Friday, 22 May 2015

Am I an Alcoholic? Part 3

My regular readers will know that I have been obsessed by the question: Am I an Alcoholic?

On Day 18 I posted Am I an Alcoholic? where I ranted about terminology and imagery.

I'd calmed down a little by Day 44, when I posted Am I an Alcoholic? Part 2. This one, based on Bill Wilson's 'moderation test', shows the light slowly beginning to dawn that perhaps I am.

Then, this morning, on day 82, I was looking at my list of potential blog posts (my aquarium of little fish that you may remember from Full Circle), and I realised that I'd never posted the NCADD's questionnaire.

I came across these 26 questions in Caroline Knapp's book (Drinking. A Love Story)

1.  Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed or have had a quarrel
with someone?
2. When you have trouble or feel under pressure, do you always drink more heavily than usual?
3.  Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink?
4.  Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though
your friends say you didn’t pass out?
5.  When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others
won’t know about it?      
6.  Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?
7.  Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be?
8.  Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?
9.  Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking?
10.  Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently? 
11.  Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?  
12.  Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily?
13.  When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?
14.  Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your
15.  Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or
cutting down on your drinking?        
16. Have you ever tried to control your drinking by changing jobs or moving to a new location? 
17.  Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking?      
18.  Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of
your drinking? 
19.  Do more people seem to be treating you unfairly, without reason?
20.  Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking?
21.  Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a
“little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?     
22.  Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to?   
23.  Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?
24.  Do you sometimes feel very depressed and wonder if life is worth living?
25.  After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there?
26.  Do you get terribly frightened after you have been drinking heavily?
The interesting thing about this questionnaire is that, according to Knapp, people who answer 'yes' to questions 1-8 are said to be in the early stages of alcoholism, which typically last ten to fifteen years.

Answering 'yes' to questions 9-21 indicates middle stage alcoholism which usually lasts 2-5 years.

Questions 21-26 indicate the beginning of the final stage.

The reason we become obsessed by the question 'Am I an alcoholic?' is that the underlying question - the one we really want answered - is do I really have to stop drinking? For ever?

The problem is that we don't often really, truly believe that we are an alcoholic until we get to the final stages, when the evidence is irrefutable, and by then it's really, really difficult to stop.

What this questionnaire showed to me is that alcoholism is a progression. It's an escalator which only goes down. I was at the beginning of the 'middle stage', still easily able to deny any problem, but who wants to go any closer to the bottom?

But you know the really odd thing? The reason this post was still languishing on my list (swimming unnoticed around the aquarium) is that I don't really care any more.

I realise now that the question isn't "do I really have to stop?" It's actually "do I really want to carry on?"

Finally, finally, I have got to the stage where I want to be sober, rather than having to be sober.

It strikes me that the reason people get into such a mess before they jump off the escalator is that the image of the alcoholic is so bad they can't associate with it, and the image of the sober person is not attractive enough for them to want to be one.

It's up to us to change that.

Happy Friday fellow revolutionaries! Vivre la vie sober!*

SM x

*apologies to any native French speakers.


  1. Ha ha.... I was reading this and as I got further down the list of questions was starting to think 'oh maybe I don't have a problem then.....' until I read the explanation of how the questions work and can help you see what stage you're at. It makes so much sense and I feel quite relieved that I couldn't answer yes to all of the questions! These things keep it all real and keeping it real is what I need just now. Been feeling headachy and had a few major wobbles yesterday but am feeling back on track. Onwards and upwards x

    1. You're doing great EHW. Sounds like you need some 'self care'. Check out my post on that one if you haven't already. Just think how great it'll be waking up on Saturday morning feeling fabulous xx

  2. Thank you for posting that, I have seen it before but I never realized it was a progressive list. I was in early middle stage too. Thank God I got off, I feel great and really enjoying life!
    One thing I have noticed is when we go to a event and there is a line at the bar everyone gets nervous as if they won't ever get a drink. It's nice not to have to worry about where my next drink will come from, there is never a line for a nice glass of water or coffee.

