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…

Struggling

This is weird. Today is my 125th consecutive sober day. That’s more than I have had (consecutively) since I was 18 years old. I feel better. I look better. My drinking app tells me I have saved approx £1,250 and 140,000 kcals. I am (fractionally) slimmer. I am definitely healthier. I sleep better and I’m no longer anxious about what I might have said/done when drunk. I’m not ashamed of myself any longer.

SO WHY AM I STRUGGLING TO CONVINCE MYSELF THAT I DON’T WANT TO DRINK ?

I do want to drink. I really do. I want to sit outside and open a bottle of wine and RELAX. I want to get tipsy and escape from the relentless activity of my brain. I want cocktails; I want vodka and gin and big bright mixed drinks with cherries. I want Limoncello and cider and cold Cava. I want to feel drunk. and released from tension, frustration and disappointment in myself.

I bored. I’m frustrated. I’m scared of never reaching that contented sober place that I see other posters have got to. I’m angry , I’ve done everything RIGHT. I’ve reflected and prioritised my sobriety. I haven’t pushed myself, I haven’t cheated, I haven’t taken on too much and exhausted myself (or maybe I have).

I don’t know what to DO.. I can not drink today, I can deny myself for a while, but if this persists this tactic will not be successful long term. I don’t WANT to go back to that place where I was guilty and ashamed, where I was slowing pickling my liver and stultifying my brain with poison. Where I was stressed and anxious, preoccupied with alcohol and how to get enough .. 

But I don’t want THIS reality either. This, where I can’t concentrate at work, and feel like I’m wading through treacle trying to organise myself; where I’m constantly pushing a  boulder uphill to get anything done at home. Where the landscape is grey and relentlessly dull with sentient consciousness. Where the futility of my attempted interventions with son#1 are brutally highlighted every single day and I can’t escape from it. Where I’m stuffing a packet of chocolate biscuits down to satisfy sugar cravings or a ‘need to eat’ and then hating myself. Where I can’t be bothered to exercise and instead spend money I don’t have (how much I don’t know because I can’t be bothered to check my credit card statement, but its in the £thousands rather than the £hundreds) on stuff I don’t need even if I want it. This where I am SMOKING again because I ‘need’ something to manage by stress level… FFS I stopped smoking YEARS ago. I feel bloody rubbish about this – full throttle cognitive dissonance

This is pretty shit too. 

I want to STOP. concentrate on myself for a decent amount of time. Stop working. Stop having to endlessly meet the needs of the hundreds of patients who come though the door every week. Stop having to manage staff disputes, problems, and domestic upsets. Stop listening to my partners with their agenda’s. Stop fretting over tasks done/ not done / the direction of the business. Stop trying to predict the next twist in the story of the NHS, with the implications for funding. Stop listening to the petty whining of the salaried doctors. Stop juggling all the things different people want / need from me. Stop having to shop, cook, tidy, organise, wash clothes, stop juggling finances, stop pacifying my mother, stop organising dog walks, school stuff, …..stop stop STOP.

Maybe the truth is that I drank because I couldn’t cope without drinking. That actually , just maybe, nobody could cope with what I expect of myself, maybe the life I have fashioned for myself is actually unmanageable, especially now I am 51 not 31.  Not one of my female doctor friends with kids works full time. Add to that that I am a single mother – (ok, I live with my partner and he does help, but not with the THINKING, and only with the practical stuff that suits him) and maybe its not surprising I feel I’m am going nuts. 

Maybe the purpose of all this is to MAKE me take a long hard look at my life and work out what is sustainable. But that might mean some VERY big decisions and I’m SCARED of them too … no  wonder I want to hide at the bottom of a bottle.

FFS this is NOT what I expected to be thinking / feeling at more than FOUR MONTHS SOBER. Where is my serenity? my calm conviction that I have made a good decision. ? Where is optimism, peace? where is a better life ??? Maybe its NOT going to happen for me and I’m doomed to either life as a drunken sot or a demented harpy with a fat bottom and rotten teeth and stinking breath…. Maybe the end is cirrhosis from drink or lung cancer from fags ….

FUCK BUGGER BOLLOCKS. That’s all folks 😦