I have a drinking problem. Now what?
December 3, 2007 3:48 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend says that she's going to leave me at the end of the week if I don't attempt to seek help for my drinking problem. Now what?

To put it in perspective, I don't know if she'll actually leave me, but she's obviously doing a good job at expressing the fact that she's at her wits end.

I guess I do have a drinking problem, yeah. However, I'm totally in the stage where I'd rather just ignore it and carry on with my life. Is that what's best for me? Probably not, and I know that.

I'm successful in my career, and alcohol isn't interfering with that. My finances are a little bit messed up, but they're getting better and booze isn't the direct cause.

I'm a 28 year old male. I started binge drinking when I was in college. Now that I've been out of college, I still continue to binge (with my friends) about once/week. Sometimes a little bit less. I go out to the bar, and I'm not having a good time until I've had about 4 beers. From there, I'm incapable of stopping. I drink and drink and drink until the sun comes up or we run out of booze. As the years go by, it's getting worse and worse.

My girlfriend is worried about me (understandably so) because of risks that I take when I'm drunk. I get rides from strangers, I end up in strange places with people that I don't know. A few months ago, no one could find me for a few hours because I'd passed out in a neighbor's yard on my walk home. The latest incident, this past Saturday night, I ended up ditching friends to hang out with a stranger. My phone was off so no one could find me, but my girlfriend got in touch with my friends who told her that I'd left the party more than an hour ago. Essentially, I was missing. This is not uncommon.

So, yeah, I have a problem. I know it. I don't really want to stop drinking. Scratch that. I can't bear the thought of having to quit drinking. I keep thinking that if I can just learn to ride the buzz after a few drinks then I'll be fine. So far, that hasn't been possible. As soon as I start drinking I have no off switch.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I just get it into my head that I'm going to binge, and then I do so. At work and family functions, I'm always totally ok to go out and just have a drink or two. It's when I'm with my friends, where binging is acceptable, that I lose control.

These aren't just drinking buddies. They are my dearest friends from way back, and not hanging out with them anymore isn't an option. And it's not just their fault. If there's a band playing in town on a Saturday night, and friends don't want to come with me, I'll go out and binge by myself and end up hanging out with strangers. They're not as bad as me, by the way. They tell me that I drink too much too.

I'm very busy with work during the week, and taking a few hours off to go to a therapist is extraordinarily inconvenient. I might be able to find someone in the evening, but I dunno. This whole thing is a serious blow to my ego. I pride myself of being able to "work hard and play hard." That sounds lame, I know, but I guess what I'm saying is that I hope that moderation is somehow an option.

Where do I start? What do I do? Has anyone had success with learning how to drink in moderation? I don't feel AT ALL ready to just walk into an AA meeting ... that sounds like hell.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (118 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want to stop drinking? If you do, then power to you. I hope you get yourself the help you need, and quit. If you don't, then do your girlfriend a favour and let her get you out of her life. It's very selfish of you to continually put her in the situations you're putting her in.
posted by Rabulah at 3:57 PM on December 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

However, I'm totally in the stage where I'd rather just ignore it and carry on with my life.

That complicates things, because you pretty much have to want to cut back or stop altogether before actually doing it. So until you want to, you're going to have to find a girlfriend who doesn't mind it when you pass out in the neighbor's yard. Good luck with that.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:00 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

You seem to have made it clear that your girlfriend will leave you unless you get help. You've also made it clear that there are certain forms of help that you don't want to explore. If those are the forms of help that your girlfriend is talking about, then by not exploring them, you run the risk of losing her. If you value your relationship with her you should swallow your pride and get some professional help.
posted by inconsequentialist at 4:01 PM on December 3, 2007

If you need to drink to have fun something else is fundamentally wrong and you do need help. You girlfriend cares enough about you to put up with this so far, you are a lucky man. Your friends, while they may be ones you've had all your life, are not helping. Go hang with them somewhere else then a bar, away from alcohol. You're already on the road to liver failure and several other problems, turn back now.

In Brief: Go see a therapist, get into AA, and grow the hell up.
posted by Derek at 4:01 PM on December 3, 2007 [9 favorites]

"My girlfriend says that she's going to leave me at the end of the week if I don't attempt to seek help for my drinking problem. Now what?"

Now what? That depends. Do you love her? If so, then the answer to "now what" is "seek help like she has asked."

But I suspect that you do not love her, since apart from a cursory mention, you talk more about your love of alcohol and your friends than you do your partner.

Either way though, I do think you should consider seeking help. I like a drink here and there too, but I don't binge drink and neither do most functioning people. Also, if you need alcohol to be around your friends, and you're all around the age of 28, then perhaps these people aren't actual friends. Friends are people you can get drunk with and hang out sober with. And when these people are telling you you're drinking too much, then its probably true and you should take that on board.

My point is, you're obviously very good at your job, and you take pride in that, but alcohol is ruining all other parts of your life, and that's a problem. Like alcohol is fine, but as with most things in life, moderation is the key. It's not just an option, as you hope, it's an actual possibility. But to reach it you'll need to take as much pride in yourself as you do in being good at your job. And if this means leaving an hour or two early from work one or two nights a week, then so be it. Any employer who dosen't understand that this is something you need to do for your own health is not worth working for.

People following me in this thread will provide you with some places you can seek help. Follow these options for your own sake.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:03 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Rabulah hits it from the point. The fact that you don't want to stop drinking because of what you get from it is the first sign. The fact that you're so self-involved that you couldn't take time off (Damnit, sacrifice a lunch break every other week!) to see a therapist is a bad sign.

The fact that you define it as 'bad' yet can't control it should be a clue.

Look at your own words, man. Step out of your self, step out of your head, and look at them from the point of view of a neutral observer. You're making excuses for yourself. Your friends are worried, your girlfriend's about to see you -- but it's too 'inconvenient' or you wouldn't 'have a good time' or a dozen other excuses. Just look at that.

But here's the point: You have a choice to make. Keep your girlfriend and get help for your drinking. Or get the hell out of your girlfriend's life and stop making her miserable.

From that decision point, how you do it is going to be important for you. Don't do AA, you don't see a problem yet and your peer group won't be at those meetings. I'd find a psychologist first.

Either way, find help -- if not for your drinking, but so that you're in control of yourself.
posted by SpecialK at 4:04 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

First off, it's totally your choice if your girlfriend leaves you or not, you're an adult person. However, your whole "gee what can you do" question here seems to make every plausible option impossible. The big deal with alcoholics is that no one else can tell them what to do. It's an extraordinarily narcissistic disorder/problem/ailment whatever you want ot call it, in that people outside fo your own habit literally do not matter. If you make the decision to do something about your drinking, you need to make it for you, not make it for your girlfriend and then blame her when you're unhappy.

I grew up in a family with one functioning alcoholic and one adult child of alcoholic enabler and as far as I'm concerned there was no reasonable adult in my family most of the time. It was a horror. So, that's my angle, but that doesn't have much to do with you.

To your question about moderation, it really depends. Usually the way to figure out is you QUIT first, then you ease back. Continuing to drink gets you into the whole "bargaining with yourself" arena and that never works well when you're already drinking. I've had a difficult relatonship with alcohol my whole life, but I drink moderately sometimes, heavily sometimes, other times not at all. However, and this is important, it's not as important to me as friends, my SO, my job, money or anything else, ever. It's not the boss of me. This is visible through word and deed, and that to me is important.

So you have some steps to take

1. decide if you want to quit or cut back, and set goals [i.e. by Valentine's Day I wont be drinking more than _________]
2. decide if you want to do this with your girlfriend's help or without it (sometimes a supportive partner is a good idea). Can she go with you out with eyour buddies? To an AA meeting? Help you line up a therapist? Realy if she's threatening to leave you it doesn't matter if she does leave you or not, trust is eroded and messed up, that's not at all cool.
3. decide what to do about your friends - no one is saying ditch them but if you want to help yourself and they don't want to see you change, you're in a bind. Has anyone else ever gone sober, or even a little more sober? What happened?
4. decide what other help you want. I see you talking yourself out of a therapist and AA. Without too much of a tough love speech this is how all addicts deal with cleaning up, it's always harder to go straight than stay fucked up unless you've hit the proverbial rock bottom.

This whole thing is a serious blow to my ego.

It's possible that an ego approach might help here. Look at yourself in the mirror and say "I'm going to lose my excellent girlfriend because I insist on binge drinking with my friends or with strangers." Maybe thats okay with you. Continuing to be an alcoholic, while unhealthy for various reasons is totally an options, just like smoking or whatever. However, if you're already having questions about its usefulness in your life, if you like your girlfriend and would like her to stay, and if there are other things you'd like to do instead of getting very seriously lose-yourself drunk, figure out what those things are and move towards them. You can do it the way you want to, within reason, but you have to want to first and I'm not even sure you're there yet. MeFiMail if you want to chat more.
posted by jessamyn at 4:04 PM on December 3, 2007 [10 favorites]

A couple's therapist once told me, "When someone thinks they're being assertive and they're drinking, they're likely aggressive." She also refused to work with my ex-husband until he went to AA concurrently.

People who have a drinking problem tend to have emotional distance issues, judgment issues, etc. that cause problems way before they get fired at work.

So, you don't think/recognize that you have a problem and you like drinking more than you like your girlfriend. If you're fine with that, do nothing and let her leave. She's better off and you'll have a chance to hit bottom.
posted by Gucky at 4:04 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Look, you're an addict, and you're making excuses. You're at a crossroads: when it comes to a woman that you presumably love, and alcohol, which will you choose?

I wish you luck.
posted by sugarfish at 4:05 PM on December 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

Don't know about others, but AA - for the religious angle - ain't my bag.

Two things struck me from your post -

I go out to the bar, and I'm not having a good time until I've had about 4 beers. From there, I'm incapable of stopping. I drink and drink and drink until the sun comes up or we run out of booze. As the years go by, it's getting worse and worse.

I'm not a doctor or anything, but I am an expert on addiction and a veteran of alcohol abuse. You should realize the fact, and I don't mean this facetiously, that if this keeps up, you are going to die. Alcohol will kill you. So when you say,

However, I'm totally in the stage where I'd rather just ignore it and carry on with my life,

the truth is that isn't even an option.

Even if it is inconvenient, I would recommend seeing a therapist about it. Many of them work in the evening, specifically to see clients such as yourself.

This whole thing is a serious blow to my ego. I pride myself of being able to "work hard and play hard." That sounds lame, I know, but I guess what I'm saying is that I hope that moderation is somehow an option.

Wow, do I understand this part for sure. It isn't a negative reflection upon you that an addictive and dangerous drug is doing it's work upon you. The only negative reflection would be refusing to do anything about it.

Cheers, and good luck
posted by Cycloptichorn at 4:06 PM on December 3, 2007 [5 favorites]

One thing that might help is to leave your credit cards at home and take enough money (+ tip) for all the drinks you plan to have that evening (decide when you're sober). Then there is no way to go over your limit. Caveat is that others could buy you drinks but you can tell your friends ahead of time not to. Over time your body (and mind) will know when you reach that limit and you'll just stop.

Also figuring out what kinds of alcohol send you over that limit will help. For e.g. I can drink a lot of martinis and not know my limit. But with beer, I get full so that keeps me well paced.

Third suggestions to make it a habit to order drink + glass of water, ALWAYS. That will slow your pace down enough that you can make a better call to pass on that nth drink.

good luck.
posted by special-k at 4:08 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's a little unfortunate you opted to post this question anonymously, because it serves as a great platform for people to lecture you regarding "what the fuck your problem is" or "what dark road you are headed down". If you're living in the LA area and actually looking for somebody to listen without passing judgment, shoot me an email.
posted by phaedon at 4:09 PM on December 3, 2007

jeez Derek--this is an illness, not a case of immaturity.

I feel for you, my friends had some similar problems, though they didn't need help to stop. Its really tough to be a normal guy and quit drinking altogether. Once you've quit, you're in your own world. I mean think about it (DEREK)--just about any time anyone wants to do anything with anyone else, drinking is involved. of course for everyone else, its a few drinks and go home. For you, its a worm hole.
You basically have 2 options--stop altogether or try in vain to drink in moderation. My friend did this 2nd route. man is it tough. you'll spend the whole time you're out thinking about how many drinks you've had, how close you are to "the edge", how drunk you are already.. its really not fun.
I'd say, just stop. at least for awhile. that probably means not going out a lot of the time. bring your girl when you do go out, and just do it for her.
As for whether you need help, i personally would guess you could stop on your own. but it may take a while, and its only a guess.
posted by alkupe at 4:09 PM on December 3, 2007

It seems like you don't really regard your drinking as a problem, or at least, not as a serious problem. As such, I think of chances of it just resolving itself are pretty minimal.

Figure out what you value more, your good times boozing or your good times with the girlfriend. If you prefer the former, keep boozing. If you value your girlfriend's company more, then seek therapy or a support group. And find ways to go out with your friends that are entirely, completely sober events.

Of course, there's a chance she's bluffing and won't actually leave, but that's out of your control.

