A happy and stable alcoholic?
August 9, 2010 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm an alcoholic. Help me feel comfortable with my alcohol intake.

I know that I'm an alcoholic by all standard American metrics. I drink basically every day. I always want a drink. I wake up in the morning and I want whiskey instead of coffee.

But I have coffee. I feel like I am good at drinking the amount that I want to drink. I don't lose control and go on binges. My consumption doesn't interfere with my life in any way. All the same, I periodically get this feeling that I should be feeling guiltier than I do. Like that, having admitted that I always want a drink, the reasonable thing to do is not to control my drinking, but rather to join a twelve step program. I tell myself that that's just programming from American prohibitionist culture, but sometimes I wonder.

During the week, I go to work every morning. I always take my lunches at the same restaurant and I always have a bottle of beer with lunch. I never have two. In the evenings, I have another beer with dinner, and sometimes another afterwards.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, I'll have whiskey after dinner. Depending on the night, I'll put back between three and six ounces before I go to bed.

On average, I figure I consume about 25 units of alcohol per week. I can remember the last day I didn't have a drink. It was six months ago and I was on antibiotics. Like I said, I know that this makes me an alcoholic by most measures but what I can't figure out is why I should care that I'm an alcoholic by most measures.

Is it reasonable to keep drinking like this given that I'm productive and it makes me happy.

Incidentally, I'm married with two young children. My wife drinks most days as well, but less than I do. I am one hundred percent certain that we are providing a safe home for our children, but perhaps fear of passing on this same behavior to them is part of what makes me ask this question.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How old are you? This sort of behavior gets harder and harder on your body as you age. If you suddenly need to stop when you're 40, will you be able to?
posted by grumblebee at 9:11 AM on August 9, 2010

The thing with alcoholism is that it's a progressive disease. You may be fine with your intake right now, but it's almost certainly going to get heavier and heavier. If you're priding yourself on being able to only have a beer with lunch - well, that intake by itself may not be a concern, but the fact that you're spending so much time thinking about it and being proud of yourself for only having the one drink - that sounds like trouble. Maybe you're all right now. Maybe you can still manage your life with the amount that you're drinking right now. But what about five years down the line, or ten? Late stage alcoholism is not a pretty picture, coming from someone whose father would have died from it had he not come down with terminal cancer instead.

My advice to you is this: If you believe yourself to be an alcoholic but can still control your drinking, STOP NOW. It is not going to get better. It is going to get worse, and harder. Do you want your children to know you as a drunk?
posted by something something at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

The only way you're going to feel comfortable is to know you can control it. And they only way you're going to know you can control it is to be able to go without it.

By itself, your alcohol consumption may not be an issue, although in my experience it's unlikely that you're counting your intake accurately across a longer period: few people do.

It's what you put your finger on: that you don't have days off. That you can't have days off.

I'm not an alcoholic, although I'm sure some weeks I drink more than 25 units. Some days, just as I get home when I might feel like a drink I just slug down a pint of water and then have something like a ginger and lemongrass cordial with fizzy water.

I'm not anti-alcohol and not actively sparing myself from the dreaded booze. I just don't particularly want to get into the habit of drinking midweek too often.

You know what the issue is: it's not strictly quantity. You've got to get yourself where you're comfortable not having booze every day. Break your habits - if it's come home, dump your coat, open the fridge, then find something else to break that pattern.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2010

Alcoholism is inherited. While you may be able to keep it in control, which is fine, your children may not, no matter how good or bad an influence you are.
posted by Melismata at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2010

Given that your drinking doesn't seem to be causing you undue distress or impairments in daily living, the main things I would be concerned about are all the liquid calories that you are consuming, and the extra work that you are making your liver do. I would argue for cutting back more for your physical health (just like I would advocate cutting back on junk/fast food to a person eating it every day), than because of "alcoholism" in your case. But, I am certainly not an expert in this area.
posted by purlgurly at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is it reasonable to keep drinking like this given that I'm productive and it makes me happy.

I'll ignore the psychological aspects and just ask you: is it worth the health risk? That's a lot of strain on your system. You're not doing your liver or your brain any long-term favors.
posted by desjardins at 9:18 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi, I have an alcoholic father. I don't know if I'd consider you an alcoholic by my standards, but it's your term not mine. Often alcohol use in chronic drinkers ramps up as they age. Let me talk about some of the reasons you might be concerned about your drinking. My father is over 70 and begins drinking every night at 5 pm until he goes to bed drunk. It's no way to live. That said, I like to think I have some perspective on alcohol and certainly have had my own battles with it.

