It's not really an addiction . . .
February 2, 2006 8:12 AM   Subscribe

I've been drinking for less than a year. Could I still be dependent?

Disclaimer: I have read the other threads on alcoholism here, I know about Rational Recovery and all that).

I like drinking. A lot. Ever since I started a little over half-a-year ago I've been drinking heavily (at least 8-10 shots liquor in an hour to hour-and-a-half), regularly (at least four times a week, dependent on whether there's booze in the vicinity), and often alone (but the drinking alone doesn't bother me). If there's alcohol I'm drinking it, and I have yet to be able to stop at one or two drinks. When there's not alcohol I'm wishing there was, and I feel anxious and "off", like something's scratching around in my head. In the past month or so I've been weighing whether I could get away with drinking at work.

After taking a step back, it looks like this might not be normal and is kind of worrisome. What's going to happen when I'm legal and can actually purchase it myself? But I wonder if I'm overreacting or going hypochrondriac--doesn't it take longer than a few months to develop a dependency? I went to an AA meeting but the people there had been drinking for a lot longer than I have.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (44 answers total)
If your behavior worries you, I wouldn't worry about how long it's been going on. Why let the problem fester? Help yourself.

This reminds me of the West Wing episode where VP Hoines comes out as an alcoholic- one who has been sober since 17 or 18. And everyone is like, wtf, that's ridiculous- you're not a real alcoholic! But he stands behind it, saying alcoholism is a real problem in his family, and he's not gonna let himself hit rock bottom. Good for him, and good for you, Anonymous!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Alcoholism doesn't discriminate by age, or by the amount of time of your life you've been drinking.

Based on your description of your behavior, I'd say the answer to your question is "yes."
posted by Prospero at 8:21 AM on February 2, 2006

After taking a step back, it looks like this might not be normal and is kind of worrisome.

That's kind of an understatement.

Anyway, you can't use duration of alcoholism as an excuse. Just because you haven't had a problem for a long time doesn't mean you don't have a problem.

But I wonder if I'm overreacting or going hypochrondriac--doesn't it take longer than a few months to develop a dependency?

If that were true, don't you agree that at this rate you're going to reach that threshold of dependency anyway? I don't see you (not that I know a ton about you) stopping any time soon, and I don't think you do either.
posted by apple scruff at 8:21 AM on February 2, 2006

have yet to be able to stop

This is the nub of it right here, isn't it?
posted by blueshammer at 8:22 AM on February 2, 2006

Many people who drink really over-do it when they start - my university career is a good example. But even at my bingiest peak, I didn't crave alcohol constantly - it was just something to do, basically, as boneheaded as that sounds now.

What I'm saying is, yes, I think you have a problem. Some people may be more inclined to alcoholism, and it sounds like you fit in that category. What you describe sounds like a real problem already.
posted by flipper at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2006

IANAD, but I am an NREMT. 8-10 shots in an hour is tantamount to pickling your liver. You're looking at about 20 hours for your liver (assuming it's normal) to break down all that booze, and at four times a week, your liver officially has a full time job of detox. Not a good thing at 18.
posted by The White Hat at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2006

Do you feel like your drinking is affecting your social or work obligations? How long do you normally go without a drink? How many drinks do you estimate you have in a week?

I would recommend finding a substance abuse helpline in your state or city and seeing what resources are available. They can put you in touch with people who will work with you to inform you so that you can make your own choices about your use of alcohol. No one can tell you what that relationship should be- you have to figure it out (and change it, if need be) yourself, but there's tons of support for your decision-making.

And frankly, that support is a lot more well-informed than AskMetafilter.
posted by bobot at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2006

The general rule of thumb is, if you're worried that you might be an alcoholic, that's a good indicator that you are.

The amount you're drinking is very large, and the fact that you're (a) unable to just have one or two and (b) feel "off" when you're sober should give you pause.

The good news is that this early in the game, it's going to be easier to get help and reverse the process. Trust me, you don't want to tackle this after ten years of addiction.

Congratulations on knowing yourself well enough to ask this question in the first place. That indicates to me that likely you'll have little trouble extricating yourself from this, problem, with the proper help. Best of luck to you, anonymous.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2006

If there's alcohol I'm drinking it, and I have yet to be able to stop at one or two drinks. When there's not alcohol I'm wishing there was, and I feel anxious and "off", like something's scratching around in my head. In the past month or so I've been weighing whether I could get away with drinking at work.

This is pretty textbook "how you know if you're an alcoholic" stuff. Traditional AA may not be a good fit for the reasons you mention; find a youth-oriented group in your area for problem drinkers.