Don't assume that AA is your only option. In terms of support groups, there are secular groups, such as SOS, that don't insult your intelligence by saying you need "submit to a higher power" to drink less.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:10 PM on December 3, 2007

It is very likely that everybody who has walked into an AA meeting before you feels exactly the same way you do now. It sucks, but you are already starting to feel the friction between drinking and everything else. You've accepted the price to play up until now (hangovers, going missing, $$, fights w/gf or others, having to do damage control), but now it seems to be increasing, compounded by a lengthening history of events and drunken stories. Try AA, books, church, The Big Book, The Little Book*, family, friends, hotlines, AskMetafilter**...basically keep trying stuff and stick to the things that seem to be working and/or lead you towards solutions and personal growth, even if that progress is uncomfortable, expensive, inconvenient, or whatever other excuses you throw in your path. The alternative is worse, and you're starting to experience what that looks like. Believe it.

I wish you the best of luck and lots of encouragement.

*Can't remember if it was actually called "The Little Book", but it's a nonreligious alternative to "The Big Book".
**Done! Yay!

posted by iamkimiam at 4:11 PM on December 3, 2007

I'm very busy with work during the week, and taking a few hours off to go to a therapist is extraordinarily inconvenient.

Extraodinarily inconvenient? As inconvenient as it would be to fucking die?

I'm not being melodramatic here, and I'm usually not one to agree with the support-group advocates, but you sound like you have a serious problem. You're putatively an adult, but you're incapable of stopping drinking until "the booze runs out," you're disappearing with strangers for entire evenings, and you're falling unconscious outdoors your way home.

This is not the behavior of someone who kinda drinks too much. This is the behavior of someone with a siginificant substance-abuse problem, and you need to take care of your problem before it takes care of you. If you can't bring yourself to go to AA, then that means getting a therapist who has experience dealing with substance abuse issues despite how "inconvenient" you think that might be.
posted by dersins at 4:11 PM on December 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

As I was reading your description of your behavior, I kept thinking about how easy it would be, for someone who was so inclined, to take you captive in your vulnerable state and kill you, quickly or horribly. Maybe I read too many true crime blogs, which on some level you must know. but really: how can you ask anyone to love you, which includes caring and worrying about you, when you routinely put yourself in such dangerous situations? If you want to keep binge drinking, do the girl a favor and break up with her now. If you want to keep the girl, you must stop drinking. Although you think you can control it, that's a trick of the substance and not the reality.
posted by Scram at 4:12 PM on December 3, 2007

Now what?

Get your ass in therapy and AA, before you make a big mess.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:12 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

- you can't control your drinking once you start to binge
- you've tried to cut down on your drinking and failed
- your friends are seriously concerned about your drinking
- you know that your drinking has caused problems in your life but you can't bear the thought of quitting drink
That qualifies as a serious problem (aka alcoholism).

Where do you start? Start with recognizing that you are not able to control your drinking by yourself - you need help. Your choice is to stop pretending and seek help now or wait until things get even worse.

Since you realize you have a problem but aren't quite ready to do something about it, the next step may be to work with a therapist to build your commitment to face your problem. And, yes, of course therapists have evening hours.
posted by metahawk at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I used to drink a lot. There was no such thing as just one. Had to finish all the alcohol and then be inventive about finding more. This stopped working for me a long long time ago, but about two years ago I decide to quit. Drank up big new year's eve and embarrassed myself(so what else is new) and decided to take a year off drinking. One year - how hard could that be? The first three months were a little difficult, sometimes all I could think about was drinking. I didn't stop going the places I used to, and if my friends drank, I drank something soft. I discovered how excrutiatingly boring they are drunk (likewise I'm sure). After a year, I reintroduced alcohol. I made deals with myself (eg 1/2 a bottle max) and kept them. I refused to buy alcohol if I was in the mindframe of "I really really really want this."

It's pretty much working for me now. I drink maybe once every two months, and never to excess. But, I can still feel that desire to drink to oblivion. I suspect it will never go away.

So, basically, the other aspects of my life turned out to be more important than the drinking side of things. But you'll never know unless you take a break, will you? Also, seriously, try and find a healthier hobby. I took up studying. I enjoy it and can't do it pissed. Maybe you're bored.
posted by b33j at 4:16 PM on December 3, 2007 [10 favorites]

Rational Recovery is an alternative approach for those who want to quit drinking.
posted by paulsc at 4:16 PM on December 3, 2007

Your girlfriend obviously loves you a lot. You routinely engage in self-destructive behavior and your buddies are apparently oblivious to the fact that their influence on you is putting you in serious danger. She seems like the only one in the situation who's seriously looking down the road and trying to do right by you. Even if that means leaving you.

Think about that for a bit. How hard must that be for her?

You're going to wind up doing what you're going to wind up doing. My suspicion is that 10-15 years from now, when you're greasy and fat, with bad teeth and a perpetual hangover, when all your dreams and possibilities have faded into regret and when drinking is no longer fun but a way to keep that regret at arms length, when your buddies have wives and kids and invite you over for dinner once a month or so but make sure that you're in a cab on the way home before you start saying embarrassing shit, only then will you realize how much she loved you. You'll dig up her phone number and call. She'll tell you about her life, her kids, her husband. She'll be kind to you, ask how you're doing, and talk to you as long as you need to. And after you hang up the phone, you're going to cry your eyes out. And then you'll need a drink.

The life you're living won't last forever. That's what she's trying to tell you, painful as that might be. You're either going to hear the message and make hard choices now, or you're going to make them later. The question is, how much are you willing to lose in the meantime?
posted by felix betachat at 4:17 PM on December 3, 2007 [33 favorites]

Sounds like one of my college roommates. He died of liver failure at 42.
posted by mss at 4:18 PM on December 3, 2007

From there, I'm incapable of stopping…I can't bear the thought of having to quit drinking…As soon as I start drinking I have no off switch.

I.E., You're an alcoholic. These are textbook definitions. I think you know this already.

You haven't hit rock bottom yet. Your girlfriend hasn't left you, your friends haven't started avoiding you, and you haven't gotten rolled by someone who knew they could take advantage of you.

So, you can keep things up and wait until you hit rock bottom, you can keep things up and hope that you never do hit rock bottom, or you can use that hypertrophic frontal cortex that evolution has blessed you with to take control of your life and quit drinking. You don't need to see a therapist, or join AA, or Get Right With God, you just need to not drink. I've had friends who recognized they had this problem and stopped drinking altogether without any outside help. One of these friends, after about ten years of complete abstention, had worked through enough negative shit in her life to start drinking responsibly, but I think that's a rare case.

Has anyone had success with learning how to drink in moderation?

You know, there was this organization called Mindful Moderation or something like that, that existed as an alternative to AA, and one of their principles was that alcoholics could reform and drink in moderation. Then the founder got drunk, got in her car, and killed a family. I'm just sayin'.
posted by adamrice at 4:19 PM on December 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

No offense to special-k, but I think his/her tips aren't really helpful. It's pretty clear that for you, getting plastered is the goal when you go out to "drink a few beers" and planning ahead in this fashion is not going to help, and is not going to address the fundamental issue of alcohol addiction.

Part of the problem is that it sounds like you don't *always* binge, which makes it seem like you can control it. But it may not always be this way, and in any case your drunken behavior, even if it is intermittent, is not exactly the sort of thing you should be getting involved in.

If getting in touch with your friends is so important, perhaps you can do it at a time when drinking would be fairly unlikely -- say Sunday morning at 11 am. Meet up for an activity that doesn't lend itself well to drinking lots, like jogging or playing basketball or something else relatively athletic (obviously, bowling does not count).
posted by Deathalicious at 4:20 PM on December 3, 2007

So, yeah, I have a problem. I know it. I don't really want to stop drinking. Scratch that. I can't bear the thought of having to quit drinking. I keep thinking that if I can just learn to ride the buzz after a few drinks then I'll be fine. So far, that hasn't been possible. As soon as I start drinking I have no off switch.

Yes, you have a problem: you're a fucking alcoholic. Your post reeks of the classic excuses given by addicts. You're ruining your life and the life of your girlfriend. With any luck she'll have the brains to get as far away from you and your selfish behavior as possible.

Moderation is NOT an option for people like you. You absolutely know that--it's obvious from your post.

Quit now, immediately, this instant, cold turkey, before you wake up 50, more fucked than you are now, surrounded by children and family who hate your guts and do their futile damnedest to avoid becoming like you.
posted by dobbs at 4:20 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Reaching out for advice here is a good place to start.

I would bet that these close friends would be 100% supportive of any initiative you take to stop, or moderate your drinking, and if they don't it's time to find new friends anyways.

This goes without saying, but alcohol can and will destroy your life if you let it. Sure, you're successful and busy now, but keep up this lifestyle and you could be holding a sign asking for spare change in 15 years.
posted by jazzman at 4:21 PM on December 3, 2007

you'd find time for a therapist if you really wanted to stop drinking, but you don't, so being busy is a good excuse. i'm sorry if that sounds cruel, but it is what it is.

if you're not willing to stop, then be man enough to let her go so she can get on with her life and find someone she doesn't have to worry about turning up dead in a ditch every weekend. again, sorry if it sounds harsh, but if you're going to take yourself down, don't take her with you.

is your drinking worth more to you than she is? maybe right now it is. only you can know that.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:23 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Having been in a relationship with a man who pretty much sounds exactly like you, I just want to say that if you're not ready to get your drinking to a level she is okay with (whether that means no booze at all, or just no crazy drunken disappearances), please please please just let her go. I've been through this whole song and dance, and it is hellish, emotionally-draining, and completely heart-breaking. Like you, my bf liked drinking and thought he could just moderate it. Since I enjoyed drinking myself, I didn't feel like I could just ask him to stop completely. So he "tried" to moderate his drinking... only beer tonight, no more than three drinks, leave before midnight, etc. But every time, he ended up completely wasted, no matter what, and it just ruined me and us, over and over and over, and I kept trying to deal with it because I loved him and wanted things to be okay. So many stupid, wasted nights of worrying and crying and feeling completely miserable and betrayed.

So, please, do not string her along, do not keep making promises and then breaking them, do not tell her what she wants to hear and then turn around and break her heart all over again. It is a shitty game to play, so don't put her through that. If you want to keep drinking, be honest about that. It doesn't make you a bad person, it just means you two really shouldn't be in a relationship anymore.
posted by kerfuffled at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2007 [8 favorites]

Choosing not to clean things up now is a clear choice to let things get a lot worse. You've got a nice fork in the road right now. Your choices from here on in won't be so pleasant.

I pride myself of being able to "work hard and play hard."
You know the drinking is easy, right? Choosing to quit now will be really hard work. How about that? Are you up to it? Think you can do it?
posted by cocoagirl at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Moderation is an option ONLY if you can absolutely quite drinking after two or three drinks, and then switch to Diet Pepsi, no matter what your buddies say.

I have seen people in your situation who woke up and were able to do that. But if there is no off switch, you won't be able to.

I also had a friend who found himself not remembering what he did the night before, and therefore instructed himself to quit, cold turkey, end of story. He did it. He never touched another drop. He could go out with all his old buddies and stick with the Diet Pepsi. In other words, he avoided having to find the off switch by deciding never to flip the on switch. It can be done.

The only point of therapy and twelve-step is to bring you to exactly that same decision. So, you can just find the strength to make the decision by yourself (with your GF's support), or you can go into an AA program and/or therapy and have them help you get there.

All other options lead to: loss of GF, and eventually loss of job. Figure it out.
posted by beagle at 4:34 PM on December 3, 2007

Whether or not YOU can tolerate your drinking habits, your GIRLFRIEND cannot. The cost of drinking is losing your girlfriend. The cost of having your girlfriend is to moderate your drinking. Which is the higher cost to you? Keep in mind that the longer you lead this lifestyle, the less chance you'll have of getting a decent girlfriend who will put up with this stuff. You will tend to attract skanks and girls with a rescue complex that will drive you crazy.
posted by desjardins at 4:35 PM on December 3, 2007

Others have said it, and I'll say it, too.

No one becomes a catastrophic drunk overnight. They get on the train when they are young, and ride it until the end. I've seen it with several family members, and friends, and I see it with you.

At least you are honest enough to say you don't want to stop drinking. But it is very likely going to cost you at least your girlfriend, and probably more.

There is a point you will get to where you are no longer willing to pay the price to drink. But it may take quite a while and lots of lost friends, cars, money etc.. to get there.

I would urge you to stop drinking. But it's your life, and I'm a random jackass on the internets.

I'm not trying to be all down on you, but the magic 8-ball says "outlook not so good". I wish you luck, man.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

By any reasonable definition you are an alcoholic and your drinking will continue, I would predict, if you seek only limited out patient treatment at this time. The predictable course is deteriorating intimate relationships, isolation from friends, increasing financial problems, job loss, severe health crises, and repeated unsuccessful attempts at sobriety.. This will be accompanied by increasing depression, anxiety and alcohol dependence and tolerance ( accompanied by self loathing/disgust/total denial). Following a visit to an ER for an alcohol related crisis, an intervention by friends, or a mandate from an employer you will end up in either an inpatient or residential program which may help.
If you want to salvage your health, girlfriend and life I would suggest you do the following ASAP:

Go to an AA meeting tomorrow and every night for 3 months.

See a psychiatrist who is Board Certified (or experienced) in addiction medicine. The odds are you have a concomitant mood or anxiety disorder which will respond very favorably to medication. There are also a variety of new medicines to help manage drinking. Do not dismiss the importance of this.

If your life is unimaginable without drinking and your drinking buddies (friends or strangers) your life is most likely already significantly unmanageable.

My very best wishes
posted by rmhsinc at 4:41 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

1.Therapy. You're an adult but are willing to lose your girlfriend because you can't make an appointment? That should hurt your pride more. A real man, an adult, would step up.