- As your kids get older, they will need more in terms of parenting in the evenings including having friends over, getting rides places, having discussions with you. If you are too impaired to drive them, if you embarass them in front of their friends being drunk or can't have honest conversations with them because of your drinking, that is not good. All of these have happened with my father.
- As your kids get even older, they will experiment with their own drug and alcohol use. You are setting up a baseline normal for them that is pretty off the regular spectrum. You are not modelling responsible drinking. You should not be surprised if you wind up with problem drinkers for kids.
- As you get older, if you are using alcohol for avoidance of issues or topics, you will become less and less able to deal with those issues or topics because you are not developing coping strategies for those things that aren't "drink more." If you do not learn to deal with or manage stressors or issues without alcohol [many people use it to self-medicate their anxiety, as one example] you are not learning to deal with life and you are, yes, apssing these traits on to your children. My father, as an example, has entire rooms in his house that stress him out so much he just doesn't go into them. Embarassing.
- Often alcohol dependency has its own share of physiological effects on the body. My father wound up with neuropathy and a hand tremor so much that at age 70 he can barely write. He has diabetes that he thinks he is managing but he's really only aware of how he's managing it when he's sober. Which is never after 6 pm in the evening.
- My father's denial about his alcohol dependency and the fact that it negatively affects everyone around him means that I do not trust or respect him, even on other matters where he might otherwise deserve my respect and/or trust. I have a decent relationship with him because I decided to, but it's not reciprocal. In fact he's basically an adult that I take care of when I visit him. This is sort of what I expected when my parents aged, but I did not expect this to be the way I interacted with my otherwise-capable-of-taking-care-of-themsevels parents
- My father's enabling wife left him. His coping skills which may have been okay when he was in a relationship with a more sober person are really really not okay when he's living alone. He emails or calls to say that he has fallen in the night or cut himself and bled all over everything but he can't remember what he did. I live four hours away pretty much so I do not need to deal with this sort of thing in crisis mode.
- My father would choose alcohol over me. He has chosen alcohol over me [for some definitions of "choose" I am aware that he has an addiction, I am aware that this is not something he chooses to do on a day to day basis the way many of us understand choices].

I do not have a parent in any real sense of the word, who put my needs first when I was a child, or who was dependable in any real sense. He has said horrible things to me when he has been drinking and claims to not remember them when he is sober. I have always felt safe from violence but basically neglected and abandoned. I say this not to create some "woe is me" narrative, my life is okay, I have friends and other family and a good life, but to let you know how alcoholism often makes you a non-person in the eyes of people who wanted a real relationship with you, including [possibly] spouses and definitely children. Your children do not have other parents. If you are all they have, you have a responsibility to them first, and your alcohol dependency second. But it rarely works out this way. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 9:21 AM on August 9, 2010 [107 favorites]

Alcoholism is inherited.

This is a gross oversimplification, and whatever you decide to do you certainly shouldn't use this notion as a reason not to bother addressing the issue.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

A problem with the concept of a "functional alcoholic" (e.g. someone who drinks above the "normal" range but does not let it impact their social/work/family life) is that there is physical damage being done that adds up and, at a certain point when your body has started seriously aging, can really hit your hard. This, of course, depends on how much you drink.

There was a fantastic article about the social construction of the concept of alcoholism in the New Yorker a few months back, but I'm having trouble locating it. Maybe someone else has a better recollection of it and can track it down. You may finding it interesting, although you shouldn't use it to excuse anything.
posted by griphus at 9:25 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

There was a fantastic article about the social construction of the concept of alcoholism in the New Yorker a few months back

Oddly it's behind the New Yorker paywall but for free on Malcolm Gladwell's own site.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:27 AM on August 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Worry about it if it begins to fuck up your life. Until then, carry on. It's your life and your body, and what anyone else thinks of your drinking isn't something you should worry about. If it's bugging you, fix it. If not, look forward.

You may wish to have a plan, in case something goes sideways on you though.

Getting a D&D or DUI can mess things up, because you'd probably have to go to some kind of treatment and you'd definitely pay a wad of fines. So make sure your health insurance and bank account will cover that. Also, make sure you have some kind of safety net in case your drinking hurts someone else. I don't think I'm being overly dramatic, because it happened to me and I wasn't ready for the repercussions.