I'm not so inclined to stop at two drinks, but I've honestly never considered drinking at work, there's plenty of untouched alcohol in my house, and I don't get those anxious cravings you mention. I'm not going to insist based on an anonymous question to AskMe that you are definitely an alcoholic and that you'll never be able to have another drink for the rest of your life. But no, the way you're drinking is not normal, not even among those of us who drink above the recommended dosage.
posted by desuetude at 8:33 AM on February 2, 2006

There's two possibilities: either it will level out as you grow up and as alcohol loses its novelty, or you will become an alcoholic. One option destroys your life. Either seem equally likely to me from your description. The drinking doesn't sound situational or social, it sounds like you're making it into a basic part of your psychology. Ick. You can't go on drinking that much. If you can't cut back you'll have to stop.

I've been at sort of similiar crossroads, and stopped what I was doing. It's not the end of the world, and I'm much happier now. It's hard to keep hanging out with the same people though. Bit of an adjustment is all.

Once incentive is that if you manage to cut back and stop binge drinking at this point, you might still be able to drink moderately. If you let this spiral into full addiction, you'll have to stop completely.
posted by voidcontext at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2006

When there's not alcohol I'm wishing there was

This concerns me more than the rest of it. It's these thought patterns that turn into obsessions, which turn into addictions.
posted by o2b at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2006

In case you're not hearing it loud and clear enough, YES, you can be (and IMO, are) developing a serious alcohol problem. The signs are there- heavy drinking, drinking alone, unable to not drink alcohol when it's around. This is all textbook. Wondering if you can "get away with drinking at work" is a HUGE indication that you're losing control, and is putting you on the road to seriously fucking up your life.

It's good that you recognize these red flags. Now is the time to act before you start rationalizing these behaviors away. Please, take the next step.
posted by mkultra at 8:39 AM on February 2, 2006

If you are considering drinking at work then you are addicted, no question in my mind. Try going for a week without it (including the weekend!). If you don't make it, get some help before it ruins your life, please.
posted by twistedonion at 8:52 AM on February 2, 2006

It's extremely common to go to a single AA meeting and conclude that those people are not like you.

But if you stay around AA a little longer, you will hear people talking about the beginnings of their drinking careers. Many of their stories will sound familiar to you.

Try going back to a few more meetings. Ignore the dogma; just listen to people's stories. I think that will give you a better sense of what you need to do next.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2006

10 shots in an hour?

This BAC calculator says that if you are a man weighing 170 pounds that your BAC would be approx. .26! That alone is dangerous. results pasted below:


DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Based on your body weight of 170, your consumption of 10 drinks of whiskey, and your sex, your blood alcohol concentration is estimated to be 0.26.

The table below provides the effects associated with BAC levels:
BAC Level
Percentage Effects
.03 to .12 Feeling of increased confidence, sense of daring. Look flushed or red in face. Trouble with fine actions, such writing.
.09 to .25 Trouble seeing or focusing, slow reactions, sleepy, stumble often or lose balance easily.
.18 to .30 Confusion, dizziness, slurred speech and lack of muscle coordination.
Above .25 Serious health issues, including death

posted by caddis at 9:09 AM on February 2, 2006


better link
posted by caddis at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2006

I too love drinking. If I'm not paying attention I can easily drink 4 glasses of wine a day. I keep this in check by placing rules on myself like - I'm only allowed alcohol every other day. And at least once a year I make myself go completely dry for 2 months. Of course, I'm 33. And I've never, ever considered drinking at work.

Remember, this is a problem that fuels itself - and also fuels and is fueled by depression. You need to REALLY keep this in check. And at your age I would say this means stop. drinking.completely. You might want to go have a one on one with a counselor.

10 shots in an hour and you could find yourself having tangible health problems really, really fast. Need some inspiration?

Look no further.
posted by glenwood at 9:16 AM on February 2, 2006

I think this is the sort of question where you already knew the answer before you posted.

Whether or not you decide AA is the right place for you to get a better handle on your drinking, it sounds like alcohol is becoming a unhealthy fixation in your life. One way or another you need to find a way to cut back.
posted by BackwardsCity at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2006

Better to quit now, while you're young, before you've had more time to build up the damage to your physical health and mess up/destroy relationships with people around you. Good luck.
posted by matildaben at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2006

If there's alcohol I'm drinking it, and I have yet to be able to stop at one or two drinks. When there's not alcohol I'm wishing there was, and I feel anxious and "off", like something's scratching around in my head. In the past month or so I've been weighing whether I could get away with drinking at work.

just to reiterate: NOT NORMAL.

