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…