I think you should prepare yourself in case things change or if something goes wrong, and you'll need to be able to take responsibility for it if that happens.
posted by disclaimer at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2010

Is the amount of alcohol you drink per week increasing or decreasing?
Are you drinking before driving?
Do you want to be smarter? (ie avoid brain atrophy due to alcohol)

seconding "if it's bugging you, fix it."
posted by sninctown at 9:45 AM on August 9, 2010

25 units is not shocking stuff. There was an interesting page linked to a little while ago that I can't find about the different drinking guidelines in different countries. Googling around will get you some idea, though, and it makes for interesting reading...

But, really not clear how the children are quite so fine, particularly with both of you drinking? A Dad who is never fit to drive in the evenings is at best smelly and embarrassing. Six drinks in a sitting, on a regular basis? That's different from an occasional planned night on the piss with pals; that's "My father couldn't read me bedtime stories because he was usually drunk." You are not functioning as a father.

"It's your life and your body, and what anyone else thinks of your drinking isn't something you should worry about" is great advice for people without dependents, not so appropriate for people with small kids at home. At that level of drinking I am quite sure you are missing out on parts of your children's childhood.
posted by kmennie at 9:48 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

The pattern of drinking you are describing is much like my now ex-husband's. It works (by works, I mean your spouse can work around you) as a parent when children are in bed by 7:30 or 8:00, but as the kids age and have activities that require driving, sometimes with little or no warning, your level of alcohol intake is going to cause problems. Picture your child bailing on a sleepover at 11:00PM on a Saturday night and your wife can't go.

My kids are teenagers now and I am saddened by the lack of respect they have for their father. He was rarely noticeably drunk to outsiders, but THEY noticed. And learned not to rely on him.

One child had an emergency situation and the first thing he said after contacting me was NOT to call his father until the next morning. That hit hard. I feel as though I should have done more to protect them from this and the guilt will always be with me. And we are talking about someone that day to day did not appear 'drunk' to anyone that did not know him well. And yes, the alcohol was a factor in our divorce.
posted by readery at 9:49 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Worry about it if it begins to fuck up your life. Until then, carry on. It's your life and your body, and what anyone else thinks of your drinking isn't something you should worry about. If it's bugging you, fix it. If not, look forward.

The problem with this approach is that it fucks up other people's lives - your partner, your kids - first. And you don't acknowledge that, and you don't want to, and you don't acknowledge that the DUI was your fault - it was the cop who pulled you over, or the driver you hit, who "caused" it. Being an alcoholic means not taking responsibility for your own actions.
posted by Sukey Says at 9:49 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I define alcoholism as not having control over alcohol. I would recommend you see a doctor, and have your liver function tested. Alcohol is toxic, and over time, your liver will be less able to properly metabolize it. I think it would be good for your body to take alcohol vacations at least quarterly, where you go for a week with out alcohol. And I'd take vitamins. You may find that that week of no drinking makes you feel a lot better.
posted by theora55 at 9:49 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

"...given that I'm productive and it makes me happy."

I felt very much this way about smoking.

I don't know much about alcohol addiction, but I did quit a 14 year smoking habit a few months ago. It's only from a post smoking perspective that I have come to understand just how ridiculous it was, and how much of a negative influence it had on my life.
posted by 517 at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it reasonable to keep drinking like this given that I'm productive and it makes me happy.

I'm guessing you've never seen someone with cirrhosis or interacted with people who suffer from alcohol-induced brain damage. Your functionality today is great but it certainly does nothing to guarantee continued functionality in the future. And it certainly isn't protecting you from the damage you are already actively doing to multiple vital organs. So in my personal estimation, no; it isn't reasonable to keep up your drinking this way.

As someone who has taken care of many, many people with alcoholic cirrhosis, I can tell you two facts that I've learned: 1) liver disease is a horrible, messy, ugly way to die; 2) people can do surprisingly well with significant liver injury until one day they cross a line beyond which there just isn't enough functioning liver to support the body. For a chronic process, crossing that threshold occurs sometimes alarmingly quickly and unpredictably. Perhaps though you didn't mention it in your post, you're aware of the health risks you're currently taking. But are you prepared for how your kids will manage if and when you cross that threshold (even if you stay psychosocially functional until then)?
posted by drpynchon at 9:57 AM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Folks here have said plenty about the health aspect, but think of the financial. What are some long-term things you want to do before you die? How is your short-term focus on drinking preventing you from doing them? What else could you do with the money you'd save by not buying so much alcohol? How could you improve your quality of life by cutting back on what amounts to a great deal of expense?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:00 AM on August 9, 2010

For me, the crux of this is your experience of not drinking. How was the week spent on antibiotics? The fact that you can prioritise other things over your desire for alcohol is, to me, a positive sign that you are in control of the drinking and not the other way around. But I would closely examine your wider life against that metric. For example, if a cousin was getting married but having a dry wedding, would you go? Would you do a booze-free outdoor adventure weekend with friends that otherwise sounded like fun?