I enjoy drinking now and then but am generally what one would call a light drinker. I have a lot of heavier drinkers in my family, though, who drink every day and have had major troubles develop because of it (emotional, financial, just life-management stuff). A couple members of my family have done AA at one time or another, although none are currently convinced they have a serious problem. They are all able to keep things under some level of control at this point - different people have different capacities for that... And I did drink more when I was younger, too - but - what you describe is another level of focus on the substance.

I guess the question for you is, how is this habit affecting your life? If it seems like a habit that is growing (you are now thinking of expanding this into workday) it will probably become significant even if it isn't yet. Since you're young & presumably pretty healthy, it may seem like nothing big now, but remember you might wake up in 15 years and find yourself lost. Do not romanticize alcoholism into some kind of way to be Charles Bukowski or Ernest Hemingway. It just makes you smell bad, sound dumb, and miss your life. [alcoholism not alcohol per se]

I often take fasts of things I that have negative side effects just to 'cleanse' - I'd suggest starting with that - no booze until the end of february, or something (february happens to be the month of the roman goddess of purification, actually :)), to see how you do. You may realize you simply have to give it up altogether, or you may be able to develop a different kind of relationship to it, but your current lifestyle is Not Good.
posted by mdn at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2006

People who don't have problems with alcohol don't worry if they problems with alcohol. Look at this chart and see what a not so fun ride it can be. Some people slip into alcoholism quite rapidly while others slowly progress after many years. Read the Doctor's Opinion in the Big Book of AA. It might give you some insight into your question.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2006

Anyway, you can't use duration of alcoholism as an excuse. Just because you haven't had a problem for a long time doesn't mean you don't have a problem.

Yea, no kidding. And like many older people have said many times about many topics, "one day you'll wake up and your 1-year problem has become a 20-year problem".

That ain't no joke either. The older you get, and I'm assuming that you're fairly young, the faster time goes by. Seriously, it's almost frightenly fast. That's not just something older folks like to say... it's fucking true. One day, it'll hit you dead in the face, "fuck I'm 38 (or 45 or 62 or whatever it is), I'm still drunk and got nothin' to show for nothing". Not acting on your gut feelings now would be foolish.

And here's some more advice, if you don't mind. If you have to stop drinking altogether to get your shit in a pile, don't sweat it. You ain't missin' anything. There's plenty of fun to have, life to live, etc. I've talked to lots of college kids, for example, that are in danger of failing out because they can't pull themselves away from the party long enough to study and do some homework. It's a common problem, sure. But as soon as you/they realize that the party you're missing this Friday is the same party you can go to next Friday, the better off you'll be.

Take care of business. Don't be stupid. Focus. It's hard, but that's the point. Being a drunk loser is easy.

I'm on day 5 of no-more-smoking. Word!
posted by Witty at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I am not a doctor, and I have no particular expertise in this field, but your feelings when sober ('anxious and "off", like something's scratching around in my head') sound like symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

I don't want to scare you away from taking the first step here, but you may need more than a support group. You may need medical help. If you start to experience the serious symptoms listed in that link, you will need to get to an emergency room.
posted by expialidocious at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2006

My friend, you are a drunk. It doesn't matter how long you've been drinking; some people are so constituted that as soon as they discover alcohol it immediately becomes their best friend and they can't go anywhere without it. You (by your account) are such a person. You can either
1) go full speed ahead, wreck the lives of anyone who gets too close to you, and die when your liver finally gives up (depends on staying power of liver); or
2) deal with it, which probably means quitting (AA isn't for everyone, but give it a fair try -- the first meeting you go to may well not be for you, but there are all kinds of meetings and sponsors).

I am not a sobersided killjoy; I like a drink myself, and there was a time when I was hanging out with stone alcoholics and if I had the right (wrong) genes I'd be in recovery today (if I was lucky). Fortunately, no matter how hard I tried I couldn't join the fraternity, but I've seen it close up, I know how it works, and you are pretty definitely a member. Good luck.
posted by languagehat at 10:45 AM on February 2, 2006

God, I so totally feel for you. I'm echoing many others here, but please, quit while you're ahead. You've got such a good chance of success right now with this short history behind you. Can you imagine doing what you're doing for 20 years and THEN trying to get better?

