Are you alcoholic?
Or are you a problem drinker?
Just under a lot of stress and drinking a little more than usual?
Is it alcoholism -- or just your mother-in-law -- that's driving you to drink?
Recognizing alcoholism. What a subject! There are a few of ways you can do it if you're interested.
a. You could take one of those little quizzes in the back of your favorite monthly magazine.
b. You could ask your doctor (you want clueless? you can't imagine!). Or
c. You could talk to someone who knows someone who knows someone who actually is an alcoholic, and compare symptoms. Or you can do this: get really, really honest about your drinking.
To recognize something means to see it. I'll ask you:
YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THAT YOUR DRINKING IS A PROBLEM?
To recognize means to become familiar with.
Your drinking hasn't become all too familiar? The bad endings. The hangover. The decision over and over again that gets you the same end result -- disaster!
You don't know that your drinking is different? Different from the person who actually has one glass of wine with their salad? You need a quiz to recognize that your drinking is different???
You already recognize something. Don't you?
Here's what you need more than an "Alcoholic -- are you or aren't you?" test. You need an honest, safe environment, with no judgment or shame. Just the truth about our drinking and a quick discussion on alcoholism.
I'm not sure there is a more important step in sobriety than getting to the truth about your drinking, because once you/I/we get honest, have a look at what's really going on (otherwise known as the truth), we can begin to create space for a solution.
You want to know if you are really, really, really alcoholic? Like, alcoholic! That's a big word. Alcoholic! Not just a problem drinker? Not just under a lot of stress? Not just a party kind of guy/gal?
You've seen the commercials about the "problem drinkers."
The wife pacing back and forth waiting for the husband to come home, knowing full well that it's another night of...
He walks in the door.
Strong, sad voice says:
"If you can't get help with us, get it somewhere."
How about the man at the bar with his buddies.
Getting louder by the second.
Ad ends with:
"HEY, BARTENDER, GIVE ME ANOTHER ONE..."
(You know all his friends have gone home after their one or two "responsible" drinks...)
He finally staggers out.
Drives home drunk, puts the world in danger because he's such an irresponsible jerk and just can't control himself.
Boy, oh boy, thank God we aren't him!
You've had a few nights here and there of a tad too much to drink, sure. But that's totally different from the guy on the commercial, with the really obvious, acting-like-a-totally-irresponsible-fool drinking PROBLEM. We are different from that belligerent, loudmouthed guy. We don't act like him.
And just to add another complication to this complicated matter of figuring out if you even have a problem...what if you are a woman?
Don't see a commercial with a woman staggering in the door? Female alcoholics don't even have the advantage of seeing a commercial on tele. It isn't shown. Ever seen it? I've never seen the husband pacing back and forth worrying about the marriage with the wife 'cause she's stumbling in the door.
I'm confused. Women don't sit at the bar and say, "HEY, BARTENDER, GIVE ME ANOTHER ONE"? Apparently it's not just Hollywood that's low on roles and lower on the pay scale for women. Apparently the recovery field is short on roles for women also.
So let's get back to the bar. What if you've never sat at the bar and gotten obnoxious? Maybe it's at the business lunch you are getting your fix? Driving the school bus, hungover again? Taking the baby-sitter home after just a few too many? Are you one of the world's top athletes? My son's teacher?
Have you ever woken up one too many mornings so hungover you could die? Have you wondered for days about what you said or did the last time you sat down for "just a couple" of drinks to unwind? Have you noticed lately that the "couple" has turned into more than you could have ever imagined? Have you ever gotten that cold, horrifying feeling inside when you see the ads for help on TV? Then maybe you, like me, are living/dying with alcoholism.
You may be the only one, at this point, who knows something is wrong. But you know if it is. Your drinking may still be easy to sweep under the "socially acceptable" rug, even though you have that nagging feeling that you drink differently than most. It may only be bad once in a while, and not difficult to cover up when it is. OK, a problem -- but alcoholic? Why say the word? Why bring it up? Why bother with sobriety when the problem is really not that bad?
Great question, and one that I've got the best answer for...
Admit to being alcoholic???
FIT AS A FIDDLE.
WON'T PUT LOW-QUALITY, HIGH-FAT FOOD IN MY BODY.
And drinking myself to death???
RAISING THE GREATEST KIDS ON THE PLANET (EXCEPT YOURS, OF COURSE).
DOING SEMINARS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.
LOVING MY LIFE.
LOVING MY WORK.
LEAN, STRONG, AND HEALTHY AS HELL...
If anyone has a "Why would ya open this can of worms?" clause in their life, it's me!
Write a book about it and expose an addiction? I never would have if I'd...I had a choice.