2. Different AA groups are different. Some are very religioussy, some not. If you end up trying one, don't be turned off if the first one is quite religious. Try a few more near you.

3. Picture your life in ten years. Is part of that vision you with a stable partner, with kids who are happy and don't have a dad who routinely blacks out and parties with strangers? Some part of you has probably always thought this work-hard-play-hard thing was a phase of life that you would eventually grow out of. Now is the time to grow out of it. Again, your pride can help here.

4. With any addiction or even very strong habit, remember that you are choosing to give in. You are choosing to have the first drink of the night, even though you know -- you know -- how things will turn out. You have the power not to take the first drink -- it's your free choice, every time. This is not scolding. This means you can stop.

Be honest with yourself. You know that once you get going, you can't stop. Once you get going you can't stop. Think about it. You are choosing, with full knowledge, to do this thing. Once you get going you can't stop. Really acknowledge this. The only thing you can do is choose not to get going. You can make that choice every time. You really do have the personal will to make that choice, the smarter choice, not to get going in the first place. It's the hardest thing in the world, every time, to make that smarter choice -- and the only way to quit is to keep doing it, making the smarter choice each time. But then again, each time, it's just the one choice: just don't drink today. There's no magic bullet for this. It's just making that choice this time, in the present moment, again and again.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:46 PM on December 3, 2007 [5 favorites]

Get ready either to say goodbye to your girlfriend, or to welcome her staying in her new role as an enabler.

You've got a problem. I say this even though you know it, because . . .

"I guess I do have a drinking problem, yeah."


"So, yeah, I have a problem. I know it."

. . . are among the weakest admission of a problem ever.

You can't control your drinking. You get rides with strangers and end up passed out in strange places for hours. You admit it's getting worse. Your value system is so screwed up that you somehow find therapy a bigger blow to your ego than being known as the lush who passes out in people's yards for hours. Pride yourself on working hard and playing hard all you want, but you're now on the downward slope. Losing your girlfriend is just the second step. (The first, to my mind, was losing your dignity.)

I applaud the fact that you don't try to con us into believing that you're ready to change. But the fact of the matter is, you're NEVER going to be able to control your drinking in the situations you describe. The only recourse is not to drink at all, and if you can't manage that with your dear friends, it's time for new friends. But this advice will fall on deaf ears, since you acknowledge you're not even close to being there yet.

Kerfuffled's advice is excellent. Don't let your own illness and bad choices drag someone else down. Have at least that little bit of dignity. This sentence . . .

"Is that what's best for me? Probably not, and I know that."

. . . say it all. You're not making choices that are good for yourself; you're making bad choices to your own detriment. You're surely in no position to make someone else happy. So let the girl go.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:47 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dude, you've got to make the classic choice of "Give it up or let me go."

And since the answers here are well considered and well stated, I'll just say this regarding your attitude of moderation; You're beyond it.

It's guys like you who die suddenly and sadly, in their prime, before they really had a chance to do great things. If that's ok with you, then perhaps trying a moderate approach is an acceptable risk.

It it were me, then no.
posted by SlyBevel at 4:50 PM on December 3, 2007

Also, don't exaggerate in your mind what AA meetings are like. "My idea of hell"? Why? It's just a group of people, from various walks of life, with a pot of cheap coffee and some folding chairs. You don't have to talk if you don't want to. Other people will talk; they'll talk about things that happened to them while drinking. Some will have stories that seem much worse than yours, but some of your stories would earn you some good points at meetings I've been to. It's just people telling stories for an hour or less. You can put up with this. It's free. It's interesting. You're free to take the stuff that works from it. It might help, why not give it a shot?
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2007

I've been the girlfriend who temporarily lost a loving boyfriend because I was too self-absorbed with my own problems and didn't seek help for a long time. I thought I could do it myself. I was draining him. I lashed out on him and I lost him for two months. I sought therapy, and while it wasn't easy, it was necessary. I'm now doing a lot better, and I have my boy back.

Please, don't do this to your girlfriend. She is expending a LOT of energy on you, don't make yourself a waste of energy. I've been there, it SUCKS. Get therapy NOW. It's not inconvenient, they're usually open to working out a suitable time for you. Get into some sort of alcohol rehab. I lived in a college filled with alcoholics. This is typical alcoholism.

Please. Get help now.
posted by divabat at 4:54 PM on December 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

You seem to be really adamant about dealing with this on your own, so I think you should tell your girlfriend and your friends that you are giving alcohol up for the next 6 months, just to see what life is like without it. You may find it hard but once you get past a certain point, who knows, you may not even miss it. If it works out and you don't find yourself fiending, perhaps you can reintroduce moderate alcohol consumption at a special occasion once/month or something like that. If that doesn't go well, quit again, but for good.

This is kind of random, but it seems like you enjoy the adventure that goes along with drinking with your buddies - staying out til the sun comes up, hanging out with strangers, having crazy stories to tell, ending up god-knows-where. This stuff is definitely exciting. Maybe you should take up a high-adrenaline activity like skydiving, scuba diving, or rock climbing/hiking to replace the kicks you get from your binge-drinking adventures.

Good luck.
posted by infinityjinx at 5:02 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hope that some of the advice here is helpful, and I also hope that even asking the question here signifies more of a desire to change than some of your words do.

You have a disease. A fatal disease. Untreated, it will kill you. The treatment's a bitch, but you're a tough guy. There are, at least, multiple treatments available, and you have the resources to get them. Your girlfriend would like you to do something about it, because she knows it will kill you, and make her extraordinarily unhappy in the meantime. You don't have to struggle with it on your own - there are trained professionals, in your town even, along with support groups of survivors, or medications - that can help you with it. You don't have to keep living in the midst of your disease, but you do have to want to do something about it.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:05 PM on December 3, 2007

Pogo_Fuzzybutt has nailed it. I've been you, and what he says it 100% correct. You sound full of bravado so you will probably shed this girlfriend, maybe a couple more beyond that, a few jobs, maybe a few friends. Eventually you'll get that kick up the arse that failing health and no-longer-enjoyable-lifestyle delivers but from the swagger of your post it seems a long, long way away. It's hard to give something up when you feel you are getting away with it, and in that respect I feel for you and understand your predicament. Your lifestyle is clearly out of control but at the same time nobody is really being hurt, are they?

Most of what is said in this thread will wash over you, but hopefully some of it will ring true when the "time" comes. It sounds like your drinking means more than your current girlfriend, and that's fair enough for now - but you're on a very dangerous path. Good luck.
posted by fire&wings at 5:08 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Expanding on my original post, it's perfectly OK for you to drink yourself into a stupor every night of the week. It really is. It's your life, and you've gotta do with it whatever you see fit. You make the choices in your life, which makes it your responsibility. If you want to binge drink every night of the week and die before your 40th birthday, power to you. I wish you well with that.

However, you're in a relationship with someone. This could be parent, child, whatever. Which means you have a certain amount of responsibility to them, too. If you don't want to hurt that person, either a] change your life to stop them from being hurt (in so far as you changing is going to prevent that) or b] do them a favour & cut them out of your life.

Fucking yourself over is one thing. It's quite another to do it to someone else.
posted by Rabulah at 5:09 PM on December 3, 2007

The limiting factor here is, in the short term, not your capacity to drink. That limit comes later with liver problems and diabetes. Your limiting factor for the moment is cash.

So up the cost of your addiction.

A friend of mine puts aside an equivalent cost for every drink he buys for charity. This effectively doubles the cost of his drinking which leads him to cut down. He even has costs for drinks bought for him or offered at a party (I think it's 4$).

When he sat down and figured how much he was going to send off to charity (Child's Play), he was amazed at the amount. This has in turn made him more conscious of his drinking and more likely to turn down a drink or be happy with a few beers when previously he'd have a dozen.

This requires that you be true to yourself and the amounts that you end up owing. If you can't do that, then this won't work for you. But if you get your friends to accept this (tell them about the charity thing - they'll make you drink a bit "for the kids" but when those free beers add up, you'll be turning them down and they'll understand) and make it a point to not drink alone (no more going off with strangers), you can make a dent in your drinking.

There's even a role in here for your girlfriend - she can help with the accounting. Set up a Quicken-based tracking system so she can keep tabs on things. If you really trust her, she can hold the money, but I don't know if this is the best idea if you think (know) you may slip up. But then again, losing your girl and a hunk of cash may be the exact wake-up you need.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:09 PM on December 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

I believe iamkimaim is referring to the Small Book, by Jack Trimpey.
posted by sanko at 5:26 PM on December 3, 2007

I'm going to spare you my own tale, and just be blunt:

Ya know what? It's time for you to quit being such a goddamned mealy-mouthed coward.

You either quit for your girlfriend, or you suck it up, let her go, and drink yourself to a slow death. Personally, I don't care what you choose, and I've known people who have come down on both sides of that fence -- but I'm awfully damn tired of hearing fence-sitters whine about how it isn't fair that they have to choose. Aw, poor baby. Even before I changed my own mind on such things, even "back in the day," I hated people like you.

Quit trying to have it both ways. You can't -- she's told you that, and everything else you've written is a pathetic attempt to avoid making a hard choice. So grow a spine, face your decision like an adult, and quit trying to drag her down with you. That's what you're doing, by the way -- trying to make her suffer for your sins.

Yeah, yeah, "but". But nothing. Make your choice and live with it. Make no mistake, this is a choice you're making. Right. Now.

Count yourself fucking lucky someone was in your life who could point out what's happening before you found yourself lying on a streetcorner wondering if those sirens are coming for you, or if they're going to pass by while your life pours out on the sidewalk. If that's how you want to end, fine by me, but when it happens don't start whining about how nobody told you this would happen.
posted by aramaic at 5:34 PM on December 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

If you have time to wander around for hours drinking with strangers, then you have time for therapy.
posted by happyturtle at 5:39 PM on December 3, 2007 [5 favorites]

At work and family functions, I'm always totally ok to go out and just have a drink or two. It's when I'm with my friends, where binging is acceptable, that I lose control. These aren't just drinking buddies. They are my dearest friends from way back...

That's something to latch onto, if these people really are your dearest friends. Tell them, now, when sober, that you need to cut down on your drinking hard, because otherwise you're going to lose your girl and it'll only get worse from there. You can control yourself when social pressure helps you out - so tell them, with no equivocation, that you really really need them to be that social pressure.

Might work. Might not. But you'll find out pretty quickly if they really are your dearest friends.
posted by flashboy at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2007

My grandmother's name was Konolia. She was a drunk, to put it bluntly. I loved being around her when she was sober and I hated to be around her when she'd been drinking.

When my mom discovered her in bed dead (the second near relative my mom got to walk in on, o joy) the autopsy showed she had a tumor that no one knew she had. But the real truth is that it was the drinking that killed her. In her early fifties. This was a woman who should have lived decades more-her own mother lived to be 94 and lived independently for all but one or so of those years.

You need to ask yourself what it is you are selfmedicating. I know that's what I was doing when I drank (I did my share of binge drinking when I was in college.) I had to quit drinking totally because of an ulcer. I found out I could have fun without alcohol. You can too.

Don't do it for your girlfriend. Do it for YOU.
posted by konolia at 5:44 PM on December 3, 2007

My girlfriend says that she's going to leave me at the end of the week if I don't attempt to seek help for my drinking problem. Now what?...I'm not having a good time until I've had about 4 beers. From there, I'm incapable of stopping. I drink and drink and drink until the sun comes up or we run out of booze.

Now what?

Stop drinking, now, or lose her and perhaps more.

Dawn? This is not healthy. When you are this gone you need to go cold turkey. I don't think it needs to be permanent (although there is a rather militant contingent who would disagree with me on that) but at the very least you need a month or two off to get your mind right. Do it for you. Do it for her. Do it for your relationship. Mostly, do it for you. Good luck. Your attitude about loving the binge is a bad sign though. If you can't change that you probably need to give it up for good if you want to survive.

If you really can't cope without your "medicine" I recommend something different but less physically damaging, like a big bag of weed. Don't get caught though.

(and Konolia is right about the self medicating - that is your long term issue though, right now you just need to stop for a little while to assess where you are.)
posted by caddis at 5:46 PM on December 3, 2007

I have a brother-in-law who is a recovering alcoholic. His choice was to continue alcoholism or die, as his liver had ceased to function properly. He's 31, by the way.

You say you can't stand the thought of quitting. Look at it this way: if you don't moderate your intake now, there's a more than good chance that in under a decade, you won't be able to have alcohol again, ever. Isn't it worth it to scale back (say, once a month to start with, then actually learn how to drink responsibly), so that you can look forward to that one glass of fine red wine, or that awesome new boutique beer you've never had before, sometime after you hit 40?

Get help, also. Alcoholism, like any substance addiction, is hard to kick by yourself. Consider also changing the focus of your social activities. Not the people - just the time you spend with them.
posted by ysabet at 5:47 PM on December 3, 2007

I don't feel AT ALL ready to just walk into an AA meeting ... that sounds like hell.

Just curious, what do you think is a greater hell, sitting on the couch at 2 a.m., not knowing if your boyfriend is alive or dead, again, or sitting in the back of a church basement listening to people get their shit together.

Just realize that by not getting help, you are explicitly saying that your discomfort with seeking help is more important to you than eliminating the reoccurring terror you are putting her through.

It's your call, but if you're going to make that decision, at least be aware of it.
posted by ochenk at 5:50 PM on December 3, 2007 [6 favorites]

People here are over reacting.

