief, or heavily sedated at Hospice.
On 2/7/2014 ,on the third day in a wonderful hospice facility, Frank slipped into a coma and died peacefully in his sleep. Almost immediately after I had become so exhausted, I had to go home to sleep for just a few hours.
He died of Liver failure, alcoholic hepatitis and hepatorenal syndrome.
He was 58 years old.
He was 21 months away from retirement.
Our son was recently chosen to attend a conference in Puerto Rico, to study Radio frequencies at a famous observatory, at 19 years old.
Frank missed it.
I am a widow at 49.
I will never recover.
I cannot leave my bedroom, even now that the house is empty.
It makes me uncomfortable.
I spent 16 years locked behind it's door, as the Alcoholic I was trying to save raged all night long, every night.
I will buy this book now, for my sister.
She thinks that a few beers every night after work is no big deal.
Thank you for letting me tell this tale.
God Bless you for your good works.


Sand James said...

Well who am I to disagree with someone such as Joseph Nowinski; he certainly has the credentials and experience to support his ideas and theories but I actually don't believe there is a difference between a "heavy drinker" and an alcoholic. And to me "almost alcoholic" is like "little bit pregnant." What I have learned from this journey with an alcoholic husband is that the compulsive drinking is a Small Fraction of the problems that affect the alcoholic. And furthermore, I have come to understand that many of the issues - the moodiness, the pathological selfishness - that appear to be "mental" actually have a physiological basis for the behavior. In other word, alcohol abuse DAMAGES parts of the brain that results in a change in behavior and personality even. So...if the issues and problems with an alcoholic go beyond "simply" drinking compulsively AND the issues are a result of physiological damage and change due to excessive alcohol consumption, how can one "just" be a "heavy" drinker? You can't "choose" "not" to have your physiology affected by the alcohol.

To me the only variable for an alcoholic is how long it takes for the changes to begin. I have been married to my husband for over 12 years; in the beginning I suppose one could call him a "heavy" drinker though I don't. He was an alcoholic. However, the more perverse affects, such as the pathological selfishness and irritability, didn't show themselves until the last five years or so. To me the "heavy drinker" is just the alcoholic who is just starting out onhis downward journey.

Probably no book would have changed my decision to marry my husband because I was COMPLETELY NAIVE in regards to the true and deep complexities of alcoholism. I don't know that I would have been able to BELIEVE this man would one day be calling me a "fucking bitch."

Anonymous said...

I am one of those rare people who is allergic to alcohol. I get asthma even from two sips of champagne -- and have ended up in the ER from beer. Even too many over-ripe raspberries can make my lungs "feel tight." So I never understood what a dangerous amount of alcohol was until very recently -- in my mid-fifties.

My first husband split his head open a few times drunk on hard liquor. That resulted in an ER visit. After the third ER visit, he poured it all down the drain, telling me that he didn't trust himself to not drink it. I had actually protested, saying that we should just hang onto these expensive bottles of booze for when guests came over. I couldn't understand why it was so seductive when all it seemed to do was cause him accidents at our home, make him have slurred speech and "sound stupid". What can I say? I was a naive kid. We were in our twenties and as far as I could tell, we were both in good health and I didn't think he was an alcoholic because he only drank on the weekends.

He also announced at that time that he was only going to drink beer. By the time we were in our late twenties, he was drinking a six pack every night -- with a home grown joint. I thought nothing of it because he wasn't stumbling and slurring. He seemed normal except for a goofy smile every evening. The thing that had changed was his integrity: unlike life in our early twenties which was full of deep conversations, graduate school, a feeling of togetherness, in our late twenties he gradually became more disengaged, seemed like he had turned into a teenager again, was a pathological liar, had started accusing me of imagined conspiracies, cheated with 3 women, got lazy about cleanliness. I couldn't figure it out.

I moved out for a year and was back to clear out my belongings and to see him for the last time. He was crying and telling me that he was an alcoholic, that he had gone to a detox program and that alcohol had ruined his marriage.

My reaction was "Puleeeeeeze, over beer? Beer is supposed to be benign, remember? That's why you got off of the hard stuff. Only you could be an alc over beer! Give me a break! You ruined our marriage over cheating and lying! You'll blame everything on something external!" And I closed my ears and walked away in disgust from all of the excuses. But now, decades later, when I look back, I realize he was right.

I've had a lot of alcoholics in my life since then to give me more wake-up calls. I've had so many family members die from alcoholism. And now my brother is in trouble from a three quarter bottle gin habit a day.

My feeling about safe amounts of alcohol? I always look at the "ancestor diet" to give me clues. The human body is generally built to handle "some" amount of alcohol. Yes? But probably only the amount of alcohol when you are picking fruit (in the hunter/gatherer way: fruit that has gone by a bit). And then because fruits come in seasons, it would not be eaten every day and alcohol would not be consumed every day. So "almost alcoholic" is way over these amounts.