Ask yourself ithis: how do I want my life to be when I'm 35? It's gonna be there much quicker than you think. 20 years of being a drunk can come upon you much faster than you ever imagined.
posted by tristeza at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2006

Wow, it is great you are looking at these things now and questioning them - good for you!

Please don't let any stereotypical or preconceived notions of "alcoholic" "drunk" or "addiction" get in the way of your getting help. There is no shame in this. But echoing what many have said, the length of time you have been drinking is not relevant. For whatever reason - genes, family history, psychology - you appear to be one or those folks prone to alcohol problems right from the git go. The things you describe are all indications of a problem in the making.

Don't be decieved if you can seemingly "hold it" by ingesting a lot and not exhibiting drunkeness - that ability to "hold it" can often be touted as a virtue but in reality, high tolerance is often an early warning sign for problems to come. When one drinks a lot (and what you describe is a real lot), one should be showing signs of drunkeness and more likely than not, a vicious hangover.

Again, I want to say how good it is that you are questioning this - that's the first step. Now take some of the other steps people have suggested. AA works best for most, try several meetings.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2006

The reason you feel off when not drinking is that given your consumption amount and frequency, you are at least mildly hung over all the time - until the next drink washes it away.

You need a few weeks of sobriety and clean living to remind yourself what it feels like.

I've been weighing whether I could get away with drinking at work.

No, you can't. Yes, you are in trouble and need help.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2006

Yes, you're probably an alcholic. Good luck.
posted by Hildago at 11:18 AM on February 2, 2006

You've got it. You may have spiraled out of control faster (and sooner) than the people you saw in AA, but that doesn't mean you're not an alcoholic.

Everything you said indicates that you cannot control your drinking and that it is taking over more and more of your life. That's alcoholism. Those stories you hear at AA may not be your story, but if you don't stop they will be. Try to find a group that better matches you (in age, interests, whatever) and go to meetings.

Seriously, you have to do something and you have to do it soon. I've known plenty of people who were in recovery before they were 21; they'll tell you for sure that alcoholism doesn't care how old you are or how long you've been drinking, and they'll also tell you that getting sober saved their lives.

Get help. Please.
posted by stefanie at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2006

Stop drinking hard liquor and only drink on the weekends. If you find yourself unable to handle that regime then you cannot handle alcohol.
posted by geoff. at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2006

I agree with others here that 8-10 shots in an hour is too much. You are at a difficult age, but I think you are spending too much time in oblivion, even beyond the addictive bad habit issue.

Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2006

Given the speed with which this situation has arisen I think there is much more going on than merely addictive behavior. I would bet that a psychologist of some sort could help you address some of the underlying issues driving you to drink. He or she could probably also steer you toward appropriate recovery programs.
posted by caddis at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2006

I hit a bottom, maybe not rock, but certainly very hard near the end of high-school (we had 5 years of high-school here in Ontario at the time). I drank and did drugs WAY too much.
I later convinced myself that I had just been depressed and I could go back to drinking since I had become significantly happier since making efforts to cease the behaviours (after all, I was 18, I couldnt be addicted yet....right...?) WRONG.
I have battled substance abuse issues ever since. I have probably had an addiction problem from birth (my grandfather was a serious alcoholic), and it has probably had significant control over my life since I was 15.
I am 22 now, have been sober for 20 months and am doing my best to not look back. From the time I REALLY and TRULY wanted to quit, it took 2 terrible years before I got my problem under any real control.
We are addicts. To my knowledge there is still no cure. If you think you have a problem, you almost definately do. If your friends say you dont, but you think things arent okay, then your friends are WRONG.
Seek counselling. I found NA (Narcotics Anonymous) to be of signicant value and definately helped me steer in the right direction.
The couragous thing to do is to admit you cant do this all alone, and to find help. It is pure cowardess to hide behind your drug or drink of choice and tough it out.
Like I said, its been 20 months sober, before that, 2 years struggling with getting my addiction under control, before that, three years that I barely remember.
I would admire anyone who could admit they had a problem and did something about it, BEFORE it became obvious to everyone that they had a problem.
posted by kevin_2864212 at 3:00 PM on February 2, 2006

If the above has not been enough, go to and take the test. There are links to help in your community.

I have worked as a drug and alcohol prevention specialist for over 10 years, and you sound like many of the speakers that we had talk to teens. Alcoholism can "happen" to younger people more quickly due to the fact that their bodies are not fully grown and they process alcohol differently than those over about age 22.

If you are under 18, most treatment centers have adolescent programs, and can help you find an AA group for teens and young adults.

If work has an employee assistance program, take advantage of it - they want you to do your best at work and not get hurt on the job.