Are people commenting here from London? It seems that half that city does what you do more than once a week. Have these people spent much time in Ireland?

Should you be binging as you are now, no, not really, you should find ways to drink less. Try interleaving drinks with one alcoholic, one soft. It will slow your drinking. Work on having as much fun with less booze.

Also, remember, that in the next couple of years the nasty hangover will rear it's head if it hasn't already. For some of us hangovers don't start until your mid 20s. They don't really kick in until you're 30. But they will come.

Does your GF drink?
posted by sien at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to call you a drunk; I'm not going to tell you you've got a 'problem' or a 'disease'; I'm not going to tell you to go to AA or whatever. I'm going to say this:

You're faced with an either|or choice, but you want it both ways. You don't seem to have learnt yet that sometimes that's just not possible - that, quite often, the universe and the people and things in it won't rearrange themselves to suit what you want.

So, as you yourself explained, it boils down to this:
Keep the girlfriend, or keep drinking. Choose.
posted by Pinback at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2007

The prob with robocop's comment is that it attempts to solve a moral and social problem with an economic incentive. That doesn't work for most people. In fact, one can easily find a way around it by suffering economically to absolve moral and social guilt (ie. literally paying for the "cost" of alcoholism with $$). Anoymous' problem is way beyond this. Please don't fall into the trap!

A great example of how this substitution works (er, actually doesn't work) can be found here, in an excerpt from the book Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:59 PM on December 3, 2007

Sorry robocop, I didn't mean to say "the problem with your comment..." That was lazy writing, and rather rude. I didn't mean it to come off that way.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:01 PM on December 3, 2007

Are people commenting here from London? It seems that half that city does what you do more than once a week. Have these people spent much time in Ireland?

Yes, I am. No they don't. No, they don't either.

I entirely agree that Americans have a funny relationship with booze, and far too many of them seem ready to over-react and scream "you have a drinking problem" if you order more than one glass of wine with dinner. This isn't one of those times. Habitually pulling all-nighters with strangers in search of booze is nothing like British drinking culture, and is a fairly clear sign of Potential Big Trouble Ahead.
posted by flashboy at 6:04 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

You know you should quit drinking, and you don't want to quit. That's actually normal for someone in your situation. Of course you don't want to quit.

You might decide to continue drinking -- and if you do, I hope you'll tell your girlfriend the truth about it, without excuses or waffling. Just, "I've thought about it, and I don't want to stop drinking. I don't want to go to counseling."

Addicts aren't good at relationships, because the drug is more important to them than anything else. If you can't quit alcohol, let your girlfriend go.
posted by wryly at 6:10 PM on December 3, 2007

Seconding the suggestion of Rational Recovery. It is a helpful book; it helped a relative of mine, whose bullshit meter is calibrated super high, to work out his own problem with binge drinking. It's not without fault, but it's a good alternative to support groups.

But you have to WANT to stop, for YOU. It can't be for anyone else. You may love your girlfriend very much, but if you do this for her you will resent her. And it won't work.

Alcoholism has much more to do with behavior problems than most people want to admit. People like to fall back on the disease model, to take the responsibility of stopping out of their hands. If you WANT to stop, for your OWN GOOD REASONS, you will find ways to do it. Recognizing what it is inside you that makes you drink is the first step.

Cutting back to drinking moderately works for some, but I'd recommend trying to cut it out completely, if you want to get control of it.
posted by Koko at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hey, it can't hurt for you to explore the issue, can it? You asked where to start (which is great). So here are some ideas:

1. Get a therapist in the evenings. They exist. You don't have to go in saying "I'm an alcoholic, help me quit drinking forever." You can go in saying "Friends of mine are concerned, so I'd like to talk about the issue." The therapist can then: A) Work with you on how you want to just "ride the buzz after a few drinks...so far, that hasn't been possible." Why hasn't that worked? What else could you try to make that work? Or is it truly not possible? B) Work with you on how "[you] just get it into [your] head that [you're] going to binge, and then [you] do so." Why do you decide? Could you decide to do something different? C) Discuss what you want to do about the concerns your girlfriend has. Quit? Drink in situations where it's safe? Find a girlfriend who doesn't mind? I'd encourage you to start this as soon as possible, knowing that it's going to take a while to really get anywhere with these discussions (and that your g'friend is at her wits' end already).

2. Tell your girlfriend exactly where you're at, so she can make an educated decision about whether she's willing to wait for the situation to change, or not. You don't see your drinking as quite the problem she does, and you should tell her that. In other words, don't mislead her as to the extent of your desire to change this. Encourage her to make a well-informed decision here. (For the alternative, see kerfuffled's comment).

Random semi-related anecdote. I once had a boyfriend quit drinking because I gave him an ultimatum. It sucked big-time: he still had all the underlying issues that made him want to drink, without the outlet of doing so. So he was angry and bitter a lot. Then he was mad at me for the ultimatum and blamed me for all the stress he felt. So, as much as people are saying "it's her or drinking, so just quit!" I'd say, even if you quit so she stays around, keep this a you vs. you issue and don't let it become a you vs. her issue. And realize that cold-turkey alone doesn't work for some people. The way drinking fits into people's lives is complex (like everything else). (Coincidentally, he was 28 at the time, too.)

3. Maybe have this same discussion with your long-time buddies. "What do YOU think about my drinking? Do you worry about me? Does my drinking ever make me do things that piss you off? I've been thinking I'd like to just ride the buzz, but it hasn't worked yet, can you tie me to my chair after three drinks so I don't keep drinking? Can you remind me not to go off with strangers?" Just get more information for yourself, and maybe their help for the future.
4. Try to hear other people's stories, particularly from people who ran into problems with alcohol (eg, at AA, or maybe on the internet). Just raise your awareness of how alcohol has fit in other people's lives. You can then use that to think about how it fits into your life. For example, maybe you'll learn red flags to avoid or act on ("what made the drinking turn bad for me was..." "I knew I needed to change when...").
5. There probably are blogs about alcohol moderation or drinking in a smart way or deciding how to deal with an alcohol problem. I got way smarter about my finances just by bookmarking six personal finance blogs and reading them every day; it was a pretty painless way to get myself consistently thinking about moving in the right direction. This alone probably won't help, but it can't hurt.

The choices aren't All vs. Nothing, so I'm glad to hear you're looking for ways to get started. There is a lot to be gained by at least exploring the issue. But since it's such an uphill battle, it's not going to sustain itself -- that's why you should try to build into your life things that will get you to revisit the issue on a regular basis (particularly a weekly therapy session). Since the "try not to binge" hasn't worked, and since "try harder" has never worked for anyone, you have to try something new. In my head, 1 & 2 are mandatory and 3-5 are just random other ideas that might help (but probably won't have a sustained influence if that's all you do). Best of luck.
posted by salvia at 6:43 PM on December 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

You've described severe alcoholism. You're missing the key ingredient that could allow you to get better: you stated clearly and eloquently, at least three times, in the strongest possible terms, that you do not want to stop drinking.

You will be a severe alcoholic until this changes and you decide that you want to stop drinking, or until you die of alcoholism. Tell your girlfriend she's wasting her time with you (she is), encourage her to break up with you, and head back out to the bar. Don't spend any more time or effort on this thread, as that's wasted too.

Come back when you hit rock bottom and you want to make a change, and ask again. You'll get advice you can use.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:51 PM on December 3, 2007 [8 favorites]

I was your age when I (more or less) quit for a year or two.

I suspect that what you're thinking about doing seems difficult and/or pointless. After all, you're not coming apart at the seams-- work is fine, your friends are still your friends, nothing bad has happened to you.

You should realize that life is a probabilistic exercise, though, and that you won't be able to do what you're doing without serious consequences forever. Shit catches up to you.

Find some joy outside the bottle. If your girl gives that to you, let her help you.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:53 PM on December 3, 2007

Wow, are you ever lucky. While you're killing yourself, poisoning your liver with alcohol, binge drinking so badly you pass out in random locations, end up with strangers, lose your judgment, you have people in your life who love you enough to try to get you to save your own life. Your girlfriend and your friends are there for you, maybe your family too.

If you keep drinking, you are likely to end up losing your girlfriend, your job, your friends, and eventually your life. AA has a bunch of annoying religious messages that you can accept or reject, but it can help you stop drinking.

You really, really like drinking. But you might really, really like being sober, and having a great life.
posted by theora55 at 7:11 PM on December 3, 2007

I promised myself that the next time I commented in an addiction related thread, I'd make mention of HBO's excellent Addiction series, and I'm sorry to have omitted it from my previous comment. It is a good resource for current thinking on addiction physiology and treatment, although it is heavily based on the disease theory of addiction.

You might want to watch the 9 minute episode "Topiramate: A Clinical Trial for Alcoholism" for information on a new drug for treating alcoholism, and "Steamfitters Local Union 638" for a discussion of an effective union operated rehab and follow up program for returning alcoholics to work, with a very good success rate. In contrast to ikkyu2's comment, the repeated message of medical personnel contributing to this series is that it is not necessary, or even advisable, that a person "hit bottom" before seeking treatment for addiction.

IANAD or an alcoholic, and all I know about addiction is what I learned on TV, at AlAnon (which you can recommend to your girl friend), and by cleaning up after drunks.
posted by paulsc at 7:13 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mod note: a few comments removed - answers that mainly berate the OP will be removed. Be cool, be helpful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 PM on December 3, 2007

My girlfriend says that she's going to leave me at the end of the week if I don't attempt to seek help for my drinking problem. Now what?
Now you seek help for your drinking problem.

God go with you, friend.
posted by waxbanks at 7:38 PM on December 3, 2007

SMART Recovery might be something for you to look into.

Moderation ideas include:

Leaving payment methods at home above and beyond what you plan to spend on alcohol.

Using a time-based system for when you can obtain another drink.

Only drinking after a certain hour of the evening.

But I think you'll have to break your tolerance way, way down first. Commit to your girl that you'll do a week on, and a week off, then two weeks off one week on, then three. The less you drink, the less you need to ingest to enjoy it, the healthier you'll be and the less dependent. I don't think you're a pathetic loser for having an addiction. Especially a fun one. But you need to be able to stop for any given period of time someone might challenge you to stop for. And you'll get some precious perspective once you do.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:57 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

SMART has online meetings. Why not commit to these, as a learning experience, with your gf by your side?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:08 PM on December 3, 2007

Dear anonymous, Why not try an AA meeting? I'm sure you don't want to think you have a problem but all signs point to that. I really wish you luck. I hope you don't have to hit bottom. I hope you can find some way to face your fears, whatever grief you're seeking to escape, anxieties, terrors even. I believe that's what's really going on. You're terribly wounded and have found a way to escape, have fun, forget.

But life is telling you to stop. Turn around. Look within.

It's right to be humbled in a situation like this. You have someone who loves you who fears for you, who can see clearly the harm you are doing and cares enough about you to walk away. She may feel she's already lost you, or the promise of who you could have been, to alcohol.

Being good at your work is great.

But being a man. That's another thing.

It won't be easy, but do get help. Try an AA meeting. That may be better than counseling. If you go down that road (AA) you will meet many people just like yourself. Once proud, once cocky, once blind to the hell they were creating for themselves and others.

No one can tell you how to do what you have to do now. You're alone. You might have good intentions today, falter tomorrow. That's normal and OK. The point is to just keep trying. The goal will become clearer with time. You have, I hope, a long life ahead in which to grow.
posted by pammo at 8:13 PM on December 3, 2007

Years back I worked at a deli with a man who dangerous service in Vietnam had given a reason to drink hard. His wife told him to give up the drink, or give up the ring. He chose her, and it was hard for them both, but he's a much happier man now than he was then.

Choosing the bottle mixes regret into the cocktail, and gives you a much worse hangover in the end.
posted by breezeway at 8:16 PM on December 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow, this sounds familiar. Blacking out. People worrying about my drinking. Doing crazy shit with strangers. Not being able to envision living sober. Thinking that life without alcohol would be just one drag after another. People walking away from me because of my drinking. But I didn't have a problem because I had a girl friend, a nice paying job, and a handsome jawline....

I have been in your position. I have been you. I have made those rationalizations. I have been given those ultimatums. But you know what? In 28 days I will have 1 year sober. That's the longest I will have been sober since I was 13. I am 28. That's 15 years of using, drinking, binges, overdoses. And you know what else? I have never been happier. Sure I miss drinking once and a while, but it's not worth losing people I love. Losing my dignity. Losing my health. Losing my mind.

Friend, you are living insanity. You think you sober up between binges. You think you have things clearly laid out. You think that it makes sense. I would bet my life that you don't. You rationalize, you manipulate, you hide and you lie.

The fact is, you think you have healthy relationships with your friends and maybe even your girl friend, despite her reservations about your drinking. But really, when it comes down to it, as an addict it is pretty much impossible to have a healthy relationship. It might look like you have one; you might be able to fake it for a while; but it is almost impossible for you to have one because the addict is always protecting the addiction: the addiction is always wedged between the relationship. The addict protects the addiction, and cares about it more than the ones he "loves."

This is what is happening. This is what you are letting alcohol do. Your girl friend is calling you on it. She sees it. You pretend it's not there. And friend, this is just the beginning. She will walk away, eventually, because what sort of relationship is it, truly, when you wedge the addiction into the middle of it? It will happen with your friends next. And then you will be left with the addiction.

The sad thing is, you might know all this deep down. Part of you is probably screaming to stop drinking. But the alcohol is so seducing. It's got you. You don't want to admit it yet. It's just fun and games right? You're just going to the show to have a good time. It's all been said my friend. By you. By me. By pretty much every addict out there.