In other words, if you're not open to doing things you would otherwise enjoy because you'd prefer access to alcohol to those activities, that's a bad sign.

In general, I would also agree broadly with two points made above. One, I do not think that daily drinking is modelling good behaviour for your kids. "This is what grownups do after work and on weekends" is a lesson you're teaching them potentially every single day for years and years. Many children of alcoholics (oh hai) do not need that kind of assistance developing their relationship with booze.

Second of all, you're saying that there's no real impact to your drinking. That may well be, but based on my own experiences it's possible that's not the case. My father is a hard core alcoholic; my partner is a responsible social drinker. I can tell both of them have been drinking after exactly one drink. Increase the number of drinks, and the behaviour changes also escalate. I vastly prefer both stone cold sober. You really don't want your kids growing up with "sober dad" and "not sober dad" as the flag they use for deciding how and when to deal with you; that will significantly colour their relationship with you. Believe me, when you're a kid and you live with drinkers, you develop a phenomenally attuned radar for this and it really takes its toll, both on their childhoods and their adult relationships.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:04 AM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

You sound like an alcoholic to me and in the case of alcoholics, they just can't drink. Period. Social drinkers can have a glass of wine with dinner or party on the weekend but that's it, they don't crave alcohol and become all consumed with finding and having alcohol. You don't sound like you could be a social drinker because, like you said, you drink daily and crave it when you aren't drinking. I would get to AA or a similar program and stop drinking before it ruins your life.
posted by MsKim at 10:06 AM on August 9, 2010

Forget 12 steps if 12 steps does not make sense to you. The absolute best thing you could do would be to choose abstinence. However, it takes a while to get your head around why. I recommend this book. Unfortunately, the author (Trippey) seems to have gotten just a little nutty since his authored this groundbreaking book. His website is off-putting to me---but that early book of his is pure genius.

If you have doubts about AA (I certainly did) just read Trippey's book. Another author who proffers the idea that addicition is a choice (not a disease) is Jeffrey Schaler. You are in a good position to simply consider the benefits of drinking versus not drinking. It is obviously bothering you that it has become very important to you. You are wise to consider what role alcohol does and will take in your life. When you realize that drinking is paramount to your happiness it is time to address how long you'll allow that to go on. You can't star in your own life if alcohol is continually taking center stage and you are clearly aware of the dangers of letting alcohol run your show.

Don't hesitate to memail me if have questions about how and why I stopped drinking completely with only Trippey's book. Best decision I ever made ever. No question.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know why it is assumed that the OP will progessively get worse in his drinking habits. It seems to me that he enjoys his beer/whiskey the same way someone else might enjoy their glass of wine, or their chocolate, or whatever. I don't see where he indicates that he's on a path to drinking a 6-pack a day.

Also, there is increasing evidence that moderate drinking is not so harmful physically, and in fact may be good for you.

It is quite possible that the OP can continue this drinking pattern for the rest of his life and be both happy and healthy. Speculating on what-ifs are not helpful.

I say it's your life, and if you are happy with it and so is your family, then what's the big deal?
posted by eas98 at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cut your intake back to 2 bottles of beer a day. If you can't manage that, you need to seek help.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:26 AM on August 9, 2010

Also, there is increasing evidence that moderate drinking is not so harmful physically, and in fact may be good for you.

The OP is not a moderate drinker.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Frankly, you sound like my dad. He can absolutely moderate his alcohol intake when he has to; his work hours are erratic, and when he has to get up at 4 AM, he doesn't drink the night before. He never has his second beer unless there's someone around to drive, and he rarely has more than two drinks when he's out. He definitely drinks to excess, but it definitely doesn't fuck up his life.

I mean, except for his type II diabetes and enlarged heart, both of which are significantly exacerbated by his drinking. But apart from those two chronic conditions with significant morbidity complications? Nada.

In case my trenchant wit is failing to come across: Being able to moderate your alcohol intake to avoid acute consequences is good, really good. It puts you way, way ahead of the game when it comes to struggling with the consequences of excess drinking. But the chronic conditions can sneak up on you, badly.

