1 night per month binge drinker
April 27, 2013 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I know I have a problem drinking. I am a binge drinker that drinks once a month just before my period. Alcoholic Anonymous is the only answer I am getting. It has been helpful in the past, as I had 7 months of sobriety. As a binge drinker one or two nights a month, what do you think I should do, as I have found AA not the exact solution to my problems right now? Let me explain when, how, and why I drink. Please help!

I drink when I am emotionally upset (typically sad or anxious) or in physical pain. I can usually tolerate the pain for a long time, like a month or two. Then I just get totally overwhelmed by life, and work, and people, plus the myriad of health problems I have. It all seems to much so I turn to a bottle of wine, or vodka or both, that night. I drink all night until the wee hours of the morning and text people I should not text, get on the computer in blackout and again talk to people I should not. I don't realize what I have said or done until the next morning when I look. The next day I feel obviously terrible. Then I can go another month or month and a half. I know this is tied into my menses because it happens around the same time of month, seemingly every month. I am careful during that time of the month when I am most likely to drink. It is all emotion based decision making and not logical or rational at all. I always think "oh I will just have a couple of drinks and it will not get out of hand." Then it does and I miss days of work. Now, this is not happening everyday of the week, and I really want to stop it. I do consider myself an alcoholic. I do know that much and fully admit to it. I have other mental health issues, as I said about anxiety and depression. I am on a Birth Control Pill to try and regulate my periods, but the pill does not regulate mood. I have tried not taking the placebo week pills to keep my hormone levels even-keeled, but it messes with my chronic stomach condition which has been diagnosed as chronic constipation. I don't know what to do, I feel like most people in AA were daily drinkers. I have never heard a story like mine told, but at the same time, I know I have a big, big problem because it is screwing with my life, causing me to lie, and I hate how I feel and that I cannot do anything the day after I drink. Please provide help.
posted by Jewel98 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you getting treatment for your mental health issues?

Effective treatment can go a long way toward helping you deal with other health issues like alcoholism.
posted by dfriedman at 7:06 PM on April 27, 2013

While every AA group operates from the same playbook, that doesn't mean every AA group is identical in its makeup, approach and degree of helpfulness for each and every person. See a doctor/therapist first, then start going to lots of different groups.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need to stop this cycle NOW.

Please get help from a medical/psych professional. Also, you might want to discuss your BCPs with your doctor because they can exacerbate mood problems, as you so rightly observe.

You don't have to go to AA, and don't let AA try to tell you that theirs is the only approach that works. It isn't the only way. However, you might still get something out of it because you might be surprised--there is no "standard" drinking problem and no stereotypical problem drinker.

AA is just one means to an end. The goal is for you to stop drinking.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

AA isn't the only way to stop drinking. One-on-one counseling with a therapist who specializes in this area might be a better fit for you than a group approach. You might have something like PMDD if your emotions are getting really out of control, also, which might necessitate trying different types of BC. You should also see a doctor about getting your physical pain under control. It sounds like the drinking is a symptom of the rest of your life being out of control, not the root problem.
posted by bleep at 7:08 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

In a perfect world you'd be able to sort out the underlying trouble and have the bingeing naturally go away. Since that may not be realistic, at least in the short term, maybe you want to look at harm reduction strategies? Could you shift to smoking grass or taking a prescription medication? Do you live near a good friend who would babysit/hold captive your phone and computer; would you be able to make a deal with yourself that, as part of a harm minimisation strategy, you would be allowed your binge but couldn't touch drop one until the communications devices were out of your hands?

Suggesting the latter partially because I wonder if the stress over the cycle repeating itself isn't contributing to the cycle. Maybe if you could have a few benders without causing harm and with the embarrassment being limited to yourself you'd end up in a better place overall, and that could facilitate cutting it out altogether.
posted by kmennie at 7:19 PM on April 27, 2013

It might be that the people at the AA meetings you attended who are most vocal are the ones whose problem started more or less like yours, but who progressed to daily drinking before they sought help. Alcoholism doesn't just spring into being from nowhere; everyone starts as a sometimes-drinker, and unless they stop, it gets worse. You're doing a good thing by seeking help right now, and I have to ask: If it kept you sober for seven months, why do you not think its the right place for you?