My advice. If you love your girl friend, go to her. Say, "I am not sure I can quit drinking. I am not sure I want to quit drinking. But I am willing to put it down for 90 days. Can you help me stay sober that long?"

Quit drinking for 90 days. 3 months. Not that much. Rethink things through then.
posted by cuban link flooded jesus at 8:44 PM on December 3, 2007 [6 favorites]

Frankly? I was once your girlfriend. And I left you. And you didn't stop drinking. My life is better now. Yours is much, much worse.

Life isn't a game. It's short. Your drinking will quite possibly make it much shorter. I've seen it happen to more than a few people I cared about. Maybe you're okay with a future where the people who love you look back in your absence and remember you as a tragedy. And if so, don't make any changes. It's entirely up to you and you're a grown up. Just don't blame others if they don't want to see it happen. You only have control of your own actions, and your girlfriend only has control of hers. Some people are masochistic, but don't expect everyone to be. You are making your own choices, and they're doing the same.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:03 PM on December 3, 2007 [5 favorites]

Your girlfriend is going to leave you, and you aren't going to quit drinking yet. Some day you'll bottom out or get desperate enough to stop.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:08 PM on December 3, 2007

Speaking as the grandchild of three alcoholics and two parents who have spent large potions of their adult lives wrestling with fall-out, let me say this:

It's great if your girlfriend's ultimatum has stirred you to action, but whatever you decide to do HAS to be for you. You have to accept who you are and what you're doing and how that affects your life over the long term. Boyfriends, girlfiends, husbands and wife--these come and, regrettably, go. At the end of the day (or the night as the case may be), it's your face in the mirror and your life you have to go on living. The fact that you are still as young as you are and can acknowledge, even anonymously, in a public forum that you have concerns about your lifestyle indicates that you have the presence of mind to at least think about the problem. It's a small step, sure, but a good one.

Echoing almost everyone else in this thread, I do think you should seek help in some capacity. Maybe AA. If AA isn't your bag, then something else. If you have the ability, I strongly suggest looking into a good counselor or therapist.

Things will change. Your girlfiend may leave you. Your work may begin to suffer. No matter their current enthusiasm for benders, it's entirely possible your friends will cut back, or stop drinking all together. That your level of drinking could start to alienate everyone you know.

I've seen a 50 year old man passed out in an alcholic coma on his living room floor after a weekend of binge drinking alone. I've seen a 70 year old woman nearly die of DTs in ICU. And I've watched a lifelong drinker lose two wives to divorce, embarass his children, and bankrupt himself twice in the process before finally dying of liver failure. These were successful people. Good at their jobs. In possession of great friends and all the right credentials. People who would never admit to having a drinking problem. People who died because they wouldn't.

Look, I don't know you. but believe you can change. You can stop. You can find help. And, trite as it may sound, you are not alone.
posted by thivaia at 9:11 PM on December 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

My girlfriend says that she's going to leave me at the end of the week if I don't attempt to seek help for my drinking problem. Now what?

Wow. I read all the rest of your post, but this is the only part that was really necessary in order to answer. It seems like your choices are pretty obviously laid out for you. Either you suck it up and get some help with your drinking problem, or you kiss your girlfriend goodbye.

My advice would be to get help. But, judging from the rest of your post, you seem to like drinking a lot more than you like your girlfriend, and you don't seem to want to change. I'm not entirely sure what you were looking for by posting this question.

Good luck. I know what choice I would make.
posted by number9dream at 9:19 PM on December 3, 2007

Frankly? I was once your girlfriend. And I left you. And you didn't stop drinking. My life is better now. Yours is much, much worse.

I was going to post something very similar. Only in my case after I left, and some months later the drinking and drugs caught up to him. He was two and a half years younger than the OP.

Anon, If you don't want to quit just let her go. Seriously. Even now if someone is late I start pacing the floors because it just brings back that feeling of waiting for him, wondering where he was, and wondering if that was the night a cop would knock on the door and tell me he was dead. I'm just now starting to be OK when I see a cop on my street, instead of instantly going into panic mode because for years I always thought they were on the way to tell me he was dead or in the hospital. I've basically got the rest of my life to deal with the mental issues I developed first apologizing for, then covering up for, and always worrying about, an addict. You're throwing life away, sure, but why drag someone else with you?

Right now you have someone who cares about you. Cares enough to stick around through multiple nights of the utter shit and living hell you put her through. Most people wouldn't.
She leaves, and the next will most likely be someone just as fucked up as you are, maybe more, who will join you in drinking, encourage it, and help you along the path to destruction. Is that who you see yourself with in ten years?

You know you have a problem. You also know you have the ability to moderate your drinking when the situiation calls for it. Well, the situiation is your fucking life, and it calls for it. Quit now. You will only get worse, but if you quit now it'll be a lot easier than waiting for the days you get sloshed even at work functions. For god's sake, you pass out on people's lawns! Even the alcoholic hobos in my neighborhood can make it to the homeless shelter. Is that the person you really want to be?
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:25 PM on December 3, 2007 [10 favorites]

One more thing... ex-boyfriend aside, just today I was remembering someone I used to know named Chris and the major life lesson I learned from him. Unfortunately, I learned that lesson at his expense and in his absence. And the lesson I learned from him was the hardest and saddest one of my entire journey into adulthood. But it has really stuck with me and it snapped some sense into me that I will never lose.

Chris was the roommate and best friend of a dear friend of mine from college that I'm still friends with. They lived next door to my mother so I used to spend a lot of time visiting them and partying together. Chris was a sweet guy. Even though his roommate was my friend, when I'd call the house he'd always try to keep me on the phone for hours. But then in his early 30s, my friend decided he didn't want to drink anymore, that it wasn't making him feel good. And Chris got upset. He felt abandoned as gradually the people around him began to grow up and have other priorities. Chris started finding new friends who were younger, and never gave up trying to get his old friends to go back to their old ways.

I used to laugh at him, thinking he was just going through a phase. I used to joke that someday our kids would play together and we'd laugh about his declaration to stay drunk forever. When I met him, he was a gorgeous young 18 year old. At 32, I playfully teased him and asked if he was trying to work towards a future career as a Meat Loaf impersonator. He just looked AWFUL. Bloated, lathargic, unhealthy. Gradually, after realizing he couldn't change his friends, he stopped returning their calls. He said people weren't fun anymore.

One morning he was found dead in the alley behind his apartment. He'd had a heart attack while taking out the garbage. The coroner said his death was alcohol induced, and that his body just couldn't take the way he was living. He was 33.

The lesson I learned from him was one of the biggest of my life. It was the first time I realized that sometimes people's bad habits aren't phases. Sometimes they really aren't cute or funny. Sometimes they really are dangerous. And unfortunately, some people's lives are just meant to be tragedies. If they don't want to change, you can't make them. It sucks and it's sad. But sometimes life sucks and is sad.

All I can say is, I hope you don't teach that lesson to the people in your life who love you. And if you think it's impossible for you to end up like Chris, you're wrong.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:34 PM on December 3, 2007 [7 favorites]

that's an apt story, miss lynnster - I just want to quibble with the last thing you say:
some people's lives are just meant to be tragedies

OP, don't start thinking that way. There is nothing inevitable about what happens next. You can choose what happens next.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:56 PM on December 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

You know, if the guy can choose to just have one or two with family, but doesn't choose to do that with friends, he's not an alcoholic. He doesn't have any chemical imbalance or anything, or it wouldn't matter who he was with. Therefore, I think AA or the like would be a bit of overkill, because they're going to make you believe you're really an alcoholic who can't control themselves, at any time. This isn't your case.

Just stop. If you can choose to not overdo it with family, you can choose to not do it with friends. Perhaps your friends will help you with this, perhaps not, but it's up to you, because you know you can choose to behave, and this isn't a luxury a true alcoholic has.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:15 PM on December 3, 2007

I can only speak for myself. I can only share experiences. I can't tell anyone else what to do. I didn't have a drinking problem so much as I had a thinking problem. Drink, or think. Don't drink and think.

In 1993 I spent nearly a month in an alcohol rehabilitation center. Waking after my first night in the treatment center was worse than a hangover. Through the night, the nursing staff fed me 15 tabs of Serax, an anti-withdrawal medication. When morning arrived, I was toast. My wildest drunk couldn't touch the level of inebriation from mass dose Oxazepam. After two days, I finally had to tell the psych doc, "Listen, I came here to get straight, not turned into Jello." With that, my recovery began.

The third evening in the treatment center, I attended my first AA meeting. They told stories of giving up babies, living on the streets, physical abuse, broken homes, selling possessions, selling themselves, losing jobs, losing lives. Gee, I thought, is this what recovery is all about? Sitting around talking about all the horrible things alcoholism does to you? I was a high-bottom drunk. Few of those inevitabilities found their way into my cocoon, yet.

With thousands of meetings under my belt, I now know that first one was atypical. But, in hindsight, it was probably just what I needed to hear. Yeah, I hadn't hit rock bottom yet, but I sure got a taste of what was waiting if I continued to drink. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, in fact, it doesn't stop just because it's in remission. Were I to begin drinking again today, within a matter of weeks I would be right back where I was, only years more advanced.

That was the first few days in rehab. This is the story of the end. I was in treatment for four weeks, the last day was, without question, the most important. I am convinced to this day the events that occurred on April 12, 1993 are a huge reason I am still sober now.

Staying sober in a treatment center really isn't that difficult, if it's what you want. There are support staff with you round the clock to keep an eye out. The doors aren't really locked, but they are. You are kept busy. Early wake up call; shower and breakfast; first morning group counseling session. They want to keep you on a rigid schedule saying it helps on the outside.

I learned a lot during that month in rehab, but I was taken care of. They fed us; they had regular, structured therapy; 12 step program participation; recreational activities to motivate physical health — all with the goal of preparing you for living life sober back in the cruel real world. The medical physicians taught us of the disease concept of alcoholism. They drummed it in ... I even bought into it. Coming to grips with why I had been unable to stop drinking was easier to accept as a sickness, rather than a matter of personal moral bankruptcy.

That last day began just like all the rest, but it quickly changed as we were sitting around the breakfast table. The 74 year old lawyer who had been with us the past four days in a detox bed had left against medical advice in the middle of the night. The morning paper said this former president of the state bar association had put a shotgun to his face and pulled the trigger. Lest there be any doubt about it, alcoholism is a terminal disease. If you don't kill yourself slowly through liver or other organ failure, the utter helplessness of the condition will cause desperate acts.

As we tried to pull ourselves together, the 69 year old former publisher of the city newspaper, the geezer with the wet brain, was wandering the halls looking for his shoes. "You mean the ones on your feet?", the nurse asked, as he looked sheepishly confused at the rest of us. He was on his way to the dinner party at the former governor's mansion, at 8 o'clock in the morning — at least in his mind. Make no mistake, alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time, it rips every fiber of sanity from the most lucid of individuals.

At 9:00AM group, this new guy, a fellow the same age as me, suddenly lurched forward and fell to the floor. His body began shaking violently as his eyes rolled back in his head. A withdrawal seizure, right there in the middle of the floor in the center of our group circle. Twenty minutes later the medical staff finally had him semi-alert and sitting up in a chair. This adventure would be repeated twice more by the same fellow on the same day. It isn't a pretty sight. Alcoholism is a painful physical addiction every bit as powerful as the strongest narcotic.

Later that evening, during outside visitation hour, the beautiful wife of one of our three week patients stopped in to say hi. This girl was drop-dead gorgeous ... except when she smiled. You see, she had no front teeth — a gift from her abusive alcoholic husband who slammed his fist into her face during a drunken rage one night, because he said, "you're too sexy." That she was. Curves like fine geometry, eyes that mesmerized, and a toothless grin. Alcoholism is a family disease. It hurts the ones we love the most. Are you beginning to get the picture? I sure did. It isn't a game.

That night, as I lay in my plywood frame bed for the final time, I thought back to all the events of that last day — and I cried. I was scared breathless. I didn't want to become like any of those other alcoholics, and ... they were making me leave in the morning. Sending me out into real life with "little more" than I entered rehab, or so it seemed. I prayed as I slowly drifted off to sleep. That "little more" would be my hope; that I had seen on this day everything I would become if I didn't begin living life on life's terms without alcohol.

They make a big deal when someone graduates from the treatment center. At 9:00 group they gave me a big copper coin to carry in my pocket. To me, it meant I had actually finished something I started. They go around the circle and everyone shares what your participation has meant to them. All the patients and staff give you big hugs and tears flow freely. Then they send you out the door, alone, without supervision. Oh, and they hand you the bill. Mine was $13,400.

Fortunately my insurance paid about $10,000 but I spent the next three years clearing the rest. Every month when I wrote the check to the hospital it was another good reminder. There would be punishing financial consequences in addition to everything else, if I didn't work hard to make staying sober my number one priority. It's the little tools and remembrances of what it was like that motivate me today. I can't ever forget my last drunk.

As I left the hospital with trepidation to begin my second life, my wife was waiting at the front door. On the drive home she told me she had moved back into our house. She had spent the previous four weeks repainting and cleaning up all the dirty memories and wreckage of the past. When we got there, everything looked beautiful. There was a big Welcome Home sign on the front porch. Our good friends were waiting with huge smiles and grand hugs. We had a great celebration and I drank iced tea. It never tasted better.