I don't think you need to quit drinking entirely, to be frank. You don't sound like a compulsive alcoholic to me. (Granted I have no ability to diagnose in person, and certainly not on the internet.) But I think that the next twenty years of your life will be better if you can cut your alcohol intake from 25 units a week to 15 or even 10.
posted by KathrynT at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would guess that you did not start out drinking 25 units a week. Maybe it started with an occasional beer, then a beer every night. Then whisky on weekends. Then beer at lunch.

You may never lose control or binge -- but it sounds like your regular drinking is nevertheless increasing with time.

Ignore whether alcoholism is a disease, or whether a different culture would label you alcoholic. Try to ask yourself, honestly, which way your drinking is trending. Ask yourself if your morning craving for whisky is going to somehow lessen in the future.

If you ask this in five years, is it going to be two beers at lunch and two at dinner and 6-9 -- but you never have another after those?
posted by bitterpants at 10:42 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you're an alcoholic too, mostly because you constantly think about it even though at the present time you can choose to not drink at certain times. (I sometimes drink when I'm stressed or when I'm out, but I'm not constantly thinking about drinking when I'm not.)

A lot of people up-thread make great arguments for why maybe you should stop drinking (relationships, family, health etc.) I'd like to add that maybe you should think about how much time and energy you are devoting to controlling your alcohol consumption. You have thought about it very carefully, you exert willpower to drink coffee instead of whiskey, you are very conscious about maintaining. If you stopped drinking entirely, at some point you would be able to use that time and energy for other, more important things. If the only thought about alcohol you had was, "No, I don't drink anymore." you could focus on that and then move on with your life rather than doing the math about what is ok and what is not at any given moment.

The more you drink and the longer you drink, the easier it will be to let that math slide away from the control side of the equation. It will be much easier to stay in control if you decide you are a non-drinker and commit to that than if you keep drinking and finding new ways to rationalize why you can do it.
posted by Kimberly at 10:51 AM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I always want a drink. I wake up in the morning and I want whiskey instead of coffee.

I have long struggled with alcohol. I'm 34, and it didn't really start interfering with my life (as I saw it at that point anyway) until about 30-31, I had been drinking alcoholically for well over 15 years without real repercussion.

For me, the thing that brought me to my knees was the later stages of drinker's guilt. I was a 6 pack a night drinker for a decade or so, rarely missed work, maintained significant relationships, though I did have my hiccups with irrational anger and such after binges which I would go on from time to time (rare weekends, holidays, the like.) People did start noticing my intake and would make comments. I chose to go underground. Start hiding it more as the guilt/shame grew. Switched from beer to vodka as I was under the misconception that it smelled less, and did appreciate the real advantage of less liquid ounces being easier to hide. I finally made the full switch, cutting out wine/beer entirely at 31. By 33, I was in and out of hospitals, detoxes, unemployable, and most importantly, miserable.

The thing that I have learned is that alcohol was never my initial problem. Sure enough, it became a problem, a severe problem later in life, but it began as my solution. The restlessness, purposelessness, and lack of verve I felt at every waking sober hour was my problem. Something I feel that non-alcoholic, non-addictive types do not have, or when it does occur, is something that can be overcome without use of a harmful substance.

I refused to talk about my inner feelings of inadequecy, shyness, always feeling like I didn't fit it or belong. The bottle was always there, and always offered instant comfort to remove those feelings and give me clarity and release. I don't know where it got out of control for me, where I crossed that invisible line into delirium, and I guess it really doesn't matter for me.

No one can quantify you as an alcoholic, a daily drinker, or a problem drinker. Only those that love and know you the best can offer any insight into that, and then only you can make that determination. If it's not a problem, it isn't. The question I would suggest you ask yourself is not whether or not you want to drink, but why you want to drink.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:07 AM on August 9, 2010 [19 favorites]

The amount you drink seems normal to me. A drink with your meals, several drinks on weekends. Enjoying drinking and wanting to drink is a part of the human condition--though, of course, some people don't like drinking and don't do it, which is fine.

Alcoholism is a pretty dismal thing. I don't think it does any good to conflate regular drinking with alcoholism.
posted by Paquda at 11:08 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering if the drinking has more of an impact on your life than you think -- if part of the alcohol's effect is to numb your sense of what you're missing. I think I'm getting from your post that on weekend nights, you're having a beer or two with/after dinner, and then three to six whiskeys afterward? Four to eight total, three nights a week. That's quite a lot. And with two small children, that's the time you have with your spouse, to talk with one another, do a few chores together, play a boardgame, watch a movie. I'd be really hurt if my husband were having four to eight drinks on those evenings. It would make me wonder why he didn't want to be fully present with me -- why, once the distraction of the children was over for the day, he retreated into an altered state.

