Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Am I an Alcoholic?

Hello everyone! Annette here guest posting for Em today as her Mom is in town visiting. At my beginner's meeting last nite, we had a newcomer who had recently gotten a DUI. He obviously was court ordered to attend several meetings, but came in with an incredibly open mind and heart. As we all shared our personal stories as to when we reached the point of declaring ourselves alcoholic, the newcomer decided to share a bit about himself. He, like many others, doubts that he is an alcoholic because he doesn't drink everyday....he also added that he drank a lot the nite of his DUI because he was very angry about something. His share made me think of a couple of things. It doesn't matter if you drink everyday, every other day or only on the weekends; it doesn't matter if you drink tequila, beer or "just wine".....the only person that can decide if they are an alcoholic is themselves. Early on, my big argument was that I drank at home when I felt like having a few drinks and winding down, I wasn't out at bars every nite, I wasn't driving anywhere and I wasn't hurting anyone, thus there was no reason for me to stop drinking. This did not go over well with my husband, but then again, neither did him labeling me an alcoholic....it only made me want to drink more out of defiance. Once he began to leave me alone and stop calling me an alcoholic, nagging me about my drinking and constantly trying to control me, I finally had time to really take a look at myself and my drinking. This is what I found: Normal drinkers don't "think" about the last time they drank or when the next time would be; normal drinkers don't hide bottles of alcohol throughout their house; normal drinkers don't discard their empties at a local drive-thru trashcan; normal drinkers don't lie about how much they've had to drink when asked; normal drinkers don't even think twice about leaving a 1/2 glass of wine or a cocktail at the end of a meal; normal drinkers don't google alcoholism and "are you an alcoholic tests" on the internet; normal drinkers don't take said test and constantly answer the questions dishonestly after justifying their answers in their own minds.....I did all of these things and therefore have declared myself an alcoholic. The newcomer acknowledged that although he doesn't "think" he is an alcoholic, he stated that there is definitely something wrong or he would not have gotten a DUI. I admired him for being open-minded and really listening to what we all had to share. He didn't come in with absolute defiance and contempt as many court ordered people do....he took a good, hard, honest look at himself, shared a lot and asked many really good questions. Maybe he is an alcoholic, maybe he is not.....that's for him to decide on his own. I'm grateful that he found our group, shared and asked lots of questions......because if he decides that he is an alcoholic, he knows where to go for non-judgmental support and fellowship....and a plan for sobriety. What kinds of things did you do that made you declare that you were an alcoholic? If you are in the process of "deciding" if you are an alcoholic, what kinds of things are you questioning? Just thought this would be a good topic for many to comment on as everyone is different in one way or another as to what makes them consider themselves alcoholic. Hope everyone is having a great start to the week and I hope to see everyone commenting, asking questions, etc......seems like we've all been goin thru a "dry spell" on here....let's speak up and do our best to support one another :)


  1. Hi Annette,
    I also had a DUI and was court ordered to go to AA meetings as well as an 8 week awarness program. It was at these awarness meetings that I was able to sumize the fact that my drinking was not normal behavior. The counseler would point out weekly how our behavior affected those around us. He let it be known that we are very selfish and self centered people with little or no disreguard to other peoples lives. At first I was offended and let it be known. He simply said"If you think your decisions have not hurt those around you,be strong enough to ask your family.If you think you have a drinking problem ask someone who REALLY loves you,then come back and give me your opinion."
    I did so.I was not happy with the response. I was a self absorbed shell of the giving,loving,caring and happy person that I used to be!For the first time in a long time I was forced to be honest with myself.
    At the next meeting I apolagized to the counseler,he smiled and said "Welcome aboard" Now that I had some tools and insight I became eager to learn more about people like me and how to dig myself out of this hole of deceipt,anger and frustration I had dug.Each week he would challange us to ask and expect more from ourselves.He showed us the diffrence between a social drinker and a problem drinker.
    The problem drinker opens the fridge and sees a beer and a jug of lemonaide,he grabs the beer. The social drinker opens the fridge sees the beer and the lemonaide,but he feels both of them to see which one is the coldest!He takes the lemonaide. At the last meeting he said to me "Be a better friend to yourself,it is the one friendship that will last forever!"
    I am by no means thankful that I had to get a DUI to come to the realization that I am an alcoholic,but I am thankful that I have been opened to a world of education that I now have a desire to learn about.
    I have a long road ahead of me,this I know but I look forward to walking it as opposed to stumbeling down it.
    It reminded me of a native american story where an old warrior told a young boy that he has two dogs that live inside of him. One dog is loving,kind and wants to play. The other is mean,untrustworthy and wants to fight with the happy dog all of the time. The young warrior asked "which dog wins the fight?" The old warrior replied "The one I feed the most."

