Am I an alcoholic?

Oh that word… ALCOHOLIC.

What do most of us think when we hear that word ? I’d pretty much bet you wouldn’t think of me. Middle aged mum of 3, with a respectable life; responsible professional job (should know better); nice house … Not smelly, dirty, unemployed, vodka swilling , wobbly woman who looks 10 plus years older than she is, lurching from off license to supermarket sipping on strong cider from 10am. No, I look like someone “in control”

As in my last post, I felt lost for words when asked why I couldn’t break my sobriety for a special occasion – part of me wanted to say “Because I’m an alcoholic” – but then … Maybe I’m not.. Does it matter ? Again one day I hope I will really not WANT to drink, but that day is not here yet …

The Royal College of Psychiatrists wo do a lot of research into this kind of thing suggest that

  • About 1 in 3 men and 1 in 6 women will develop some sort of health problem caused by alcohol
  • Around 1 in 11 men and 1 in 25 women are physically dependent on alcohol.

That’s a hell of a lot of people. So maybe one in six women are alcoholics … In which case we all need to rethink our definitions, because one in six are not lurching around stinking of stale wine and missing work due to hangovers …

Becoming dependent on alcohol

Alcohol can be a very effective way of feeling better for a few hours. If you are depressed and lacking in energy, it can be tempting to use alcohol to help you keep going and cope with life. The problem is that it is easy to slip into drinking regularly, using it like a medication. The benefits soon wear off and the drinking becomes part of a routine. You start to notice that:

  • Instead of choosing to have a drink, you feel you have to have it
  • you wake up with shaky hands and a feeling of nervousness
  • you start to drink earlier and earlier
  • your work starts to suffer
  • your drinking starts to affect your relationships
  • you carry on drinking in spite of the problems it causes
  • you find you have to drink more and more to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • you start to ‘binge drink’ (see below) regularly
  • other things have less importance than alcohol

Pretty much all of these applied to me – so I definitely have a problem according the RCP. But, like the government guideline, we all know doctors are a bit “pofaced” about drinking – and those things are not that that bad … Are they ?  this

I found this quiz in Caroline Knapp’s “Drinking: A Love Story”, which I found an engrossing, compulsive and disturbing read … I’ve reproduced it here, with my answers …I find this quite a ‘convincing’ quiz, because it comes from a woman who has been there… 

  1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone? YES
  2.  Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink? YES much
  3. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out? YES and increasingly frequently
  4. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it? YES, I never knew anyone else did this, but I did it often
  5. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available? YES, to the point that I would sometimes avoid going
  6.  Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be? YES
  7. Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking? YES not sometimes , always, constantly
  8. Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking? YES
  9.  Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently? YES see 3
  10.  Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough? YES pretty much always
  11. Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily? NO, no excuse needed
  12. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking? YES when I can remember them
  13. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking? YES, I have tried to moderate so often and in so many different ways
  14. Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking? YES always
  15. Have you ever had a DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking? NO, luckily
  16. Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking? NO, except my mother
  17. Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking? DEBATABLE
  18. Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking? NO, but only because I never told the truth
  19. Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking? YES, alcohol or food? Alcohol wins every time
  20. Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a “little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?  YES , not alcohol but painkillers with codeine
  21. Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to? NO
  22. Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time? NO
  23.  After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there? YES, I THINK SO. I sometimes saw flashes of things out of the corners of my eye, like a mouse or something moving – I don’t any longer
  24. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking? NO
  25. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking? YES
  26. Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol? NO (that I know of)

That’s 16 yes, 2 maybes and only 8 no’s.. I believe even 2 yes answers indicate a problem with alcohol. So that’s pretty conclusive then… Having said that, you won’t find a bunch of two glasses of wine a month drinkers TAKING a quiz like this, so maybe just taking it means you have a problem …

Maybe, I should just get over myself? It doesn’t really matter does it, if I call myself an alcoholic or not …

Perhaps the best definition of a problem drinker, is someone for whom alcohol causes problems … Sigh – I quite like this little venn diagram below … Says it all really…


16 comments

  1. Wow. Except you should have answered yes to #24: you’ve come HERE for help, or hope at least! Being a highly functioning drinker is still an alcoholic. Took me a while to come to admit that for myself. And ya, makes sense, that if we think we have a problem and take quizzes like that is probably a good indicator as well. If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck…it’s a duck! Thank you for sharing. So good to know I’m not in this alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so so not alone Nelson, and my prediction for the future is that over the next 20 years more and more people will recognise they are alcohol dependent, and there will be a huge rise in the sober industry … You read it here first !! Lily 🌷x

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve honestly been waiting for an alcohol ban in public places. Like what happened to the smoking industry in the States. But I think that would cause too many businesses to lose money/go out of business completely…. one can dream.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You know these kind of quizzes used to scare the life out of me. I’d always answer yes to every question except maybe one or two. The issue of alcoholism and people ignoring their own alcoholism is serious. Sadly, It’s usually not until things have gotten really out of hand that we start to address it. Good read thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly is a big problem, but I don’t feel in any position to comment on anyone else’s drinking. In the end I do think it comes down to hats going on insider – only a person themselves really knows how much of a problem alcohol really is … 🌷

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliantly written Lily. Love the venn diagram.
    I’ve read that book too. Really sobering reading. You know she gave up the booze but got lung cancer from smoking. So sad.
    I’m (was) yes on practically everything!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I too don’t feel comfortable with the word “alcoholic”. I feel as if it was coined in tandem with AA- which I’m not knocking- but it somehow feels diminishing. But, the bottom line is- as you said- if you drink too much, you’ve got a problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to hate the world alcoholic. Like many of us here. It isn’t the picture of what the media tells us an alcoholic looks like. But now I’m starting to come to terms with it. High functioning alcoholic probably accounts for the majority of alcoholism in our society.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I never call myself an alcoholic, but I definitely have a much better life sober!
    Perhaps the reality is more alcoholics are successful, neat, educated women with good shoes and well kept homes.
    The stereotype of a homeless man on a bench is wrong.

    Regardless. Sober is so much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I thought about this a lot in the early days – and was very weird the first time I said it. Now, 100% hands down – an alcoholic before I even drank. There was never going to be a normal way for me to drink! Obsessive mental behaviours that were always going to make me and addict of some sort.
    A couple times when I told people I was an alcoholic and they questioned it (friends) I’d get really defensive, feel they were wanting me to prove it to them, etc.. And now, I just think, good. Because I am. But I’m not the version of an alcoholic you think I am. And that’s good, because It makes my recovery easier.
    Remember, you don’t have to tell anyone, whatever you think. ‘No thanks, I don’t want a drink.’ Is ALL you need to say. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Crazy as it seems many people don’t drink. Or do sometimes and don’t sometimes! You’ll get more comfortable with just saying ‘no thanks’ in time 🙂
    Someone told me early on, what does it matter what you label yourself – but it did to me.. So I totally relate to you researching more and wondering could you really be?
    This world is FULL of alcoholics. But there’s only a smaller lucky percentage who admit it and work towards a better, happier, life.
    Xx

    Like

  8. Love this post! You never know what someone is struggling with behind closed doors. as a recovering alcoholic, there is the percentage of us that find solace in sobriety. Whether that be AA, counseling, or other outside support… its possible. 🙂 I also like how you associated the statistics of health problems that are associated with excessive consumption of alcohol. One day at the time! 🙂 I enjoyed reading everyone else’s comments as well!

    Like


Comments are closed.