As others have mentioned, as your children grow older and stay up later, this time will go from being prime adult time to being prime family time. Even worse, really.

I also wanted to note that you put emphasis on the fact that you don't drink in the morning. From a child's perspective, as they get older and become aware of the drinking, it just means that you spare your co-workers and random people on the street at the expense of your family, by restricting your impairment and emotional detachment for the evening hours. There are definitely hard-core alcoholics -- the kind whose children wonder if they are loved or even lovable -- who never have a drink before 5 p.m.
posted by palliser at 11:26 AM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I know that this makes me an alcoholic by most measures but what I can't figure out is why I should care that I'm an alcoholic by most measures.

Is it reasonable to keep drinking like this given that I'm productive and it makes me happy.

Honestly I'd say sure, were it not for this one bit:

I always want a drink. I wake up in the morning and I want whiskey instead of coffee.

Why? I like to drink and think no less of you for enjoying the same. Even your weekend amounts don't concern me. But this desire at all hours and all situations? What does that accomplish?

I don't know that even that necessarily squigs me out - I like the taste of beer and absent societal conditioning I don't know that I wouldn't enjoy one first thing in the morning. But that's about the taste for me - what are you chasing with the whiskey? It is just a taste thing as well or is there some edge you're looking to take off any moment when you're awake? Does alcohol have associations for you in addition to its taste and effect that you're grabbing onto here? Is this leisure or are you filling a hole?

I think - having lived with an alcoholic grandparent and seen other loved ones fuck up their lives with a variety of other habits and vices - that your statement above isn't much more menacing than if you'd written it about your sugar or bacon intake.... except for one thing: the impact of alcohol on your ability to accurately assess your own behavior.

I think it's entirely possible the situation you're in is perfectly fine. The question is, I assert, whether you have a support system in place to back up your potentially impaired judgment? One of the things that I think is going to help you assess this situation is also whether you are playing this completely openly within your support system. If you feel like you can't be honest with the folks who might call you on your bullshit then you may not be as in command as you think.
posted by phearlez at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2010

During the week, I go to work every morning. I always take my lunches at the same restaurant and I always have a bottle of beer with lunch. I never have two. In the evenings, I have another beer with dinner, and sometimes another afterwards.

While the WHO would probably classify you as an alcoholic, it does not sound unreasonable to me. Especially in the summer I was used to drink two cold beers every evening (Unfortunately I developed a weird allergy against alcohol).

But I think you should definable reduce your intake. Maybe start trying to go one or two days a week without? If you are not able to manage this you must get help.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2010

There is a consensus--and I agree--you are probably an alcoholic. There is a little test you might give yourself. For one month have two drinks every day--absolutely no more no less. No skipping days to save up for the next day--no "just today I will have an extra drink and only have one tomorrow" It is really quite simple--two drinks--no more no less. If you are unwilling to do this or find yourself rationalizing why you are having more/less ask your self who is managing your drinking--you or the alcohol. BTW, whether you do this or not, or follow the rules, and suggests whether you have or do not have alcoholism. As many of the posters indicated--if you do--sooner or later you, your loved ones and friends will know.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:27 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My grandfather following your drinking schedule into his nineties.

But I couldn't follow it. A daily drink or three cuts out too many other activities (like those involving powertools). Too many evenings are devoted to "winding down". Amounts to a lot of empty calories as well.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2010

"Help me feel comfortable with my alcohol intake."

No, you make yourself feel comfortable with your alcohol intake and I'll continue to not care, because it's none of my business until it impacts me.

No one really does care about how much you drink. We care about how you act.

If you're slurry or surly or ugly or gross or sloppy or rude, we care. If you're not, we don't! It's your liver, bro!

Do your friends and family avoid you after nightfall? Do people roll your eyes behind your back in the afternoons after lunch? Do people isolate you at work?

Are your friends eager to see you in the evenings? Do they like going out drinking with you? Does your wife get happily in bed with you at the end of the day?

Are your children excited to see you? Do they run to you to tell you things?