I watched my dad die from alcoholism. I want to tell you right now: If there is something you've tried that has helped you in the past, please keep doing it. By all means, seek out other things, too, if you feel like something else might be better - but you don't want to go down that road to long-term, end stage alcoholism. It doesn't get any uglier or sadder than that.
posted by something something at 7:26 PM on April 27, 2013

I have been sober in AA for more than 20 years, just so you know where I am coming from. It sounds from your description that your relationship with alcohol is interfering with your life. AA has helped lots of people but not everyone wants to quit drinking or if they do, not everyone wants to do it in AA. If you don't see something you like in AA, try something else. It's not like we get paid on commission. I will tell you that there is every possible drinking story in AA, some a lot like yours. How you drank is not really that important.
posted by shothotbot at 7:34 PM on April 27, 2013

I think whether or not you do AA or another sobriety route, you ALSO need to pursue treatment for what sure seems like severe Pre-Menstrual Dysphoria Disorder or related syndrome. See your GP or GYN for a physical with full blood panel, as well.

I come from a family (male and female) of anxiety drinkers, many of whom would probably be textbook occasional social drinkers if they weren't self-medicating. I think any kind of sobriety is going to be an uphill battle if you are struggling with an untreated underlying anxiety or hormonal disorder. The good news is you can pursue both avenues simultaneously.

I am on a Birth Control Pill

Look, this is anecdata, but I know I'm not alone in it: the Pill made me crazy. Off the rails. I had five years of really disordered behavior across all kinds of categories, until I quit. Please talk to your gynecologist about this.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:47 PM on April 27, 2013 [17 favorites]

Have you tried an all-woman AA meeting? It's something to consider if you have not been to one.
posted by jgirl at 7:52 PM on April 27, 2013

An alcoholic isn't just someone who drinks everyday. What you described—and the fact that you categorize yourself as one—does imply that you are an alcoholic. The key is that when you drink, you plan to only have a few but you are unable to control that and end up drinking much more. Blacking out is a strong indicator. Also, another indicator is that it has caused major negative impacts in your life: impacting your social life (bad messages to friends, etc.) and missing work.

I would suggest at least for now, forget about any possible connection with your menses. Basically, an alcoholic is going to make any excuse to drink when they feel the urge building. Even if there were no emotional stressors happening, chances are you would think, "yes, it's that time of the month again, I just can't help it." Stop that. Stop trying to find excuses for why you drink. You drink because you're an alcoholic. If every form of stress, your menstrual cycle, and every other medical problem disappeared, surely some other excuse would conveniently be conjured once a month to provide you a reason because that's what alcoholics do. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but in order to get better, you need to get past the excuses.

If one AA group doesn't work, try another. You'll find there are all kinds of drinkers and you'll likely run into someone with a similar pattern at one of the meetings. You just need to get past thinking you're different because your drinking is tied to your menstrual cycle.

As others have mentioned, AA isn't the end all in treatment options. There are individual counselors and treatment centers to choose from. You've admitted you need help, please find one that is a good fit.
posted by Eicats at 11:12 PM on April 27, 2013

If AA has helped you before, wow, 7 months sober, that is a good thing! Like others have said, AA members have many stories. The trick is to take out of it what you can that suits you and supports you. Going to meetings at least provides support you may noy have right now while you figure out the other issues causing you to binge drink. Its not for everyone, but I think you can find some good lessons out of hearing others speak if you really desire to improve your life without alcohol.
posted by SteelDancin at 11:14 PM on April 27, 2013