I fell in love with life all over again that day. And, I knew I couldn't do everything by myself. I continued to seek help, advice, and good counsel. They were there when I had to sit on my hands to stop the hurting. They were there to push me out the door every single night to meetings. I am still sober today in large part because of their willingness to help me. They understood completely that I wasn't a bad person trying to get good, instead, I was a sick person trying to get well. After 14 years, I still get a little bit better every single day.
posted by netbros at 10:22 PM on December 3, 2007 [192 favorites]

If you truly care for your girlfriend and your relationship with her you should at least go see your doctor and take it from there. We can't know your life, and you know that.

Boozehounds come in all genders and sexes, so if you want to keep partying, I'm sure there's a barfly somewhere that would be happy to have you. Whether or not you'd be happy to have her is entirely another question.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:32 PM on December 3, 2007

You're a functional alcoholic. Congratulations. There's millions out there. It's not a very exclusive club.

A lot of the responses here are overly dramatic. Fact of the matter is, no, you are probably not going to die. You aren't going to end up as the star of some after school special. You're not going to teach some Grand Life Lesson (tm) to a bunch of bored teenagers.

You'll just be another drunk.

That's the funny thing about being a "amateur alcoholic." Provided you don't slip up and tumble into the abyss, it's the sort of the sort of thing that you could keep up for decades, even your entire life. You could have a successful career, get married, buy a house, have kids, and coach little league all while getting loaded on the weekends and having a drink or five at dinner. (Eventually you'll probably start drinking in the morning before going to work to ease up the hangover you got at dinner. This isn't such a big deal unless your work demands precise motor control. It can be a bit embarrassing to have people frown at you because it's 10am and your breath smells of gin.) It won't be pretty by any means but it'll be a life.

To an extent your problem is somewhat normal, even expected, for a certain kind of overconfident, young hotshot who works too much, is eager to distinguish himself and is prone to take big risks even while sober. You might even be perversely proud of your ability to "control" your problem. Up until now you probably felt like you were getting away with it. Even now a part of you is wondering if your girlfriend is just being a bit of a drama queen. You're successful and your future is bright, and that's all that matters right? It's no big deal if you occasionally have to wash vomit out of your clothes.

But then again maybe it is. You might be able to fool others but you won't be able to fool yourself. You may not feel sick, hell you may feel great, but your behavior is that of a sick individual and it's disgusting. So perhaps getting shit faced isn't a problem not so much because you'll ruin your life but because it's simply beneath you. It's not who you are or who you want to be. If you won't listen to your girlfriend then listen to that big old ego of yours. You feel ashamed and sullied for a reason. Accept the shame and commit yourself to making a serious change.

Tactically I'd suggest following clfj's advice. Just stop drinking completely for at least three months. Heck, make it five. Don't substitute alcohol with anything and don't try to try to ration your consumption. Just stop. Cold turkey. Make a promise to yourself, write it down, show it to your girlfriend and your friends and then keep it.

This is a challenge. Your ego has suffered because it's now clear you're not invincible and not immune. Surprise. But more important than being immune to sickness is the having the ability and strength of will to overcome it. You have an opportunity here to prove to that you don't need alcohol or any other crutch, that you're stronger than any potential addiction. And to settle this, to make it true beyond any reasonable doubt, you need to make a big change. So take the challenge.

If all goes as planned, if you can live happily without any drinking at all for an extended period of time then it'll be self-evident not only that you don't need to drink. Alcohol simply won't be such a big deal anymore. It'll still be fun and enjoyable but it won't be the all consuming force that swallows your weekends and drives people who love you out of your life. You'll look back in embarrassment and regret on all the stupid and disgusting shit you did when you couldn't control your drinking. That's good. Even the shadow of self-contempt can be a very powerful motivator. In the future this will be your off-switch; you'll take your sweet time because you'll look back and say to yourself, "That's not who I am anymore. I don't want to get shit faced and wake up passed out in the middle of nowhere because that's ridiculously stupid and I'm past it.".
posted by nixerman at 10:35 PM on December 3, 2007 [13 favorites]

There is plenty of feedback here and I've held off a while in responding. Let's put it this way, I was (still am really) married for over 20 years to a wonderful man... BUT he is and was a drunk, which made me finally leave him.

I jumped up and down angrily, I threatened leaving, I begged him to stop drinking, I did everything known to mankind. The problem was he wasn't ready to quit. No matter how many ultimatums I spewed forth, it wasn't going to make him quit. Like nixerman called it, he was (also still is) a functional alcoholic. That being that he goes to work every day, he pays his bills (well, most of the time), but gets falling down drunk every single day after work.

As much as I love the man, I cannot ever go back to him. In fact, I'm already living with someone else and making plans to marry him when my divorce finally goes through. Not only did I end up having an affair with my current boyfriend, but our kids were tremendously hurt too.

So what's the point of this response? To let you see the future. It will only escalate and in the end, she'll leave you or find someone else to fill the void that you leave open for her. It might not be tomorrow, the weekend or even this year, but it will happen. My soon to be ex never dreamed I'd really follow through, but I did. It took me much longer than I should've ever allowed, but in truth he only began drinking heavy in 2000.

So, decide what you want. Do you want your alcohol, or her? If you really want the alcohol, that's fine and your decision, but let her go. Don't make her go through what I did. If you care about her, then you need to do what is right.

I really wish you luck, but I hope you don't hurt her any further. Evidently you already have, and I feel for her.
posted by magnoliasouth at 12:48 AM on December 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

Geez netbros. That's the first time I was ever brought to tears on this website. Shouldn't have read it at work.

posted by allkindsoftime at 12:55 AM on December 4, 2007

if you just want to cut back on consumption, you could do something like give the bartender a big tip at the beginning of the night, and request that she help you cut back by giving you pop or water between drinks, or mixing your drinks progressively weaker. ... but it does sound like you'd be better off going cold-turkey.
maybe you could make a bet with your friends that you won't drink? put money on it, so your pride makes you resolve not to binge on a given night- would that work?
and i agree with previous posters who suggest talking to your friends to see if they're also concerned about your drinking. having that discussuon might motivate you to stop, and motivate them to help.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:01 AM on December 4, 2007

if you just want to cut back on consumption, you could do something like give the bartender a big tip at the beginning of the night, and request that she help you cut back by giving you pop or water between drinks, or mixing your drinks progressively weaker.

I disagree. Most busy bartenders don't really have time to babysit someone's needs like that when there are a lot of customers around, big tip or no. You need to take responsibility for your own consumption instead of putting the job on someone else. It's your problem, not theirs.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:26 AM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

To quit binge-drinking you must first quit drinking. Maybe, maybe in a few years you can handle a responsible glass of wine with dinner. maybe. Don't count on it though - count on quitting. Do not pick up a glass of anything alcoholic. Be the permanent designated driver.

Immediatly replace steam-blowing with friends around a pitcher with steam blowing with friends around other things. Pinball games, action movies, all day deep sea fishing - whatever floats your boat. Keep away from the bar-hopping for at least the first three months, later you can likely handle hanging with pals near a bar if there are other things going on, such as a music concert or show. Convince yourself that your head will blow up if you drink, at the very least your girlfriend will leave you and that will hurt too.

Consider therapy or at least self-help books.

Consider Kaliber non alcholic beer for those hot summer days when you think a beer is the only thing that will quench your thirst. Count days, or in your case weekends. Each one is a win. Do not quit until you have scored 52 weekends and can go to the next level.

Good luck.
posted by dabitch at 6:12 AM on December 4, 2007

I'm not going to weigh in on the diagnosis side of things as many seem to want to do.

I do want to throw in my 2 cents regarding AA, since the affiliation with religion tends to make the Internet community's collective head explode with rage.
My wife is an atheist, and an alcoholic.
After going to rehab, she was strongly recommended to attend at least 3 AA meetings per week to help with her recovery.
She had tried AA before rehab, and wasn't very crazy about it - the religion aspect creeped her out too much. She basically tried a couple of meetings that were located close to home, didn't like them, and that was that.

But once she committed herself to recovery, she then decided to give AA another chance... and she found some groups that worked for her very well.
The key here was that she tried again, and found that her previous small sampling of groups were not indicative of the full range of help that was out there.
Some groups are going to be more religion-centric than others. Some groups are going to have self-righteous people that monopolize all the time they can. This is to be expected, but does not mean that all meetings are like that.
The groups that she goes to are not the most geographically sensible ones to pick. They aren't always at the most convenient times. They are almost *all* comprised of at least a few people she feels an affinity for, and in front of whom she felt she could possibly, someday, open up.

My wife is still an atheist and still recovering.
Her belief system is still pretty much the same.
But having people to talk to, and listen to is extremely valuable to her maintaining her focus on where she wants to be... because it can be a tough road to go alone.

I don't know if this gives any new perspective to you or not. But I thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by Tbola at 7:18 AM on December 4, 2007

When I was your age, I hung out with some big drinkers, and several of them wound up going to AA, and I went to a number of meetings with them. It's really not hell; every meeting is different, and some of them won't be for you, but unless you live in a small town there will be enough choices that you should be able to find one that's OK to you. Remember, walking in the door doesn't mean committing yourself to Change Your Life; you can sit down for a while and wander out again and then drop by in a couple of weeks when you feel up to trying it again. Nobody will give you shit about it. They've seen it all, they've been where you are, they know exactly how lame it feels to be skulking into an AA meeting for the first time ("Me? I'm not an alcoholic, I just want to cut back, and AA is for losers and God freaks..."); they'll be happy to talk to you if you feel like talking, but nobody's going to make you stand up and say "My name is Anonymous, and I'm an alcoholic..."

Good luck, and I hope you work things out. Drinking can be fun, but it's really not worth losing more important things for.
posted by languagehat at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had a binge drinking problem for a few years. It was not as serious as yours (meaning I wasn't passing out on lawns, but I was making some very poor decisions while fall-down drunk, and was very lucky I didn't kill myself). I just stopped drinking. Flat out.

Yes, it sucked in that people stopped inviting me to go out with them because they assumed I wouldn't want to go to a bar. And some people gave me a hard time about not drinking because they didn't understand that I had a problem and wasn't just being a prude.

If you want to keep your girlfriend, it sounds like you need to stop drinking. It doesn't seem like moderation will work for you, as I know it would not have worked for me (my mindset was much like the one you describe).

But, it doesn't seem like you want to stop drinking. And until you want to, you won't.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:31 AM on December 4, 2007

Sounds very similar to what I went through a couple years ago. I perfected binge drinking in college and continued doing so for several years after. Then one day a couple years ago (around your age) I found myself in a bar at closing time and realized I was surrounded by two groups of people: 1)young and reckless college kids who possessed all the freedom and stupidity in the world and 2)50-60 year-old drunks whose pitiful stories were written all over their faces. I certainly no longer fit in with the former group, but I was throwing a lot of time and money into becoming a part of the latter. And that pretty much made me sick. After that, quitting became a lot easier.

Oh, and since I also had visions of being the tragic genius (e.g. Edgar Allen Poe) while I was drinking myself stupid but succeeding at my job, I should let you know that "Work Hard, Play Hard" is a great motto for people who have no strong grasp of reality. When you are found dead in the gutter on the side of the road, people will not comment that you 'lived life to the fullest' or that your life shined 'half as long but twice as bright.' They will remember you as an addicted drunk who pissed everything away.
posted by wabashbdw at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

Sorry about the spelling, i dont have much time.
Well, I am only 19 but I have plenty of experience in this department. My father is an alcoholic (doing well though) and there are two others in my direct family with drinking problems. We have done everything from the meetings to counciling... you name it.
I think the meetings have helped him, but i also believe there are other options... ones which empower you.
Maybe you should start limiting youself to time at the bar... drink at home, and only have a single bottle of wine between you and your girlfirend (this will also show her that you are trying to help youself (and better your relationship)). It will also force you to limit your consumption, and thus allow you to "ride the buzz".
One of the biggest problems i see is that you are drinking with the intent of getting obliterated. First of all it is an imature way of looking at alcohol. Secondly, it is awful for your health (my aunt was in the hospital for weeks, near death, with only 10% of her kidneys working)... it just isnt worth it. Thirdly- you arent even enjoying the alcohol... not the taste, not the smell, not anything about it. you are gettting so drunk so fast that you are simply wasting the recreational benefits of it.
look at other cultures around the globe, where there is no minimum drinking age. in these places, children are brought up with a glass of wine at dinner... they learn to incorperate alcohol into their lifestyles in a mature way. here in america, we do it secretly because it isnt "allowed", and when we reach the holy age of 21, we have no respect for the drug, and we binge drink and have other problems with it.
Like i said earlier, you should start with a controlled amount of alcohol... and with your girlfriend would show her you are trying to solve this. ALSO, show this blog to her! show her what you are trying to do, show her some of these solutions that you want to try out! it can only help.
i think you should also learn about the history of alcohol: how it was invented, which cultures made what varieties, how it was made, and all the different varieties. this will bring you to an appreciation of alcohol. and when you order a good german beer-while you are drinking it, you will be able to think of everything that went into that beer- all of the ingredients, all of the history, and all of the time. you might enjoy it that much more.
i guess im saying that instead of cutting it out of your life, you should try to become a conisour... RESPECTING it and ENJOYING it.
Good luck, and let us know how the end of the week goes.
posted by Nillocsoc at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2007

Anon, I don't know too much about addiction recovery, but I do know something about paralyzing fear. When I read your question, what stood out to me was, "I can't. I can't. I don't want to. It's too hard. I can't bear it. I can't do it." I've been in that place before, when I'm faced with a problem that is just too ego-shatteringly difficult to even look in the eye.