Good luck, and please take that next step to get help now.

Wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 7:08 PM on February 2, 2006

Only you can judge if your use of a drug you enjoy is spiralling out of control.

Different people have different reactions to and capabilities to deal with different substances, mentally and physically. Some people just can't do substances in moderation, no matter how they try. Some people don't care for any kind of chemicals. Most people are along the spectrum between the two.

Do not label yourself, and don't let anyone else do it either.

That said, I'm going to chime in and say (as a lifelong lover of the booze who's lost a few friends to it's charms) that from your description of yourself, the prognosis isn't good, and you should either go off the booze entirely, or see if you can wind it back a few notches and see how that goes for while.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:05 AM on February 3, 2006

You've got an alcohol problem. Most folks with alcohol problems are also suffering from some sort of mental illness; many are using the alcohol to self-medicate.

Can you get to see a psychiatrist to talk about this?
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:49 AM on February 3, 2006

Can you get to see a psychiatrist to talk about this?

Jesus fuck, no. ikkyu2's a doctor and all, and people respect him for that, and I'm just some random internet dude, so take what I say for what it's worth, given that.

But no. You don't need a fucking psychiatrist, son, you need to lay off the booze and take responsibility for your own actions. You don't need to hand off personal responsibility to someone else who can fix you for money, you need to get a fucking grip. In my very humble opinion the worst possible thing you could do is follow the doctor's advice in this case.

For what little it's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:01 AM on February 3, 2006

Most folks with alcohol problems are also suffering from some sort of mental illness

That's the dumbest thing I've heard from somebody I respected in many a moon. Don't hang out with many drinkers, do you, ikkyu?
posted by languagehat at 4:16 AM on February 3, 2006

You sound like me in college. Latched onto drinking in a big way. Unsafe amounts pretty much nightly. I drank occasionally at work (well, during lunch). And in the morning.

It was that in the morning thing that really clued me into this not being a sustainable thing. I had to teach myself to deal with alcohol in a different way. It sounds like you're aware that what you've got isn't anything near a healthy (well, you know what I mean) relationship with alcohol. You need to find one that is.

I started by just not drinking for a while (easy to say, not so easy to do), to get some distance from things so I could evaluate them honestly. Look at it this way: if you try to stop drinking and you can't, then it's clear you've got a problem, and maybe you'll be honest enough with yourself to get help. If you do manage to stop, then just stay that way for a while. Get a feel for sobriety and honestly evaluate your feelings about drinking, your ability to restrict it to a reasonable amount, etc.

For what it's worth, you may not be broken; you might just be sprained. I grew up and now drink much less and much less frequently. And I don't miss it when I'm not.
posted by fidelity at 7:04 AM on February 3, 2006

Most folks with alcohol problems are also suffering from some sort of mental illness

That's the dumbest thing I've heard from somebody I respected in many a moon. Don't hang out with many drinkers, do you, ikkyu?
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM EST on February 3 [!]

I have hung out with a lot of drinkers in my time and from personal experience I would have to say ikkyu2 is correct. I don't know what percentage of heavy drinkers are self medicating but it is not trivial. There is a lot of literature on the subject if you go looking. However, when someone is drinking themselves into oblivion on a daily basis such as anon, I think you can be sure that there is something else going on. Consider also that ikkyu2 is a doctor and that docs use terms such as mental illness and obese in ways that the lay population might find odd. Someone who socially might be considered just pudgy might be surprised that their doctor has classified them as obese. A lot of people who drink heavily are self medicating for an underlying depression or some other difficulties in coping with the world. Recognizing that fact can help them get a handle on their drinking. Given the rapid onset of the behavior and the extreme daily intoxication levels I would be quite surprised if anon's drinking existed in a vacuum without some other mental health issues.
posted by caddis at 7:28 AM on February 3, 2006

And I think that we're all pretty much in agreement that anon has some problems with alcohol, I don't agree with the statement that most folks with alcohol problems are suffering from mental illness either, unless you define "some problems with alcohol" as full-on alcoholism, which you count as a mental illness, which is rather like using a word in its own definition, yes?

Certainly there's a well-established connection between alcohol use/abuse and mental illness, particularly anxiety , depression, bipolar, and schizoprenic disorders. However, while a higher percentage of those with the above disorders drink too much, it doesn't follow that "most" of those who drink heavily at some point suffer from those disorders.

Doctors tend to be sensitive to alcohol use precisely because it is a warning sign for avoidance of other issues and because they're more acutely aware of the biochemical effects of alcohol abuse. Additionally, people underreport how much they drink to their doctors, and we're still somewhat puritanical in the US regarding alcohol use.