These are important questions to decide how drinking might be affecting others. If it's not, awesome! DRINK UP. (Check your answers twice--you may be confused/mistaken! But maybe not!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 1:19 PM on August 9, 2010

Maybe you should consider taking a break for a month or two. A lot of people (myself included) have done that for a diet, or training for a sports event or whatever, and been amazed at how much alcohol was in fact affecting their sleep or moods or weight. For other people, the break confirms that they really don't have a problem or that it's just a habit that got a little bit out of control.
posted by BibiRose at 1:30 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My father is an alcoholic as was his father before him etc etc. He's not violent, he went to work every day and was and is loving and kind. I also grew up to be an alcoholic. Fortunately, I have gotten treatment and believe I am breaking the cycle. The thing of it is, I am sure that my father didn't believe his alcoholism effected anyone else. For me, it wasn't an overt harm. He just never seemed quite there. He still doesn't and we aren't particularly close. I didn't think I was hurting anyone else when I was drinking, and I was way off. Thing is, you won't know until it's way too late. Why would you even want to chance it?
posted by heatherly at 1:35 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Here's a reference to AA's "12 Questions" to help you figure out of AA might be good for you.

When I drank, it was almost every day and it was to the point of impairment -- that was my objective -- to get drunk -- to forget. During this time, I held down a job as an engineering manager with a fortune 500 company -- got several accolades, development opportunities, promotions, etc... My bills were paid. But, my evenings were spent in a drunken haze. I stopped drinking altogether a couple of times on my own -- for several months once and for over a year another time. But, I would come to some sort of "breaking point" -- where I felt so awful all I wanted was oblivion -- and I knew alcohol would get me there. I finally went to AA since I wanted to stop drinking and stay stopped -- and I knew I couldn't do it on my own.

Over the years, as I have sat in AA meetings, I have heard about people who not only faced liver failure due to their drinking but also people who stopped being able to get drunk (or at least feeling drunk). I had a guy who worked for me who died one evening after work from uncontrollable bleeding in his gut -- he had a problem with alcohol but never lost his job over it -- just died from it. One of the women I knew in my meetings died suddenly from a fall -- she was drunk at the time. Sometimes it's remembering these stories that helps me stay sober.

There are all sorts of reasons to stop drinking -- and plenty of resources to help you if that's what you want to do.
posted by elmay at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You sound like my dad, a little bit, except that I only ever saw him drunk when he had friends over, which didn't happen every weekend. He would come home from work every day to a drink, and when he was hanging out with friends would get very loud and happy. So the kind of drinking that has no really obvious negative effects. I wasn't neglected and he wasn't abusive and so far as I can tell his drinking never escalated (and I think has declined in retirement--I think the after-work drink was definitely a way to cope with work stress) and he has no health problems from it that I know of. His habit of dropping off to sleep at other people's houses after a drink or two was a kind of amusing quirk we joked about rather than a big embarrassment, at least until I was a teenager and it did embarrass me.

I have no idea whether my father craved alcohol at other times, as you say you do.

I think if he had not had children, that level of drinking would have been totally OK. But he had me, a kind of sensitive, anxious child, and I can remember watching him head to the liquor cabinet right after work every day and feeling uncomfortable about it and wishing he didn't do it, and I know that his habit of dropping off to sleep in his chair after dinner and a second drink meant that he was pretty much not there.

So, was it horrible? No. Did it ruin my childhood? No. Did it destroy my relationship with my dad? No, though I think it contributed to distance between us. Did it scare me sometimes? Yes. Would it have been better if my dad had not been a daily drinker? Probably. Might your and your kids' mileage vary? Of course.
posted by not that girl at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2010

There are a million shades of grey between being a moderate drinker and an outright alcoholic. You're very obviously in that grey area where you're at least a fairly heavy drinker.

So, I don't know why you're coming out with this "I'm an alcoholic by all standard American metrics". If you want to buy into this simplistic, binary definition, then just say "I'm an alcoholic" or "I'm not an alcoholic". If you're going to be more sophisticated and start thinking about metrics, then forget the simple distinction.

Since you're asking for us to help you be comfortable with your alcohol intake, you're obviously not comfortable with it. That's a pretty good sign that you're drinking more than is ideal for you, since people tend to underestimate how much their drinking affects them, and underreport how much they're drinking.

So, the way for you get comfortable with your alcohol intake is to drink less alcohol.

How you do that is up to you. If I were you, I'd decide what kind of drinking is most important to you and cut out everything but that. If it's beer with meals, keep to that and cut out the weekend whisky. If it's weekend whisky, then keep drinking that and stop drinking on weekdays and weeknights.