It's helped me a lot at those times to remember (and this may not sound comforting, but it is) that life is just fucking hard. There's no way around it. Life is terrifying and extraordinarily difficult. (Remember, this is actually a comforting fact.) It's a struggle, and it's going to be a struggle whether you face your problem now or not. No matter what you decide about your drinking problem, you're going to be in for a tough time for the next few years (and probably longer). So the question is not: "Do I ignore my problem and continue to have an ok life, or do I acknowledge my problem and plunge myself into hell?" It's actually: "I'm pretty much fucked for the next 3-10 years anyway. Do I spend my effort doing something that will actually improve my life one day, or do I spend my effort on something that will damage me and the people around me?"

Good luck. Be brave! You're in for a fight no matter what, so fight the good fight.
posted by ourobouros at 9:41 AM on December 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

you don't sound ready to quit. you're better off being single anyway at this stage in your life.

just don't drive cars when intoxicated, and good luck.
posted by matteo at 9:49 AM on December 4, 2007

I think the key here is that you have not mentioned any negative side effects from your drinking habits yet except for guilt and a girlfriend's threats.

Have you been to jail yet? It will happen. Jail is horrible, no matter where you live. It will humiliate you and scare you and cost lots of money you don't have. You will have to wait for maybe 24 hours or longer for someone to get you out. I have many friends who have gone, and my father works in a jail... you don't want to be there. If it happens on a week night, you might get fired from your job. Yeah, that sounds extreme, but I have watched it happen. Then, taking an hour for therapy on your lunch break will sound like a more reasonable alternative in hindsight... when you can't pay for it, of course, because you're unemployed.

Have you had your license revoked? You will. Then, when you desperately need to go to Primacare because you have a lung infection and you get pulled over and go to jail AGAIN for driving illegally, you will sit in the jail, sick, probably with a fever, asking yourself why this is happening to you.

Have you had a car accident yet? You will. Even if it's you backing into a pole, you'll be too ashamed to report it to the insurance agent. IF you are lucky. It'll cost you thousands.

Until you begin to reap financial, physical and social consequences from your actions, I don't think this problem will become "real" to you.

See netbros's story? Many of us were terribly moved by it because we have fathers... friends... siblings... grandparents, even, who have gone into the wind tunnel of addiction and come out the other end battered, but alive.

The question is, will you make a positive change before the damage is done, or after?

If AA meetings scare and disgust you, try Cornerstone.

If the idea of group therapy scares or upsets you, try a cognitive behavioral therapist first.

If you think you can beat it on your own, but you don't want to admit it to your friends, try going sober for two weekends in a row.

One is doable, especially when you are angry or trying to prove a point to your girlfriend; two is hard, especially at the holidays. Tell your drinking buddies you're doing Atkins or something if you think they won't be supportive or try to coax you into "just one drink." Make them think you are doing something that is healthy, not alienating them from your "drinking buddies" ritual.

If you can't go two weekends without a drink, admit to yourself that you need professional help to quit.

I grew up in a household where I didn't know my father at all because of alchohol. It controlled about half the people in my family. I was scared often, for my life, riding in the car with family members. Will you be that father? Uncle? Godfather?

Your girlfriend is threatening to leave not because she wants you to pick her over the alcohol; she is tired of seeing you in the condition you're in and worrying over where you are when she can't find you. You are making her ill, physically and mentally, and she is choosing to protect herself from future mental abuse by removing herself from the situation. When you look at it that way, can you finally understand?

You. Scare. People. You worry them. If it were another friend of yours doing it, and you were the observer, would you intervene? Say something, out of love, out of fear?

YOU are your own best friend, and responsible for your life and its consequences. Love yourself. Respect yourself. HEAL YOURSELF. Save yourself and become the person you have the potential to be.

Besides, sobriety is cheaper and it's easier to become a role model and do good works when you don't have self-destructive tendencies controlling your behavior 24/7.

Best of luck to you, this is not an easy road. You have my sympathies.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:01 AM on December 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

Now, come on, now--you don't have time to do therapy but you have time to have multiple lost weekends? You think walking into doubleA sounds like a nightmare but wandering around strange parts of town in the company of possibly murderous strangers and waking up in the midmorning halfnaked and sick on some lawn somewhere gazing into the face of an investigating officer seems fine by you? Things that you do drunk sound waaaay more time consuming and scary than things you can't stand to think about doing sober. I think you have managed to convince yourself you have no natural courage, so you think you need Dutch courage.

If that's really true--if you have no courage--then how much money do you have? If it's a lot then maybe you can get plowed and get somebody to check you into rehab.

Bearing in mind, of course, that that is likely to fail. Remembering that you probably are not without courage, however little you've exercised it lately. Realizing that probably most people who quit do it by getting up the gumption to face the horror sober. Being sober and doing unpleasant stuff SUCKS at first but it stops sucking with practice and becomes better than being drunk doing unpleasant stuff (because the unpleasantness of what you do sober is so much decreased, being as how you're operating with more than just your limbic system intact and thus are better able to avoid unpleasantness). Double A is so idiotic in so so many ways; you have to find a group that doesn't just outright suck on every level, which likely will not be the first one you stumble on. This means you have the courage to walk into multiple aa meetings and then tamp down your natural response to murder many friends of Bill. Can you do it?? Maybe you can! Do it by yourself. Leave your girlfriend out of it and your friends. One perk is, once you start going to meetings, you can revenge yourself upon your girlfriend by nagging her constantly to go to "Alanon," the one thing more insufferable than AA proper. (Actually AA is fun: you gotta remember the people all used to be hardcore bingers, so they're amusing, risk-loving personalities underneath all the JesusJesusJesus. And they have really good stories about the old days. Even the ones who aren't so interesting to listen to, many of them like to bake cookies and brownies and crap and they tend to get really good at it, since they have so much more time on their hands than they used to.)
posted by Don Pepino at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

(Actually AA is fun: you gotta remember the people all used to be hardcore bingers, so they're amusing, risk-loving personalities underneath all the JesusJesusJesus. And they have really good stories about the old days. Even the ones who aren't so interesting to listen to, many of them like to bake cookies and brownies and crap and they tend to get really good at it, since they have so much more time on their hands than they used to.)

This is very true, and focusing on it may help with the "I don't wanna go to AA" factor: hanging out with Friends of Bill is a lot like hanging out with the friends you hang out with now, except it's a lot cheaper and you don't wind up puking in strange lawns. I've had more fun hanging out with recovering alkies than with most coworkers (or relatives, come to that).
posted by languagehat at 10:20 AM on December 4, 2007

The truth of the matter for me is that I was friends with a person who could have written this exact post when he was 28. He was a kick-ass technical architect in a very senior position (despite his age), had a great girlfriend who put a similar ultimatum to him right at this point, had some fairly (though only marginally at that point) screwed up finances, and "worked and played" hard... binging to black out drunkenness about every other week..

I lost touch with him in the ensuing years (I just couldn't keep up, lost my own appetites for binging, got married, and he turned into a real egocentric jerk, which was worsened by alcohol), as did almost everyone one of his many friends from those years. The last I heard (he's 41 now), he's very, very ill and underweight - suffering from cirrhosis -, is bankrupt, living on one of his last remaining friends' couches and is drinking about a pint of vodka in the morning just to get going.

Obviously, everyone's journey is different, but I cannot get over how striking the similarities of this post are to those attitudes expressed by my former friend 13 years ago.
posted by psmealey at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2007

Well, if you want to keep your girlfriend and drink:

1. Tell her you have chosen her, and that you have quit drinking.
2. Keep up the drinking.
3. Learn to lie like you've never lied before.
4. Once she finds out and gives you the ultimatum once again, go back to step 1, and continue on until she finally dumps you, or, you actually quit.

....and I'm not being snarky.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just to warn you, you might not end up with the glowing experiences languagehat's had.

A lot of the people there aren't fun- they're there to get things done. You get the same collection of dorks you get everywhere, (including bars, only you're not drunk when you're dealing with them now.)

Some of them might give you shit for wandering in and out of meetings. That means that meeting is lame and you should find another one.

There are lots and lots of lame meetings out there. You know that whole 90 meetings in 90 days thing? It's partly to break your routine but a lot of it is to force you to try out different meetings.

I have talked to a lot of people about the "higher power" and it means whatever you want it to mean. I know one person who uses nature. (If you hang out in the ocean there is no question that the ocean is more powerful than you.) I know someone else who uses "the collective experience of the people who've gone through this before me." The point of the higher power seems to mostly be that you let go of the idea that you know all the answers.

disclaimer: I am not in a 12-step program but most of the people I know are, and have been since I can remember.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2007

Just to warn you, you might not end up with the glowing experiences languagehat's had.

Well, yeah, and I've seen some crummy meetings/alkies too. I guess it's useful to provide some perspective, but I figure the point is to get him to try a meeting or three, so I was emphasizing the positive. Didn't mean to be Pollyanna.

posted by languagehat at 1:15 PM on December 4, 2007

Obviously, everyone's journey is different, but I cannot get over how striking the similarities of this post are to those attitudes expressed by my former friend 13 years ago.

I think that's the thing about this post. Many of us KNOW the OP indirectly, the deja vu is eerie. We've cared about you. We've wanted to believe in your ability to handle alcohol, we ended up having to give up on you out of self preservation, and we have seen the outcome of your life as you continued to drink and stubbornly cling to the belief that everything is fine.

Yeah, that "get good at lying" thing is stellar advice. Be prepared for it to have its ups and downs. My alcoholic ex was actually someone I had known since college. He was already an alcoholic in college and I told him I couldn't date a drunk at the time. I dated him 18 years later when he came back into my life proclaiming that he'd always thought about me and saying he'd cleaned up his life. I thought he had because I wanted so much to think it was true. I felt guilty that I hadn't given him enough credit and didn't have faith in his ability to stop drinking... so I gave him a chance. He was so charming that I bought it. But then, over time, he let his guard down and I found out nothing had changed. As he relaxed with me, his lies became beyond pathetic. Whenever he opened his mouth, there was unecessary drama.

Yeah, so prepare yourself for a future of doing and saying a lot of stupid things in order you hide your alcoholism. For example...

* He'd be on his way to take me out to dinner and would call to say he was late and ask me to change the reservations. I'd hear sounds in the background and say, "Wait... are you at a sports bar?" At first he'd say no. Then he'd admit I was right and say, "But it was important. I needed to check the score of the game." I'd ask what game. He'd hesitate to read the names of the teams on tv, totally forgetting that I knew he wasn't that into sports, nor was I stupid.

* One day I came home to find him cleaning out my freezer. At first he acted like he just felt it needed cleaning. Then he admitted the truth... he had put beer in there to chill and forgot about them and apparently they exploded or something. He said, "Well, I needed a cold beer right away. They were room temperature so I had to do something." It was noon on a weekday. He must've bought beer at around 10am. He couldn't even wait until lunchtime for it to get cold.

* One night he brought me a bottle of wine. I thanked him and excused myself to take a shower before we went out for the evening. I already had wine open so I didn't open the bottle, I told him to just put it away for the moment. A few evenings later I had a craving for a glass of wine. I went to get his bottle. There was only 1/3 of a bottle left. I realized he opened it and drank it AND the already open wine while I was taking a shower. Sooo, he would've downed one bottle of wine in about ten or fifteen minutes. When I called him to ask about it, he said, "Oh, I poured you a glass but then since we were leaving the house I figured you wouldn't want it so I poured it out." I asked him why he didn't ask me if I wanted it first. He said he didn't think about it. Then I told him that there was only one dirty wine glass in the sink, and it was his. He said he already washed my wine glass and put it back. I asked him why he didn't wash his too. He said he forgot. I asked him where he put my wine glass when he put it back. He said he just left it in the dishwasher.

He forgot I didn't have a dishwasher.

That night was the last time I ever saw him in person.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2007 [6 favorites]

hmm, i've been on both ends 1) being a girlfriend to 2 drunks 2) drinking way too much myself and not being able to switch it off.

About 1): by the end of the relationships when i would see boyfriend1 or boyfriend2 drunk, i felt disgust. what else can you feel when you run out of concern, pity and anger. i found it disgusting to see them stumbling, looking at me with their disgusting drunken eyes, throwing up in cabs, attempting to drive a car and falling down and passing out on a sidewalk. this is what you look like in the eyes of your GF and in the eyes of any other person that's sober. you're not funny or charming, you're disgusting and pathetic - getting smashed, blitzed, fucked up beyond any recognition is not cool. the sooner you get it in your head, the faster you will seek help for yourself.

About 2): i binged on drinking too, except i would do it a number of times a week and would inevitably black out at some point. at first, i denied it before myself, i kept telling myself that it's completely normal to have 5-6 drinks in a few hours (i'm 5'2 120lbs). then i kind of admitted that when i start drinking - i do not have that switch anymore where i know i've had enough and i should stop. i think it's similar to smoking in a sense, you just get another one and another one without thinking/reflecting on what you're doing. so one day i started thinking about this and started thinking whether i like myself very much this way and how sustainable this is and i decided to stop. what you need to do is to have that discussion with yourself - whether you want to stop or not. if you do, then find a way - do whatever it takes, therapist, AA, cutting your friends off for a while - and stop. good luck.
posted by barrakuda at 3:55 PM on December 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was led here by the Metatalk discussion, and wanted to (belatedly) comment.

