Even though alcoholism is considered a disease, it can be difficult
for anyone to diagnose someone else as alcoholic. Sure some people may
be quick to judge, or think they know some that's an alcoholic. But the
only real person who knows and can do anything about it is the person
who is suffering from the disease. It's not like you can have your blood
taken and discover something (besides alcohol) that will determine
whether or not you have the disease. So how do you know when you have
the disease of alcoholism?
This can and is a real dilemma, especially since alcoholism is a disease that constantly tries to convince the sufferer that they don't have it. It's called denial and can often be so strong that it causes death and years of misery to someone who has alcoholism but simply can't accept or admit it. I used to be one of those people who wasn't ready to accept their alcoholism.
I knew that alcohol was causing problems in my life, but the idea that I
must give up alcohol was difficult to wrap my mind around. After all,
it had been such an important part of my life for so long. In my earlier
years of drinking it was fun. I enjoyed partying and having fun like
everyone else who seemingly enjoys alcohol without serious consequences.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous says "If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic." Yet this is still somewhat of a vague and ambiguous definitionâ€¦ I know for years and years I was able to convince myself I wasn't alcoholic by either saying I didn't "honestly" want to or could control the amount I took. That's the whole denial part of the disease. For it wasn't so much how I was drinking but that I could not really see a future without alcohol in it. Although there was even a period where I did not drink for over 6 years because I realized how much alcohol was taking over my life. I knew it was slowly killing me so I vowed to never drink again, something any real alcoholic cannot truly promise.
There are so many baffling and confusing aspects to the disease of alcoholism. For example if you are wondering if you're an alcoholic, there are some questions you can ask yourself. I wouldn't say they're qualifiers so much but just some things to think about. With that said, it's also extremely hard to answer the questions honestly if we're still hoping we're not alcoholic. The disease is powerful and will do everything it can to keep itself alive.
Is your life unmanageable? This is funny because I was (at lease for most of my drinking career) what people refer to as a "functioning alcoholic." I managed to keep a job and only drank on weekends and maybe some week nights. Eventually that progressed to nightly drinking but it wasn't always that way. The term "manageable" is subjective. Back then I would have said "sure my life was manageable," but today I can see that it clearly wasn't really. Everything I did revolved around either drinking or thinking about drinking. I was really a slave to alcohol.
Eventually my drinking starting causing alcohol depression. I knew that the alcohol was consuming my life and it cause me to become depressed after numerous attempts to stop. It becomes a never ending cycle; I'll stop tomorrow, yet tomorrow never comes. After years of living this way, the negative effects it has on ones psyche is enormous.
recovery, I can realize now in perspective, how unmanageable my life
really was while drinking.
When drinking, do you loose control on how much you drink? As an alcoholic, I can either control my drinking or enjoy it; not both. Sure there were times when I controlled my drinking, but if I was honest with myself I didn't want to. I was only controlling it to prove to myself or someone else I wasn't really an alcoholic. Add to the fact that once I started drinking I just wanted to keep drinking and when most people felt a buzz coming on and wanted to stop, that's what I was shooting for! It's really simply, I like the way alcohol makes me feel.
Maybe that's what makes me an alcoholic; simply that I like the way being drunk feels. Is it because I'm trying to numb my feelings or suppress some horrible childhood memory? I'm pretty sure that's not the case because I've had extension counseling that says there's nothings wrong in that area (which I could have told them anyway). I just want what everyone else wants, to be loved and respected, find happiness, be successful etc. I remember in the movie Days of Wine and Roses the one character is talking about alcoholism and says it's like developing an allergy to strawberries; you never know which strawberry is going to give you the allergy and once you have it it's too late.
According to Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism is a two fold disease; an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession of the mind. That definition makes total sense to me. I know once I put alcohol in my body, I have no idea what will happen and more importantly, the obsession of my mind starts thinking about when and how I'll get that next drink. You may not think that sounds like a big deal, but I can remember thinking about drinking all the back to high school. I remember how much we always looked forward to the weekend because that is when we would drink. Of course a lot of people look forward to the weekend who like to party, does that mean they're alcoholic? Probably not. But for me, the obsession really becomes quite overwhelming.
The truth is, only you know if you're an
alcoholic. I meet people all the time new to recovery, whether in
support group meetings or treatment centers I visit, that aren't quite
sure if they're alcoholic. I can understand, it can be hard to accept.
But the truth is, you usually don't end up on AA or rehab if your life
is going great. Addiction is a deadly disease and it kills a lot of
people; a lot of them I've known personally. It's sad and I feel for
them and their families. The more I understood that it was a disease,
and not a question of moral weakness or will power, the easier it was to
accept help. Just like any chronic and terminal disease, if left
untreated, we will die from it.
The good news is, if you think you may be an alcoholic, it doesn't mean you have to stop having fun. My life in recovery and free from drugs and alcohol has been more amazing than anything I could have ever imagined. It truly is the life I was always looking for. Finding self-love and acceptance of myself totally has been a direct response of treating my alcoholism with a strong holistic recovery program.
So if you think
you may be alcoholic, you probably are. But I can tell you from
experience, it can be the start of something amazing as opposed to the
end. The best thing you can do is ask for help. Find a substance abuse
counselor or check out AA.org for meetings in your area.