    1. God I remember getting really arsey when the waiter was too slow with my first glass of wine! Thanks for reminding me! Xx

  3. Day 28 for me. I was at the beginning of the middle stage as well. More and more I find that I really do "want to stay sober " but all too often I still grapple with " do I really have to stay sober?". It is so reassuring to know that as time goes on that "want to stay sober" voice will keep getting louder. Thanks SM. It is great to know what lies ahead!

    1. 4 weeks! Well done you! That's fabulous. Love SM x

  4. So glad you posted that. I have never seen it before, I'm also at the beginning of the middle stage & the same as Edinburgh Housewife I was thinking maybe I didn't have a problem, then read the explanation. I'm only on day 5 but astounded I have got this far, and, more importantly, that the compulsion not to drink is still far stronger than the other

    1. Well done Wink! The days will go faster than you expect, and you're about to get your first AF Sunday morning! You'll love it! Xx

  5. god I can't wait to reach the 'I want to stay sober' stage. The more like the longer I go on the more I want a time out from real life. Just a bottle of white, sitting outside in the sun. I was in the shops today watching everyone fill their trollies full of booze for the weekend, for parties and bbqs and all that fun. I'm actually ok doing it for now but like, for the rest of my life??? I know you're supposed to take it a day at a time but I'm finding that impossible....
    Anyway, here's to a sober weekend!

    1. I know it's tough, but try really hard not to think ahead. Eventually the idea of forever won't be scary any more, but for the time being just don't think about it! Love SM x

  6. I love that! I had definitely gotten to the point where the real question was do I really want to carry on.
    I never read about alcoholism, thought about alcoholism or considered myself an alcoholic. I just needed to stop drinking so much.
    It has only been in sobriety that I can see I was addicted. That stopping was necessary. And that sobriety is the answer for me. Mostly because I love my life. But also because I suddenly realize just how much I could lose if I go back to the booze.

    That would be a very expensive drink.

    1. I love your wisdom from further down the line Anne! Hugs xx

  7. It is great to get to the don't care stage. I love the fact alcohol has lost uts importance for me

    1. So glad to hear you say that Lucy! Thanks xx

  8. I've been "lurking" for weeks while using this group as my touchstone on a nightly basis. It is Day 43 for me and I'm taking the posting plunge because I know how much I've received from reading others' posts here and I want to share whatever help I might have to offer especially on this night -- a challenging night for me.

    I've been through a lot of firsts so far: a banquet with open bar and bottles of red wine all over the table, a cottage weekend with my drinking friends, a ladies' night out with 12 women all getting drunker and louder as the evening progressed. But tonight with the house to myself (never ever happens) the urge to zip out and buy a bottle of wine is 15 times stronger than the urge was to drink in any of the social situations I've just listed.

    So this is YET ANOTHER revelation that I've had while looking at myself more clearly in these 43 days: I Love(d) To Drink Alone. Wow. What is THAT saying about me ?

    SM your post today is another reminder that I have to step up to the truth: I am an alcoholic. It's hard to say it and it's really hard to lose that old companion wine who's been hanging out with me for so so many years now. But there is strength in numbers here and I'm hanging tough with this group for as long as I can.

    1. Welcome 11april! I'm so glad that you took the plunge and posted. And a great name (presumably your sober date). You're doing brilliantly. If you look back to my posts around day 43 it was when I hit 'the wall' after an initial 'pink cloud' phase. It suddenly all feels a bit relentless and DULL. But it does get better, I promise! Just hang in there, and keep posting. Love SM x

  9. I didn't need a list to know that I have a drinking problem. But I still struggle with the 'A' word. But I'm not going to waste energy on wondering whether am I or aren't I because I want to concentrate on not drinking and work on changing my life. Thanks for another great post. A x

    1. You're so right. The words don't matter. Big Hugs, Angie xxx