Am I An Alcoholic?

Alcohol… my friend.    Alcohol… my enemy.

My love affair with alcohol has been going since I was about 15 years old. At various points during my life there have been periods where I have clearly been drinking too much. The rest of the time I would consider myself a regular moderate drinker… although I think perhaps a doctor might prefer to describe me as a moderate/heavy drinker. I drink every day, and I would say I probably drink 1/2 – 2/3 of a bottle of wine or 3 cans of lager every day. On Friday & Saturday night I’ll let my hair down and probably drink a whole bottle (from 6pm – 1am) or 4 or 5 cans of lager… often finished off with a double whisky or a Cognac before bed. I occasionally have a night on the gin & tonics too but haven’t done that for a while. I very rarely get fall-over-drunk, and I very rarely suffer from a hangover. I always remember to drink water while I’m drinking & always finish the night off with a glass of water before bed (water is the only hang-over preventative).

Obviously over the years the daily quantities have fluctuated and when I was in my early 20’s I probably didn’t drink every single day, though it won’t have been far off – I’d have just been drinking in a pub with friends rather than at home by myself. I have always been conscious of the fact that I drink more than is strictly healthy, and I have always dreaded the thought that I might become an alcoholic and therefore have to give it up completely as a result. Over the last 8-9 years I would say my intake has increased, but not the amount I drink at home. The difference has been lunches at work where perhaps I’ve drunk half a bottle of wine, or there’s been some sort of work related do where the champagne is flowing. Then at 6pm we will usually have a couple of glasses of wine or beers in the office before going home (there was a period of about 3 or 4 years where I would regularly have drunk a bottle of wine before getting home sometimes more). I would then get home and crack open a bottle and drink maybe another half bottle of wine.

Things have (had to!) calmed down over the last couple of years. I rarely drink at lunch time and if I do it’s one glass of wine (the occasional boozy lunch does still happen but they are few and far between). I have stopped having the beer or wine at work at 6pm, and over the last 3 weeks I have been trying to cut the alcohol out completely during the week (I wasn’t very successful last week). I intend to try and keep it up but not beat myself up about it if I lapse every now and then. I just want to try and stop the habitual nature of my drinking.

Since I started writing this blog in March, I have been looking at all areas of my life and my alcohol consumption is something that I am always aware of, yet regularly choose to ignore. I do drink too much, but because I drink less than I did 3 or 4 years ago, I allow myself to feel ok about it. Since this depression really took hold about a year ago I suppose, I have started to feel more paranoid about it. I don’t get mindlessly drunk, I don’t lose my memory, I’m not a ‘bad drunk’, I don’t get aggressive (with a couple of extremely rare exceptions which I talk about in my post Journeys Into Rage). I don’t hide bottles, I don’t pretend to people that I drink less than I actually do, I never drink in the mornings, I don’t have uncontrollable cravings. I don’t deny that I drink too much, I do try to moderate my intake, I do drink lots of water… you get the idea… butter wouldn’t melt.

But, is my paranoia over my level of alcohol consumption just another outlet for my insecurities and depression – another thing that I’m beating myself up about needlessly, or am I in fact already an alcoholic??

Half of me says that yes I drink a lot, but it’s ok I have control over it. The other half is like a little voice whispering in the back of my mind ‘you’re already an alcoholic, it’s too late you loser…’ (I will just clarify that I don’t hear actual voices). I feel pretty confident that some people will read this and say that I do indeed have an alcohol problem, and others would say that I am no worse than a large percentage of the population of the UK. Who is right?

I think that perhaps the truth is that I am in danger of becoming an alcoholic, but not there yet. Although I have maintained my drinking habits for the last 25 years and it’s never gone out of control so who’s to say it will now? A doctor would say that I definitely drink too much and am destroying my liver. I smoke cigarettes and joints too – it’s either going to be the lungs, throat, mouth, liver, kidneys, heart…. well I also work in the west end of London and to be honest I’m far more worried about the air I breathe all day every day with all the heavy particulates from exhaust fumes, than I am about the cigarettes or alcohol.

Excuses, excuses.

I might get run over by a bus tomorrow.

My latest reply to people who ask me why I still smoke, is to say that ‘smoking is my pension’. Seeing as I don’t have any pension at all – absolutely nothing, then smoking will ensure I don’t make it past the age of 65, therefore I won’t have to live through years of miserable, old aged, lonely poverty. Sadly that one makes a lot of frightening sense to me.

I digress. Alcohol. Problem? No problem? Paranoia? Deluding myself? I honestly don’t know, but I think at the moment as long as I continue to try and keep a handle on it, then I should be ok.

Right, I’m off for a beer.

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About RescueMyLife

I am a single man, 45 years old living in London and working in the media. My life is complex and I have decided to try and make some sense of it. I am writing this blog anonymously as I believe that only by remaining anonymous can I be honest and speak freely about my thoughts and feelings. I have no idea where this blog will take me...
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4 Responses to Am I An Alcoholic?

  1. SaltySmile says:

    Being aware or conscious o the risk is admirable. No repression or denying helps. I think most people have behaviors that are unhealthy or dangerous but our aknowledgemwnt of them reduces their risk. That said, alcoholism is a serious disease which can he tragic so I do hope you are safe.