I personally prefer moderation to abstinence, but if you try to cut down and fail, then you might have to resort to it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:14 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

My father was also an alcoholic, and his drinking patterns were similar: he drank every night, without fail. My mother says he'd carry a bottle of bourbon (or a mayonnaise jar, if it was a preschool picnic) with him if they were going to dinner where he knew there'd be no alcohol. I remember standing at the counter and watching him mix his drinks every night--jigger is one of the first words I remember learning. When I was little, he was up to four drinks every night, in rain or shine, in sickness or in health. My half-sister says when she was a kid he only had two per night.

He died when I was five and a half, so I don't have the kinds of memories of growing up with an always at least semi-intoxicated after 5 p.m. dad that other posters here have mentioned, but I'm sure I would have, based on the kinds of things my mother has told me.

My father held down a job as a professor and was beloved by many of his students, but he also pissed off a number of people with his argumentativeness, particularly when drunk. He was also very seriously depressed, and he ended up killing himself. I don't think the alcohol helped.

YMMV, IANAD, etc., etc., but as others have said, alcohol is pernicious, and your dependence on it will probably increase, if it hasn't already, and its effects may well be felt far more by those around you than they are by you.
posted by newrambler at 2:44 PM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

I always want a drink. I wake up in the morning and I want whiskey instead of coffee.

It's not your alcohol intake per se--it's this. Why do you feel this way? What is it you're trying to drown? You are not having your own life. You're just medicating it away. Find out why.

In my experience, an alcoholic ages into a drunk. And quickly.
posted by uans at 8:27 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you American and really overthinking this to the point that you write from the perspective of someone who wasn't raised in an American cultural context? Or, were you raised in another culture, don't have peculiar American hangups (including those about drinking)? If it's the second one, I don't really see what the problem is, you seem fine. So long as your family can rely on you and you're not drinking to avoid dealing with difficult emotional issues and such, bailing out on your family because you'd rather drink, that kind of stuff.

It seems to me that the whole AA/addiction narrative is designed very brilliantly to account for & respond to every way in which a person who really is an alcoholic can try to argue and deny that s/he has a drinking problem. But, some people actually don't have drinking problems and you don't sound like you have one, if even on a weekend your max is 2-3 drinks, and then stop.
posted by citron at 9:57 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wait, am I reading something wrong here? The OP says his alcohol intake is 1 beer for lunch during the week and 3-6oz (1/3-2/3 cup) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I don't know if that qualifies for alcoholism.

What concerns me is that you want a drink in the morning and that drinking makes you happy. These are warning signs. Be concerned. If you find yourself making excuses for going outside your current boundaries then you could have a problem.

As others have obviously stated, alcoholism over the long term will compromise your relationships and your health. Addiction has a way of catching up with you eventually. Trust me on this.

I'm just not certain you're an alcoholic based on the quantities. Based on the qualities ... that's another matter.
posted by quadog at 10:00 PM on August 9, 2010

If you're posting these concerns, you likely have an alcohol problem. Find an AA group and give them the same schpiel. You'll see lots of nods of recognition.
posted by cross_impact at 7:33 AM on August 10, 2010

I think the people who point out that when we rely on just one coping skill, even a healthy one, our other skills start to weaken, are on to something. Going for a run is a healthy coping skill. The more you use it, the better it will work for you. But it won't necessarily improve your communication skills with your wife(other than making you feel better). Working on communication with your wife will improve your skills. So, if you think about it from the standpoint of what skills am I practicing. does that change your mind? The other point is that there may be cost to having a lifestyle that allows daily drinking. I see this with smart teenagers all the time. You see a smart kid, taking time off from school and working in a convenience store. Of course he can make a case that his pot smoking is not interfering with his life. He has a Bullsh** life. Try doing that with a real job and a full life. And filling up your life is a great way to drink less, because you have a positive destination, not just not doing something. The night of my basketball game, in not "not drinking", I'm playing basketball. Of course, people will point out folks who do lots of things while intoxicated. That will always be the case, but does not have to be your case. You will have to be creative about your coping skills with little kids though.
posted by DTHEASH1 at 10:44 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wait, am I reading something wrong here? The OP says his alcohol intake is 1 beer for lunch during the week and 3-6oz (1/3-2/3 cup) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

You're missing: "In the evenings, I have another beer with dinner, and sometimes another afterwards."
posted by palliser at 11:50 AM on August 10, 2010

Also, that was 3 to 6 ounces of whiskey for three nights a week, in addition to the beer.
posted by chinston at 7:36 AM on August 12, 2010

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