I am in my mid fifties and I've spent my life eating local farm food, no alcohol, almost no processed foods, I make my own bread, my sugar intake is only fresh fruits. Everyone I meet says I look like I am in my early thirties. My HDL and LDL are both 86. Anyway, I think we are ALL supposed to look like we are in our early thirties when we are in our mid-fifties (seriously!): it is the alcohol, the drugs, the caffeine, the sugar, and the other things that comprise the terrible American diet that has most of us looking old and dying young.

Anonymous said...

After staying in an alcoholic marriage for a little over 18 years, I must agree with Sand James. Being an almost alcoholic is like being a little bit pregnant. I should have realized when we were 19 and I wanted to go to the movies and he wanted to go to the beer parties his friends were having. But I was young and in love and.....Fast forward five years, and "everybody" was staying after work to drink and he would come home drunk on those days, but still be able to function on days off. Was still present in our marriage at this point. It's mostly been the last 10 years or so that it has been staying after work almost every night and then starting drinking at noon on weekends...and as I'm saying that I'm wondering why and how I put up with it the last 10 years...hoping for a change? praying for a change? I don't know. What was I thinking?? He quit for a year. And then carried that as a torch and justification for why he wasn't REALLY an alcoholic because a REAL alcoholic wouldn't have been able to quit for a year. In the end...the drunk driving home every night, his willingness to put our family in that much danger, but mostly the CHAOS his drinking brought to my peace of mind and my kids' peace of mind was the last straw, or maybe the straw that just kept breaking over and over and over. There is absolutely NOTHING at this point that will make him see that he is an alcoholic. He has lost our family, our kids (because he has alienated them, not because of me), the business he had with his brother, the relationship he had with his brother and sister-in-law, his health, and is starting to financially feel the repercussions, too, because he can't manage to get up and go to work. Only his mother and his best friend from high school are still in the fog with him. He pushed away the people who tried to tell him, warn him, or who took the hard line with him. There was a point he was borderline, yes....but there was absolutely nothing you could have told him that would have stopped him from going down this road.

Syd said...

I hope that the book will be of help to those who wonder whether they have a problem with drinking. But I suspect that the ones who are drinking won't be reading this and will continue to deny that there is a problem. My experience from years of living with an alcoholic and with a problem drinker before that was that they didn't question that alcohol was a problem. They drank because alcohol helped to temporally quell the underlying unease and depression that they were feeling. Alcohol kept their demons at bay until alcohol became the demon.

I know that my wife would not have read this and wondered, "Am I getting close to being an alcoholic and what do I do about it?" Instead, she made a million excuses about why she drank. Most problem drinkers who progress to full blown alcoholism avoid the truth of their problem. I believe that alcoholism is a progressive disease. Eventually, it progresses to the point where the alcoholic has lost all control over alcohol.

I do think that the people who will buy this book are the family and friends of those Almost Alcoholics. They are the same people who I see in Al-Anon every week. They come in hoping to find a cure for their husband, children, wife, etc. They want to know what they can do to stop the drinking. I would have bought this book looking for those answers because I knew that my wife's drinking wasn't normal social drinking. Now I know that I can't stop the alcoholic. I know that if I had given my wife this book when she was drinking, it would have done no good. She had to finally realize that she is an alcoholic on her own.

Unknown said...

Wow I totally agree with this and if more education and or information was
available for doctors to use (such as mentioned scale) I think we would see
improvement in the number of "almost alcoholics" and their doctors catching
the problem before they are alcohol dependent. (alcoholism)

But I am concerned with the suggestion in this article I read here that says
the "almost alcoholics" can be turned around into “normal” social drinkers.
I question this because I think that once you have a “problem” with drinking
more than just one to two drinks monthly – you have already began the
walk towards being an alcoholic. And the only way to stop this and make sure
You are not going to let the alcohol ruin your life is to stop all together. Period.

When I was a little girl my Nana used to tell me that alcohol was evil like the devil
and that it could make people do terrible things and she hated it. She was telling me this
because she would not let my mother bring it in her house which she wanted to every
holiday we went there. My mother’s father was a terrible alcoholic who beat my Nana and she left him before my mother was 5 and had any memory of the man. I did not give what she said a lot of thought through the years of her repeating it to me until a few years ago when my mother was fighting to drink while delusional thinking and seeing things that were not reality and I finally got what Nana was saying and agree that it is like fighting someone or something other than just your loved one – like they are being controlled by something other than themselves. They are it is alcohol.

If someone would have been able to address her situation openly when it first got going she might have a chance to win today before she was so riddled that she can not even get into a rehab (which she now wants to do) as they say she doesn’t clear mentally every time she finishes detoxing. Her brain is now so damaged that her memory loss and inability to walk balanced at times is not good – if only right?

Kathy Hatch said...

It wouldn't have made a difference. I was in a bad place when I met my husband, a bad marriage. I got divorced and married him, I was pregnant. His mother told me to my face that he was only drinking because of my custody battle. I lost my boys because the judge saw a problem in his future. I was stuck, my family disowned me for getting a divorce. I didn't see the problem for myself till my daughter was born. I had no idea what to do. His problem was already 15 years old by the time I came along. His mother wanted rid of him. I can't regret being with him. I have great kids.