There is no way on earth that I would have gone through the last two years of facing truths that I didn't want to face, being so vulnerable I felt like I was going to die, feeling such shame in the midst of the most "success" I've ever had in my life, if there had been a choice. Addiction isn't a choice. Alcoholism isn't a choice. It's a textbook spiral down. The same end result for all of us. Nobody understands "socially acceptable" drinking -- being enormously productive and addicted -- more than me. I was.
But I also know the importance of opening this can of worms. I know that you are soooooo tired of it. There isn't any question that you are hurting, physically and emotionally. You may not know it yet, but if you are alcoholic, you are physically dying, poisoning every cell in your body, and there's no question that the last couple of parties...late nights with one too many...have left you scared to death.
I know you've woken up at whatever time of the morning and felt the guilt, the shame, the burden, the fear, the anger. Why talk alcoholism?
So we can get on with the solutions, the healing, the answers we need to get rid of it.
Recognizing, acknowledging, getting truthful about what's going on with the bottle in your life is one of the most important things you can do.
One of my biggest problems in recognizing my disease was how unbelievably educated I am when it comes to this "drinking problem" thing.
Oh, my God, one of the most educated drinkers you've ever met about alcoholism...that's me.
Math? Count me out.
Geography? Forget about it. I couldn't tell you where Arkansas is. Then again, why would you want to know? (Only joking, everyone in Arkansas -- so I had one bad experience there that I can't seem to let go of. Call me immature, revengeful, or just plain childish.)
I know basic physiology. Had to spend some time looking into that -- 260 pounds, obesity, losing 133 pounds, changing lifestyles. Learned that, did that.
But educated, as in well schooled, as in knowing the presidents of the U.S. -- forget about it.
Count me out, unless it's alcoholism you are hankering to know alllll about. If so, it's me you should be calling.
I don't mean call me now that I'm sober. I mean you could have called me after a couple-too-many beers and I could have told you more about alcoholism than anyone you know! Give me one ringy-dingy when my disease was in full swing, progressing into the toilet beautifully, and I could have told you all about progression.
If it's denial you wanted to know about -- got it. Could have talked for hours on denial.
Don't even hesitate if it's drinking patterns you are interested in. I knew all there was to know about the patterns of alcoholics.
Textbook lifestyle changes? Knew that. We could have chatted up a storm...
My schooling started early. Eleven years old and sitting at an Al-Anon meeting desperate for some answers about what was swallowing our family alive...alcoholism.
Who goes to an Al-Anon meeting at eleven alone?
I'd say that was looking for answers...
Who sat with the sponsors and asked questions? ME.
Who went through years and years of living with alcoholics (and OH what fun that is) and seeing what this horrific disease does to a person's logic, love, being -- their life? It destroys. I've seen it more times than even I want to know about.
I'm with ya when it comes to doing it one day at a time.
Nobody understands sponsorship, and surrendering to your higher power, and attending meetings better than me.
I know it's an art to listen.
Easy does it? Second nature to me.
Ninety meetings in ninety days? Been there.
And the Serenity Prayer? Could recite that at the drop of a hat!
My God, I've seen what alcohol does to a person's life. The pain, the torture of this disease. Not just once, twice, but three times in my own family...and boy, oh boy, was I relieved years ago when I knew that I missed the "genetic whatever-it-is."
WOW. Three out of six in a family down...
Thank goodness I was one of the lucky ones who could sit down like a normal person and enjoy a beer once in a while.
Thank God there were great-volleyball-playing, cooler-full-of-beer, guys-with-rippled-abs fun times on the beach ahead for me!
One of the lucky ones. I missed it! Phew...wipe that brow and have a beer. And that's exactly what I did for years.
And I must say that, without the self-righteous tone of a less alcoholism-educated person, I did watch what was happening to the less lucky (the ones with the unlucky genes), the alcoholics around me, and thought...
Just stop, damn it!
What's the matter with you?
You have so much to lose.
Don't allow this in your life.
Get a grip.
Reach out for help before it ends in disaster.
Maybe just not caring enough...?
That's what I was thinking, not self-righteously, but thinking it all the same.
Recognizing alcoholism isn't easy because there is no characteristic of an alcoholic. We are everyone. Living everywhere. You don't need to end up in the gutter before you stop this thing from destroying your life. It is more than possible to stop the pain and suffering that goes on every time you drink. There's no question that you can be living your life (what appears to be a good one on the surface) and dying of alcoholism. Millions of us are. And there is no question that there is treatment for your disease.
Why tell the truth about your drinking? So you can get on with the solution and get on with your life.
Let's start with the butt-honest facts about alcohol, shall we...?
Copyright © 1997 by ISM, Inc.