  2. Anon - Great share! I too am NOW grateful that I'm aware that I'm an alcoholic. I believe there is a reason/purpose for everything and I think God chose alcoholism for me to get a grip on myself and to quit being so dang selfish and egotistical and help others who are struggling. And I absolutely LOVE the native american story....very thought-provoking!

  3. The fact that I would go weeks without drinking and concluding that I was, then, not a "problem drinker" kept me in the cyclic hell of my addiciton for years. I had to lose a lot until I finally "got it"

    You are certainly right, amounts, times, frequency, places, none of that matters in terms of "how bad off we are"
    IF our drinking causes us and those we love pain, if our drinking leads to negative consequences,
    we're a drunk.

    Some of us have thicker heads than others,
    I'm here to tell you that I get it now, and by the grace of God I haven't had an ounce of desire to pick up a drink in almost six months.

    Welcome to emilyism - nice of you to fill in!

  4. PLEASE share with me how you get rid of the desire, Dawn! Or Annette, or anyone...there are only 2 - 3 hours a day when I have the urge. It's at the end of my work day when I'm home before I eat dinner. If I can get past that time, I'm fine.

    Please share...

  5. Cali here. Thank you Annette and Dawn. Annette, EVERYTHING you said you did, hiding bottles, throwing them away in public trash receptacles, etc. is everything I have done and still do. So, I am not a "normal" drinker. I am an alcoholic, although I don't feel like one. Isn't that crazy? I know I have a drinking problem, but it is so hard to define myself as an alcoholic. But its true. I feel exactly like Anonymous, there are only 2 or so hours a day when I get the urge to have my wine - at the end of my day, before dinner. After dinner, I am fine. I too need to find a way to get past this time. It has been my struggle. I don't know why, but during the day, I am fine. But soon as it hits 4:30pm or so, my mind starts thinking about having wine and "relaxing", even when I am not stressed. At times I actually look forward to having that class and feeling that sense of calm with the first glass, but then I want more and end up finishing the whole bottle.

  6. Cali above describes me and Annette's list hits home.

    I agree with anonymous above: Please share how to get rid of the desire for when the urge hits.

  7. Dawn, your very simple comment that "IF our drinking causes us and those we love pain...we're a drunk. Period." hit home with me. That's what I needed, a very short simple explanation. I have cried by myself many times, believing I was falling into alcohol's grip. My family, believe it or not, did not know (I finally confessed to my husband and he was stunned). Guess I was good at hiding it. But it has caused me so much worry and pain.

    I hate the feeling of fighting the urge to drink when it comes on. It's not every day, but it is often and it's always at the end of the day, not early. How have you gone 6 months without an ounce of desire to pick up a drink? To me, that sounds heavenly. I need that peace.

  8. Hi, Annette --

    I appreciate your guest posting. Would you consider guest posting about:

    1. the above topics on how to defeat the urge/desire/craving?

    2. how to get your children (mine are teenagers) to forgive you for having alcoholism when you are now working on sobriety?


  9. Hello Anonymous at 4:02 yesterday --

    Can you let us know what are some of the tools you now have and what you've learned to get out of the hole you dug (your description of frustration and deceit is so true)?


