Sunday, 3 January 2016

Are You An Alcoholic?

I spent years leading up to starting this blog, and months afterwards, wrestling with this one. I wrote three posts on the subject.

If you're anything like me, you will have Googled the question many times, and spent ages doing (and then re-doing) those questionnaires which claim to give you the magic answer that will define the rest of your life.

Nobody wants the answer to be 'yes'.

Why not?

Because we all think we know what the 'alcoholic' looks like: the sad old bag lady who's drunk away her job and home, lost her family and had to reach 'rock bottom' before she was forced to quit and live half an existence without life's best reward: booze.

It took me a while to work out that it's all bollocks.

I simply don't believe that the world is divided into two types of people; 'normal drinkers' and 'alcoholics,' with those roles assigned at birth, in the same way as there are no 'normal smokers' and 'nicotinaholics', or 'normal heroin users' and 'heroinaholics.'

Alcohol is like any other addictive poison. Take enough of it for long enough, and you'll end up out of control.

Some people are more predisposed to becoming addicted, and this predisposition can be hereditary, but anyone who drinks excessively is playing Russian roulette.

So the question you should really be asking is 'am I addicted to alcohol?'

The answer to that question is pretty easy, isn't it?

If alcohol is starting to control you, rather than you controlling it, then you're addicted.

If you keep drinking when you really want to stop (or cut down), then you're addicted.

If you're behaving in ways you really don't mean to, and if alcohol is taking up way more space in your head than it should, then you're addicted.

So then what?

Well, once you're addicted to something you always will be, because of the way addiction rewires the dopamine receptors in your brain. And if you carry on 'using', it's only going to get worse.

(You'll find that you can quit for days, weeks, or even months at a time, but as soon as you start drinking again 'in moderation', the amount you're consuming creeps rapidly back up until you're drinking even more than you were before).

You wouldn't tell a heroin addict to carry on shooting up 'in moderation', would you? Or a gambling addict to just go to the races at weekends?

The truth is, any addiction will control, and ruin, your life if you don't step away from it permanently.

Don't wait until you get to 'rock bottom'. That would be madness! Because the more time your addiction has to take hold, the harder it is to break. Stop now, while it's still (relatively) easy.

And the good news?

Once you quit you're not condemned to a terrible life of a deprived alcoholic forever envying the 'normal drinker'. No!

When you stop you free yourself of a chronic addiction that was ruining your life! You go back to being the person you were always meant to be.

YOU will be the normal one, not the millions of people gradually slipping down the slope you've just scrambled off.

I still don't define myself as an 'alcoholic'. I was (am) addicted to alcohol. No shame in that - it's a terribly addictive substance.

But I had the wisdom and the courage to realise the problem and quit while I still could.

And now I am free. And so can you be.

Big hugs to you all,

SM x


21 comments:

  1. I too cannot label myself as an alcoholic but can now acknowledge I am (was? always will be?!) an alcohol addict. The more you read up about it the clearer addiction becomes. Any addiction. I have replaced my alcohol addiction for a chocolate fix but at least it's a step in the right direction. Jason Vale's book is great at explaining addiction. I am still hoping to become addicted to exercise one day! LNM x

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    1. And to you LNM! I'm aiming for an addiction to running too ;-) Or kale, maybe? Xx

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  3. Beautifully put SM. The analogy of the nicotine-aholic is spot on. I fear the reason so many people seem to be less supportive and more incredulous when we announce we're giving up alcohol is that it turns a difficult spotlight on their own alcohol use. Not saying this applies to everyone, but I've sure come across it already. We need to bust this myth that there's any shame attached. I reckon we can do it - look what's happened to the issue of mental health in the last couple of years. Much much less stigma around that now!
    Right - am climbing down off my soapbox now, as I can't reach my chocolate from up here ;-)
    Red xx

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  4. So true SM! And Red, you're right, no one seems to blink an eye if we say we're giving up cookies or cake, right? On New Year's Eve, we were talking about resolutions and I just laughed and said, I quit booze already and my (evil) sister-in-law just sneered and said, yeah, right, we'll see how long that lasts.....she was shocked when I told her I was a shade off nine months free of alcohol...he he...

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    1. OOo, WB, how immensely satisfying it must have been telling the (evil) SIL that. The phrase "so stick that in yer pipe and smoke it" springs to mind. 9 months is awesome, can't wait till I can tell people that!

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  6. Hi SM. Happy New Year!
    Great post. Sounds like someone's been reading Jason Vale!
    I really want to find myself and to be the person I was meant to be. I hope and pray that this is my year.
    A x

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    1. Huge congrats on your sober Xmas Angie - just read your blog. Yes, Jason Vale is my hero - he changed my life. HNY! Xx

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  7. I like this! Drank too much for too long?? Done deal. Over.
    It's so true. I hope every single person who is thinking of trying moderating (either as means to sobriety or a means out of it) reads this and gets it.

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  8. Happy New Year to us all! For me it wasn't so much about how much I was drinking but rather the knowledge that my alcohol consumption was having a negative effect on my life. If your alcohol consumption limits you and prevents you from being your best then give it up. It's not always about the amount, more about the impact.

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  9. Yes it's so true that you don't have to hit rock bottom before you stop. I had only ever tried to moderate before. I had never considered stopping for good. But the more I tried to moderate the more I ended up drinking and when I started reading about alcohol and addiction I realised that stopping was so much better now than in a few years when it was too late and I had some horrible alcohol related illness. I didn't drink every day and not as much as some people I know (there's always someone who is worse than you hee hee) but I could feel the pull getting stronger. It turns out that stopping has been easier than I thought and actually easier than trying to moderate!

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  10. Happy New Year SM - loving reading all your posts. Big help to me and so many others. Please keep them coming thick and fast. Love SFM xxx

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  11. The 'am I an alcoholic' question has kept me in the dark for far too long. I would panic, then drink more in order to prove to myself that I wasn't an alcoholic. Typing that makes me sound like a lunatic. Annie x

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  13. I really enjoyed your blog! I can relate to so much of it! Started my own blog thewinothatiknow.wordpress.com and I am on day 3 and reading Jason Vale's book. :)

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  14. Thank you SM. Another blog which us perfectly written and perfectly timed. I am doing well thanks to inspiration like that I find in the daily "helpings" of help you offer so many of us. Cheers to a great 2016 and discovering the amazing people we are completely capable of being...and are meant to be. Glad it is you that is ahead of us in this journey and so grateful for your gift with words that you share feeely.

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  15. Yay! No more drinking for us!
    Happy New Year!!
    xo
    Wendy

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  16. I know this is something we all know, but just to say it again feels so good: the whole alcoholic from birth and always in recovery myth was started and perpetuated by AA (I am NOT against AA) because that was the only program to help anyone for so so so long. NO wonder so many have failed, As Jason Vale told us so succinctly, the day you stop you aren't addicted any more. It takes a while but the brain gradually retires and you basically get your real brain back!!! My best favorite thing about being free of that stupid alcohol is getting my brain back! I so totally love my brain. It's my most beautiful feature and I nearly killed it. I love being alert and awake all day and thinking all the time. Have you heard that theory about how the first year of sobriety is for healing physically; the second for healing emotionally and the third spiritually? Is that true?

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