As soon as I start drinking I have no off switch.

This means you're an alcoholic. Pure, 100%, straight up. You are an alcoholic, and alcohol will destroy you.

You can't drink anymore. Ever. You can't ever have another drink. It's not your fault directly. Your brain is miswired and can't be fixed. You have a genetic disease that will wreck your life if you don't enter treatment.

The longer you wait, the worse things will get, until your life is in ruins. If you stop now, it will be far, far easier than later... after you've done enough drinking, you will become a lying, manipulative bastard that everyone likes initially, but that everyone discovers is entirely untrustworthy. The good people in your life will leave you first, but gradually, everyone will.

This isn't your FAULT, exactly, it's just that you have a genetic disease. When it becomes your fault is simple: having read this thread, and this comment, if you ever take another drink, everything from there is your fault. Your predisposition is not, and it's nothing you have to feel bad about directly, but if you ever drink again... yes it is your fault, and all the bad things that will happen to you are entirely your responsibility.

You don't have to go to a therapist, you don't have to go to AA.... you just have to never drink again ever. If you do that, everything will be fine. But most alcoholics find that impossible without help. Maybe you're early enough in the pickling process that you can still stop on your own, without a religious conversion and long heartfelt conversations with others... but if you ever take another drink, AA needs to be your next stop.
posted by Malor at 4:10 PM on December 4, 2007

Malor: "As soon as I start drinking I have no off switch.
This means you're an alcoholic. Pure, 100%, straight up. You are an alcoholic, and alcohol will destroy you.

Except that by his own admission, he can stop. He has no problem just having one or two whenever he's around family. Don't confuse someone having a disorder with someone who's just being a punk-ass.

Having a "should I stop drinking" discussion is like having a "Does God exist" discussion. You either believe it or you don't.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:37 PM on December 4, 2007

If you would like to prod yourself toward a wakeup call, you might consider volunteering in a hospital or nursing home and seeing what happens with this disease after a number of years. You might want to check out ikkyu2's comment in the metatalk thread as well.

This disease in its late stages is a very, very sad one. I hope you find the strength and desire to get treatment, and I wish you the best.
posted by jennyjenny at 6:02 PM on December 4, 2007

You can drink moderately, you say so in your post. You are not a catastrophic alcoholic. You are a binge drinker, the main problem is with the blacking out all the time, or going way over the line. You can learn to drink responsibly.

A few suggestions about moderation:

-Perhaps the problem is with the social group you go out with. The dynamics of the group may be working against this.
-Try to limit the drinking by any of the reasonable means outlined in above posts, take less money, spend less time drinking etc.
-Throw out the idea out that you and your friends go to a movie or try and do something other than drink. I'm friends with people like you, and I find it odd that we can't ever go to a movie or anything. Just saying can't hurt.
-drink later, after a movie etc. This not only limits your time at the bar, but throws the emphasis off of alcohol if you do a non-alcohol related activity as the main event.

A few therapy suggestions:

-My old University offered the Drinkwise program to teach moderate drinking skills (here, click Drinkwise on the left). Try to find something like this.
-Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy programs that work on this. The Hospital in my town offers one. (once a week?)
-A therapist has given me a book about CBT called Mind Over Mood, i found it useful.
-An AA meeting would be useful to see what hard core alcoholics are like, and why you don't want that to happen.

A few suggestions about your girlfriend:
-What she is seeing is pretty freaky. Passing out on a neighbours lawn? Try to see this from her perspective, this has been a long string of bullshit. Boyfriends passing out on the neighbours lawn is totally bullshit btw.
-Talk to her about how you realize that this is problematic, and that you are looking for ways to deal with it.

You can drink moderately. It won't be a breeze, but it's doable. Start trying, and communicate to your girlfriend what you are trying, even if it isn't working. It might take a few tries to find a good method of slowing down, make sure she knows how it is going, and what your next option is. I would suggest starting out with some sort of CBT program, but you'll start where you start.
posted by dr. moot at 7:49 PM on December 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

I do believe this thread may have influenced me enough to stop drinking. (and I am not the anonymous OP)
posted by matty at 6:46 AM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

anonymous, I hope you do have a really honest discussion with your girlfriend. You have a need to engage in certain behaviour, to make choices and you have certain expectations about what you want in your life. So does she. You both deserve to make a decision about being together or not, knowing what each of you needs and expects. She is trying to tell you something about her needs and expectations. Here is your chance to make a choice about what your needs and expectations are for your life. Maybe it'd help to take a step back and think of all this in such a greater context.

For completeness, I want to add that there is a controversial idea in addiction treatment called "harm reduction." Google "harm reduction alcoholism" and you can find some further information. Instead of expecting abstinence or quitting cold turkey for people with severe addiction, the idea is to meet the person wherever they are at, wherever their priorities are. You do this with a therapist and with their help, you work to minimize the risks associated with your choices by imposing limits that help you meet your goals and priorities, which may eventually include abstinence, or not. Usually associated more with drug addiction treatment, it seems (the whole idea of safe injection sites flows from this).

I hesitate to mention it because I don't know much about how it works in practice and because I don't want to suggest that it's an alternative to asking yourself the tough questions and honest action to understand where behaviour is coming from. But I don't know what will work for you, and the goal is to get some help, right? So there's another thought.
posted by onoclea at 2:58 PM on December 5, 2007

If what Miss Lynster says is correct you're kidding yourself about how much you're drinking and I retract what I've said and you have a serious problem and need to seek proper help.

However, if what you say is really truthful then you can manage. But, if you've snuck other people's alcohol and such then you are in serious trouble. But, I've been a binger into my late 20s, and have cut back myself and have friends who have cut back and are now having successful lives (well, they are anyway). It's possible to reduce binge drinking if it just once or twice a week boozing. Not all binging is alcoholism. It's just being an ass.

Can you get your friends to have a sort of staged intervention for you? Get them together to talk about your drinking without you being there, and then get someone to report on what they've said?
posted by sien at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2007

You know, I'm not sure if this is helpful but I'll post it just in case and hope you don't mind another long post. What I keep coming back to as I read your question is that you say you have a problem, but you also seem to say that this "playing hard" is a source of pride. And so I keep wanting to ask you why. You ask where to start. Can you ask yourself a bunch of questions?

I don't have experience with binge drinking myself. I do have people close to me who "pride themselves on being able to work hard and play hard" as you said. What it seems to be about from the outside is a desire to appear invincible, to have no limits, to be able to push yourself so far and just keep on going. Nothing's going to knock you down, you have endurance like no other. It's a really simple and all-or-nothing view of what being human is all about, don't you think? You're far more complicated than that, right?

So I wonder, is that what "working hard and playing hard" does for you? Why are you doing this to yourself? If you say that you can't stop once you start but you can't imagine giving that tendency up, why? Why are you willing to push yourself to these limits like this? What are you trying to prove to yourself, to other people? What are you trying to feel or escape, why is having that feeling so much more important than the others that you're weighing it against? Why do you have to appear so strong? What do you think will happen if you let up a bit? Why is not having this outlet so scary that it overshadows the possibility of feeling more under control, or feeling relief that you wouldn't be worrying the people who love you? What would you do in your girlfriend's place? What do you expect people who care about you to do now, given what you're saying here?

I'm not assuming that these are all the questions you should to ask yourself; they're just the questions i'm thinking about when you keep saying that yeah, you have a problem, that people have told you that you drink too much, that your girlfriend is concerned ("understandably so"), that things are "getting worse and worse" but that it's a real blow to your *ego* and that making changes in this worsening situation would be "inconvenient." Maybe these questions could help you figure out some deeper reasons for why this is so important to you? This is what therapy is for. And this insight from therapy is scary, but it makes you stronger in that you are more familiar with, and less at the whim of, your own impulses, your inner terrain. I think it can make you stronger, better able to endure, in a way that alcohol bingeing can't, ever.
posted by onoclea at 3:11 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

MrGunn: Don't confuse someone having a disorder with someone who's just being a punk-ass.

I take care of sick people for a living. You can take it from me, MrGunn, that when you see or hear someone say any of the following, you may know with certainty that that person is a severe alcoholic:
  • I have a drinking problem
  • I can't bear the thought of having to quit drinking
  • My girlfriend is worried about me (understandably so) because of risks that I take when I'm drunk
  • I'm not having a good time until I've had about 4 beers
  • I drink and drink and drink until the sun comes up or we run out of booze
Even "I'm totally in the stage where I'd rather just ignore it" is pretty good circumstantial evidence. The original poster is not having us on with a practical joke because he is a punk. He's trying and failing to deal with a severe illness that is likely to kill him if it isn't treated.

paulsc: In contrast to ikkyu2's comment, the repeated message of medical personnel contributing to this series is that it is not necessary, or even advisable, that a person "hit bottom" before seeking treatment for addiction.

paulsc, your lack of experience with the jargon of alcoholism has confused you. To hit rock bottom, you don't have to lose your health, relationships, or job (although many unfortunate alcoholics do.) What you do have to do is make a decision: "This isn't acceptable anymore. This, right now, is the day on which I will start to change."

If an alcoholic doesn't make this decision - and the OP was nowhere near making it when he posted; instead, he explicitly rejected the possibility in the clearest terms - he can't get better. It's the first step and the most necessary.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:09 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

"If an alcoholic doesn't make this decision - and the OP was nowhere near making it when he posted; instead, he explicitly rejected the possibility in the clearest terms - he can't get better. It's the first step and the most necessary."
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:09 PM on December 5

ikkyu2, you needn't nitpick me, when you can, perhaps, more effectively argue with your colleagues in the HBO series. They're pointing to things like CRAFT - Community Reinforcement And Family Training as a means of influencing alcoholics and addicts who haven't yet made that decision, and they talk about success rates in the range of 2/3 of families who try CRAFT succeeding in getting the addict into treatment. And they talk about treatment outcomes being far better for CRAFT aided families.

In particular, they mention that NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) guidelines for effective treatment issued in 1999 include the following statement:
"10. Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective. "
It's an interesting series, and some of the points made by Dr. Nora Volkow in it directly challenge your statement. As does this:
""There are two main misconceptions that really drive me crazy when it comes to addictions," says Dr. Kathleen Brady, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. "One of them is this whole idea that an individual needs to reach rock bottom before they can get any help. That is absolutely wrong. There is no evidence that that's true. In fact, quite the contrary. The earlier in the addiction process that you can intervene and get someone help, the more they have to live for. The more they have to get better for."
posted by paulsc at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

ikkyu2 you are being a bit arrogant here. I think you are right about the OP, but there is still a significant possibility that he is just a punk ass binge drinker who can reform his ways if he just gets his priorities in line. His unwillingness to face the issue speaks against this though. In any event, please don't diagnose a condition as absolute based upon incomplete information. You wouldn't do that with your patients. I know that unlike normal medical conditions the temptation is to let the addicts have it HARD because otherwise they seem to fail to grasp the message. Whatever, I think you are being too strident based upon the available information.
posted by caddis at 7:24 PM on December 5, 2007

You're probably right, caddis.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:38 PM on December 5, 2007

Congratulations for admitting you have a problem. That is a huge and significant first step.

Dealing with the ambivalence that will come up as you work on letting go of the addiction is a process, a humbling process.

Because letting go of a crutch of sorts, like being addicted to booze, is hard work, you will likely need a support system to help you in this.

Your drinking is enmeshed with the alcoholism or drinking pattern of socializing with your friends.

So it will require that you detach not only from your alcohol addiction but also the cues that are part of your addiction, the drinking friends. If they cannot understand that if you keep on drinking it will destroy your life, they are not your friends but self-destruction mates.

You may be drinking to self-medicate for depression or as an avoidance of dealing with unresolved issues from your childhood. When you have stopped drinking it might help you to take an anti-depressant for a while until your brain heals from both the depression and the alcoholism.

The decision to save your life needs to be made by you. It all hinges on your decision not to be an addict.

It looks like a time to sort your priorities, your drinking, your drinking buddies, all leading to an alcoholic life and all that entails...or a life without this addiction and all that entails.

You might consider having a look at this blunt online site about addiction:

Rational recovery: Bullets for my beast.

You might consider taking Mega-Glutamine : Glutamine reduces the craving for alcohol and protects the liver from alcohol-induced damage.

Clinical studies conducted during the 1950s indicate that 90% of alcoholics who received supplemental glutamine find that it reduces their desire to drink.

posted by nickyskye at 10:37 PM on December 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping, of course, that the followup I will read is, 'I realized I've been acting like nothing outside of myself is real, when this is not in fact the case. I have now committed to take the advice of my girlfriend/Rational Recovery/AA/God/any competent doc/concerned family members/AskMe/the collective experience of problem drinkers through the ages/nature and make it as important to me as it is to them. Hear me, MeFites, my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will drink no more forever.'

I don't know whether that hope is realistic or not, based on the fact that the original question pretty much reduces to this: 'My girlfriend says to address my problem or she'll leave me. I'd rather not address my problem, but without her leaving me. Please advise.' And in fact I would be fascinated to see how an intelligent, articulate person decides to handle the paradoxes of that situation, given a frank unwillingness to actually address its realities. I have a friend who used to do that with his mental health problem, and the parallels are illuminating, although heartrending.

(For the record, my friend decided to take responsibility for his problem just in time to avoid the loss of his wife.)

E-mail the admins and let us know what you've decided. Many of us are anxious for your well-being.
posted by eritain at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

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