  10. Ok, gonna address the urge/desire/craving to drink. 1st, I don't believe that I was "physically" addicted to alcohol because I didn't need it in order for my body to function (some people really do get to this point) and I didn't experience any "physical/bodily" withdrawal symptoms i.e., dt's, shakes, sweating, headaches, etc. When I 1st admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic, I was so incredibly lost, broken, sad, hopeless and scared.....if I took another drink, I just knew that my husband was going to kick me out of our house. In the beginning, I was so full of fear that I think that in combination with my complete surrender kept me sober in the beginning. It also helped that my 1st meeting was a speaker meeting. The speaker that night was telling his story and I felt like he was telling my story as well.....there were so many similarities and that really opened my eyes and my mind to the fact that I definitely was an alcoholic. I was going to meetings on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nites and attending a book study on Sunday nites....attending those meetings kept me sober for a long time...about 6 months. Going to those meetings and listening to others stories......some further into alcoholism than others, some that involved suicide attempts, some that were literally on deaths door with liver failure, some just like mine, some that didn't seem too bad to me - everyone had a different story to share....but all the different stories shared a common factor: none of them could stop drinking once they took that 1st drink....and I could definitely relate to that. So attending meetings helped me with the urge/desire/craving to drink. I didn't feel alone in my alcoholism anymore and I finally found people who didn't judge me, but listened to me and supported me.

    Sometime between 6 & 7 months sober, I started slacking off on my meetings, wasn't really working any of the steps, wasn't talking with my sponsor very often (except when I was giving her excuses why I couldn't go to this meeting or that meeting) and I suddenly had those urges/desires/cravings to drink again.....but not drink alcoholically, just socially - like normal drinkers. I whined about these "desires" to my husband, my friends outside of my group, my group and my sponsor.....they all told me that I really shouldn't try drinking again over and over again for 3 1/2 months. This made my "desires" worse in that "no one was gonna tell me what I can & cannot do - fuck them!" and that kind of "alcoholic thinking" is what brought on my 1st relapse in October 2010....I was going to prove them all wrong and show them that I could drink "normally", AND I was gonna prove it to myself as well. It didn't go well, I drank the entire bottle of vodka and wanted more, but thankfully, didn't go buy more - it was bad enough after one bottle. I shared my relapse with my sponsor the next day and was surprised at how incredibly loving and supportive she was with me instead of being pissed off at me and yelling at me.

  11. I also shared with my group and they too were loving and supportive and grateful that I had come back instead of staying out drinking. I continued going to meetings here & there and found myself drinking again in early Nov 2010 - that one I have no idea what was goin on - I just drank, and then did the same thing as before with my sponsor and my group and got the same reaction from them once again. They advised me to get myself to more meetings, actually "work" on my steps and actually "talk" with my sponsor as often as possible AND reach out to my Higher Power - as much as possible - on my knees humbly....well, I still didn't do any of these things - I kept doing things "my way".....and that led to my final relapse in Dec 2010....this one happened when I just flat out decided "I'm gonna drink today! I don't care if it's socially or alcoholically - I'm just gonna drink dammit!"....and I did just that and did the same things as before the next day with my sponsor and my group.....they said that I wasn't listening to their suggestions and that I would most likely continue to relapse if I didn't start taking their suggestions and putting them into action. They were still loving and supportive throughout all of this, and that stirred something in me - not sure what it was, but I began to do everything they had consistently suggested.....I began to get on my knees every morning and pray to my HP, I went to meetings Mon, Wed and Friday nites, I talked with my sponsor everyday, I started to read a little bit of my "Book" every day, I got on my knees every nite and prayed and thanked my HP. After about 3 weeks of doing everything they suggested I do, I began to feel more free, calm, at peace....but most of all, NORMAL. My mind wasn't constantly thinking about vodka, never drinking again, the recent relapses, the past....I was and still am now just "living in the moment"....I don't dwell on yesterday and I don't think about tomorrow....I live for "right now, this very moment"....and "right now, this very moment" I am not drinking and that feels good to me....I think some time in sobriety has made each coming day easier....I really don't even think about drinking anymore and if/when I do, it is very fleeting, not intense like it used to be. I've also found that being of service to others has helped with my sobriety. I take meetings into a local detox center and share what it was like, what happened and what it's like now for me with the patients who are obviously not in good shape and really hurting - physically, mentally and emotionally. And doing this also helps me to stay sober because I see what these people are going thru and it reminds me where I never want to be again.