Please see your GYN or a psychiatrist to discuss PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. If your concerns are not taken seriously, see another GYN or psychiatrist. My PMDD didn't cause me to use substances, but I came very close to dying from it because every single month for years and years, I felt suicidal, and twice, I just wasn't able to hold everything in my body and my brain together tightly enough to resist that. I haven't felt like that even one time since my ovaries were removed. Most women with PMDD do not need oophorectomies, but there are treatments beyond birth control pills; in fact, if your problem is that your brain goes haywire on progestins, your pill might be exacerbating things instead of making them better.
posted by houseofdanie at 6:12 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Many thanks to everyone. I am in therapy twice a week, 1 is a group therapy and the other is my individual therapist. I also have a psychiatrist and a GYN who are aware of the issues I described. I may need to visit the other psychiatrist again, that focused on GYN issues like PMDD and psych issues. I also will continue with AA, but I am also looking at other options, like SMART, recovery which seems to operate in a similar way as some of the cognitive and behavioral therapies I practice. It is true that I will make any excuse to drink. I know the days when I am in most danger and I have had that conversation with people I care about it. There are lots of good options here. I have thought about seeing a specialist that deals with alcoholism or addiction. It is just tough with all the appointments I already have to add yet another, but this may be the most crucial of appointments that I make sure to keep.
posted by Jewel98 at 11:06 AM on April 28, 2013

I am wondering what makes you think you are an alcoholic as opposed to this being a case of self-medicating for PMDD. Do you think you would drink around that time of the month even if you weren't feeling so anxious and depressed? Are you thinking you should just live with that feeling as it is?

I personally don't think this is a problem talk therapy or AA can solve. This has to do with hormones and body chemistry, which has to be treated from the inside. Severe PMS/PMDD can be truly crippling emotionally, and that has to be taken at least as seriously as this drinking problem that comes along with it.
posted by wondermouse at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree, since it sounds like your resources are spread thin, you might have better luck talking to your docs about concentrating your time on your hormonal and physical pain issues and picking one or two of the drinking programs to continue with until the physical stuff is worked out. If you still have a problem drinking after that, you will have a more straightfoward drinking problem that AA or counseling will be better equipped to help you with.

Anyone saying that the hormonal stuff is an "excuse" hasn't experienced how birth control pills can completely wreak havoc in your brain and your mechanisms that let you keep your emotions under control (ask me how I know!) It's good that you have a psychiatrist who specializes in this stuff. Perhaps she knows of a sympathetic GYN to refer you to who will be more pro-active in helping you conquer this.
posted by bleep at 8:33 PM on April 28, 2013

The thing that jumped out at me first was that you're dealing with physical pain, and that you "can tolerate the pain for a long time, like a month or two" and then you drink. What's going on there? I realize you said you have a number of physical and mental health issues, but there's no way constant physical pain is going to improve anyone's mental outlook. Have you filled your therapists in on this? Are you getting any help with this? I realize that this may not tie directly in with your drinking, but it sounds like right now you're fighting a hundred battles. If you could get some of those solved (or at least well-managed), then you could put 100% into staying sober.
posted by epj at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2013

Response by poster: I'm most likely dealing with hormonal issue. I don't know what type of docs specialize in hormones. zi suppose this is something i can research.
posted by Jewel98 at 7:15 PM on April 29, 2013

Tell your gynecologist that your PMS has gotten really bad and you can't handle it without drinking heavily. If you are as clear with your doctor as you were with us, your doctor should be able to see that there is something deeper than monthly binge drinking going on here.
posted by wondermouse at 8:33 PM on April 29, 2013

I'm speaking highly anecdotally here, but my PMDD got worse with age, not better, and did include many physical symptoms. In addition to the emotional effects, which were pretty much crippling and that I could write paragraphs about, I had a dramatic upswing in migraines every month. I had breast aches, shooting breast pains, flu-like muscle aches all over my body, and abdominal pain. The last coincided with the cluster of digestive issues that would come every month and then go away once my period would begin, no matter what dietary modifications I'd make or probiotic or other thing I'd add in -- though pro-b's did make things a little better.

Here's something positive I'll say! If you're in therapy and if you find that your emotional state every month prevents you from being able to really benefit from the things you're learning there, it's definitely possible that you could use them once the hormonal stuff is sorted out. Once I was done trying to ruin my own life every month, I found that I really had learned helpful things along the way, even if I wasn't able to put them into place. It was a little bit like surveying the damage after a hurricane -- sobering, but, you know, the weather's at least calm again.
posted by houseofdanie at 5:22 AM on April 30, 2013

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