    Great post 🙂

    • RescueMyLife says:

      Thanks SaltySmile – I agree that although my drinking habits are not terribly good for my health, I do believe that I still have control over it rather than it over me. If I were drinking to get off my face every time then that would be something to be very concerned about, but I generally don’t drink to ‘get drunk’ and it doesn’t adversely effect my behaviour – I think/hope that as long as that remains true, then I’ll be ok. Some may disagree…
      RML

  2. Hi RML!

    So glad to get a new post from you, hadn’t seen one in quite a while but I also know that when you’re not feeling up to blogging, it’s best to take a break.

    I lost my Dad to alcohol when he was quite young (43) and I was 13 I believe, my late husband met him the week before he died and thought he was 65 :(. The alcohol had aged him so badly, had done damage to his brain and he’d had a shunt put in to control the flow of protective fluid over the brain. Back in the 50’s it was all the rage to drink too much, no one seemed to think much of it, no one thought twice about drinking and driving. It destroyed our family and eventually my Mom had no choice but to leave and take my brother and I with her as we couldn’t live with my Dad anymore.

    My Mom is still alive, she’s 82 now, she lost her 2nd hubbie about 6 years ago and missed him terribly. She had a drinking problem, probably for the last 15 years or so and her 2nd hubbie was a former alcoholic. Never understood why she continued to drink in front of him, but she did and initially he’d make her a martini every night, but when he saw where it was leading to – he stopped – she didn’t. I had very little tolerance for alcohol abuse as I’d already lost one parent to it, but to watch my Mom, my best friend, the woman I admired and looked up to for most of my life, self medicate with alcohol and become so incapaciatated by it that you couldn’t even carry on a conversation, nor could she remember it the next day – was just too much.

    She came to live with my son and I one year after her 2nd husband died, at first it was good, but didn’t take long before both my son and I dreaded 5pm when she’d fix herself a drink. It was not a mixed drink or wine, but about 6-8 ounces of pure alcohol, either a vodka martini or a manhatten. The alcohol so changed her personality and ability to converse that we’d dread eating dinner with her. She’d “top up” with another few ounces, often sneaking thinking we didn’t know, but we did. I felt just gawd awful I’d invited this problem into my home, exposing my son to it and repeating what I’d experienced as a child. In the end, I told her I loved her, and if we were going to remain friends, she’d have to find her own place. – which she did.

    Long story short – the drinking got so bad last October 2010 that she went on a 3 day binge, was drunk 24 hours a day, was barely able to converse and finally didn’t answer her phone anymore. Had to have the night nurse where she lives in a gorgeous seniors’ building enter her condo, she’d passed out on the floor but fortunately had not hurt herself. I was wiped out, didn’t go over until the next day, but she was right back at it at 6am. She was very depressed, had withdrawn from everyone, wasn’t attending any activities, really just not enjoying life. I removed all alcohol with her permission, spent the day with her, she sobered up and I left for the night. Came back the next day, she was much improved, got her a doctor’s appointment right away and she was put on a mild antidepressant. Took only a few weeks to see the remarkable difference in her outlook, no alcohol since and she’s now fully engaged with life and happy again. Both of us had wondered whether she was an alcoholic, she herself said it was good to have the alcohol removed or she’d have been tempted. Fact is, she didn’t really miss it, it had become a crutch to try coping with depression – never a good combo.

    Alcohol is a depressant, I’ve always know this and made a decision many years ago not to drink. Never did drink much without company, now only do if out somewhere or having someone over. I hope you will consider taking a break from alcohol to see whether it improves your outlook. Doesn’t have to be forever, but within a very short time you may notice your mood/outlook/mindset has improved, and if so, that would be a big improvement for you and would also alleviate your concern as to whether there is an alcohol issue.

    In the meantime, I wish you well and look forward to you sharing your journey.

    • RescueMyLife says:

      Hi Barb,

      Firstly thank you for sharing your story – it sounds like you’ve been through hell at the hands of alcohol, I’m really sorry. A cautionary tale indeed. It is not surprising you take a rather dim view of that particular poison. Your story does however give me hope and reassurance, as what you describe your mother going through, is far away from my own drinking habits. I always, always have to stay in control and as soon as I get too drunk I stop drinking and move onto water for the rest of the night. I don’t actually like being that drunk as I hate feeling out of control. Being so drunk your speech is slurring is never a good look. I like feeling tipsy not drunk.

      I have for the last few weeks been cutting down on my alcohol consumption as you suggest – if you read my medication diary, at the end of each days entry, I’ve been keeping track of what and how much I drink every day. I’ve been trying to not drink during weekdays, and on the whole I have been successful with no difficulty. Only trouble is I’ve been making up for it at the weekends and drinking more than I would usually if I were drinking every day. After 4 days of
      abstinence I hit the weekend and think ‘yippee I can have a drink!!’… glug glug glug.

      One other good thing that’s come out of cutting down the alcohol, has been the fact that I’ve lost 8 lb (half a stone) in weight… every cloud…

      Thanks again for sharing your story and your thoughts and taking the time to comment.

      RML

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