    So....I attend meetings, talk with my sponsor daily, get on my knees and pray daily, read a page or two of my "book" daily, work my steps daily, say the serenity prayer if I need to, stop and think about the definition of insanity when I need to, stop and take a look at how much better my life has been the past year and 4 months minus 3 days of relapse, I take meetings into the detox center to let them know a bit about the program and to give them some hope.

  12. I know this was really long, but you all know how windy I can be. I hope you can take something from this - if not, just remember this.....think to yourself when you are having an urge/desire/craving to drink....I DON'T have to drink right now, or I DON'T have to drink today....and if you have to, do it by hours or minutes...you're keeping yourself in the moment....You don't know what tomorrow will bring but you DO KNOW that you DON'T have to drink TODAY or THIS MINUTE or THIS HOUR. I hope this helps.

    I'll comment sometime tomorrow on how to deal with kiddos, alcoholism & sobriety - as I've experienced it of course - I am definitely not an expert on the subject so I can only share what I've been thru with my boys. Hugs to All!!!

  13. Hi Annette -

    Could you comment sometime on the distinction between alcoholism vs. alcohol abuse? If you even make a distinction, that is.

    Thanks for all your helpful posts and insights.

  14. Thank you Annette! I really do appreciate your posts -- I get a lot out of your experience, your honesty. I agree with Anonymous above: can you talk about alcoholism vs. alcohol abuse sometime, too?

    I am so looking forward to the day when I stop thinking about alcohol so much and have the peace you described.

  15. I got the following from About.com "Alcohol" and I'll give my opinions a bit later today as I have a few appointments this a.m. and early afternoon.

    Alcohol abuse is described as any "harmful use" of alcohol.
    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV describes alcohol abusers as those who drink despite recurrent social, interpersonal, and legal problems as a result of alcohol use. Harmful use implies alcohol use that causes either physical or mental damage.

    Those who are alcohol dependent meet all of the criteria of alcohol abuse, but they will also exhibit some or all of the following:

    •Narrowing of the drinking repertoire (drinking only one brand or type of alcoholic beverage).

    •Drink-seeking behavior (only going to social events that will include drinking, or only hanging out with others who drink).

    •Alcohol tolerance (having to drink increasing amounts to achieve previous effects).

    •Withdrawal symptoms (getting physical symptoms after going a short period without drinking).

    •Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms (such as drinking to stop the shakes or to "cure" a hangover).

    •Subjective awareness of the compulsion to drink or craving for alcohol (whether they admit it to others or not).

    •A return to drinking after a period of abstinence (deciding to quit drinking and not being able to follow through).
    Typically, those drinkers who are diagnosed as only alcohol abusers can be helped with a brief intervention, including education concerning the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.
    Those who have become alcohol dependent generally require outside help to stop drinking, which could include detoxification, medical treatment, professional rehab or counseling and/or self-help group support.

    In addition, here is a quick test that you can take....answer with 100% honesty or it won't do you any good. It will give you a better idea if your drinking may fall into harmful patterns and indicate whether or not you have a drinking problem. When answering the questions, use the past 12 months of your life as a time frame.

    Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
    Is drinking making your homelife unhappy?
    Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
    Is drinking affecting your reputation?
    Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
    Have you had financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
    Do you turn to inferior companions and environments when drinking?
    Does your drinking make you careless of your family's welfare?
    Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
    Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
    Do you want a drink the next morning?
    Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
    Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
    Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
    Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
    Do you drink alone?
    Have you ever had a loss of memory as a result of drinking?
    Has you physician ever treated you for drinking?
    Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
    Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

    if you answered as few as 3 of these questions with a Yes it is a definite sign that your drinking patterns are harmful and considered alcohol dependent or alcoholic.