Not to pick on you, caddis, but I don't think your anedotal evidence supports this either, at least as stated. Stuff going on and difficulties coping with the world do not equal mental illness. Heck, sometimes anxious or sometimes depressed or having issues regarding one's mental health that should be addressed don't equal mental illness either.
posted by desuetude at 9:05 AM on February 3, 2006

Good comment, desuetede.
I would add that it is almost impossible to sort out what's alcohol related and what other issues might be until the alcohol is removed from the picture for a good long time. Alcoholism can create a rash of related problems - depression, insomnia, physical illnesses, paranoia, suicidal ideation - it is often the root of other problems, and if not, it would mask any other problems. Plus, denial being what it is, many people would rather latch onto any other issue as the problem to avoid having to give up the drinking. Until the drinking stops, the counseling can go down a lot of false paths.

I worked in substance abuse for a number of years, and I can tell you that many, many doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists are not all that well versed in substance abuse. And complicating this is the under-reporting issue desuetude refers to. I've witnessed many a well-meaning psychologist inadvertently derailing someone's recovery by *helping* them figure out why they drink, or dealing with their wife, mother, job, sexuality, or self-esteem issues while never suggesting quitting the booze. Or worse, adding medication to the mix.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:20 AM on February 3, 2006

I think one issue about the 'self-medicating' aspect is what we mean by 'mental illness' - that depression and anxiety have become comfortably umbrella'd with schizophrenia and serious mental disorders is understandable but not really intuitive - we used to call the former nervous & melancholy, and the latter insane. Nervous and melancholy types can be perfectly 'normal' people - their 'disorders' are sort of a part of their (our) personalities.
Anyway, my drinking family members have certainly also had mood issues, but none of them are currently on meds or in therapy either. There are lots of ways to categorize and deal with these issues, and I think anon gets a good taste of many different angles in this thread. Some people stick very close to the medical and professional attitudes and standards - once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic; there is no cure; get help; etc. Others find that they can remap their attitudes and behaviors, that the definitions are less absolute.

Like I said, I have at least two family members who at one time were the former, fully gave up alcohol, attended meetings, etc, who now do not consider themselves alcoholics. One of them is an enthusiastic person and really got into AA/NA at the time (also at a fairly young age, after heavy substance abuse); that person is now in a healthy relationship and drinks moderately with no issues (that I know of) & never uses drugs anymore. The other was convinced (much later in life) by other people to get help for a classic liquor addiction, and gave up drinking for a few years, but eventually decided it wasn't really a problem. That person now drinks fairly heavily and many people still think that one's an alcoholic.

So working out whether you can honestly change your relationship to something or whether you are just making excuses to relapse is important. It's also important to determine what is acceptable to you as a lifestyle - some people think it's normal to drink every day, some people don't. Some people think having a blackout here or there is no big deal; others think that's a sign of danger. Some people think their life will be meaningless if they don't achieve (x); others just want to have fun...

Basically, I would say you have to do some honest reflection. what do you want to do with your life? How do you intend to achieve it? Is drinking keeping you from getting anywhere? I recently rented a room from a guy who drank a lot and I couldn't help noticing that although he was around my age, his sense of where he was going was totally a blur. whether that's cause or effect of his drinking (or unrelated) is unclear, but give yourself the chance, at least, to really see where you are, who you are, where you're headed - stop drinking for a designated period of time and work out what you really think about it all.
posted by mdn at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2006

I'm looking back at this post after several months, and I'm really surprised by the resistance to my statements. I said that most problem drinkers have an underlying mental illness. I hardly need to back it up; the literature's overflowing with demonstrations of this, unless you're one of those people who believe there's no such thing as "mental illness."

Languagehat says, "Don't hang out with many drinkers, do you?" Well, I've met drinkers, and then I've met problem drinkers. The difference, in my experience, has been the presence versus the absence of mental illness.

Why do I recommend a psychiatrist? Well, doctors do different specialty training. I'm a neurologist; I can treat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, stroke. Cardiologists can treat heart disease. Urologists specialize in operating on the bladder and kidney and etc.

Psychiatrists are all trained, during their residencies, to help people who are problem drinkers. The subspecialty is called "addiction medicine." For someone who's in the medical system, it's a no brainer. You send someone with tuberculosis to the pulmonologist; you send someone with the disease called "alcoholism" to the psychiatrist.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:37 AM on November 3, 2006

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