    But remember....only YOU can decide if YOU are an alcoholic or abusing alcohol. Also remember that alcoholism is a very progressive disease, and for me, it progressed rather quickly, so always keep that in mind.

    I'll give more of my experiences/personal opinion a bit later today, as well as respond to the other questions posed to me above.

    Hope everyone is having a wonderful day!

  16. Hi Everyone, been a bit crazy for me lately, but I'm always thinking of you all!!

    I am an alcoholic because I could never stop at 1 drink, I could not stop thinking about how, when and where I was going to drink. I put alcohol before myself and anyone else that I loved.

    I will be sober a year on the 26th!!!!! YEAH!!!!

    The way I have stayed sober, through many horrible things, is because I stayed with my program. I know everyone has their way of staying sober, but I am an AA girl. I attend meetings, got a sponsor, I work the program with her doing big book work, try to help other alcoholics, I call people when I need help, I call upon my HP when I am weak and I need strength.

    I know you can do it, it is hard to have a certain time of day that is a trigger. Try to change your routine, call a sober friend, get a sponsor. Reach out, believe in yourself.

    Life is so much better sober. I didn't win the lottery, I don't have better things, I just have a richer more fulfilling life. I listen more and that helps me to learn more.

    I wish that for all of you!!

    This blog helped me to get and stay sober, I am so thankful for everyone here.

  17. Ok...my personal thoughts on alcoholism vs. alcohol abuse. When my drinking became and issue about 5-6 yrs ago, my defense was that "yes, I may have gone a little overboard last nite, but who doesn't every know and then - it's not like I'm an alcoholicc!" That was when I'd have a wild nite here and there.

    Later, when my drinking was more often and sometimes during the week, my husband would say that he thought I was abusing alcohol and drinking too much, too often - "why don't you slow down?" he said. My response then was that "I'm a grown woman and I feel that I can have a drink or two whenever I feel like it" - and in my mind, my definition of alcohol abuse was when someone spilled a drink or left 1/2 a drink on the table after dinner. At this time, I still didn't think that I had a problem.

    At the end of my drinking career, when my husband started saying that he thought I was an alcoholic, I would argue that "yes, I may have a "drinking problem", but I'm definitely not an alcoholic, and don't ever call me that again!" I pictured an alcoholic as someone who was drunk 24/7, dirty, smelly, carrying around a bottle in a brown paper bag and living under a bridge or in a cardboard box somewhere.

    I knew that my paternal grandmother was an alcoholic and knew that alcoholism can be hereditary, but I always pushed that knowledge to the very back of my brain and basically ignored that fact.

    So those are "MY" personal thoughts on alcoholism vs. alcohol abuse. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have further questions and hope everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend. Let's not forget that Jesus died a horrible death for our sins......and for that we should be eternally grateful :)

    The last months of my drinking career involved blackouts and injuries here and there.....that's when I truly started to believe that I was in fact, an alcoholic. I began to google alcoholism and related topics, took "are you alcoholic" tests on the internet, read books about other people's stories in regard to alcoholism - but still never did anything about it - I just kept on drinking.

    Now I know what alcoholism is....because I am one. My definition of alcohol abuse now is when someone has several "overboard nights" where he/she does/says things that they normally wouldn't do sober and/or has blackouts or injures themselves during these drunken episodes. My definition of alcoholism now is someone who can't stop after the 1st drink - they always need more and don't/can't stop when they try.

    Hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions. I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend....and let's remember that Jesus died an excruciating death for our sins....and for that we should be eternally grateful :)

  18. Thanks Annette ... appreciate both posts on the topic, most especially your personal opinions. They were very helpful and gave me alot to think about.

    Thanks again.