Whenever I tell people that I don't drink (which I do quite happily now), one of the first questions I'm asked is "are you an alcoholic?"
This question is usually accompanied by a hard, concerned stare, and is whispered. It's the same tone in which someone might ask "do you have genital herpes?" or "is it cancer?"
(I know this, because I did actually have cancer. And, I tell you what, admitting to cancer is an awful lot easier than admitting to not drinking. I would merrily tell my hairdresser, a traffic warden, pretty much anyone about my cancer, but it took at least six months of not drinking to be able to confess to that!)
And the problem with being asked are you an alcoholic? is that I never know what to say.
I hate the word. It comes loaded with such negative imagery. People assume that alcoholics are diseased, weak, doomed, bad mothers, untrustworthy and unstable - or at least that's what I think they're thinking.
I think the word is damaging, because we try so hard to deny being an alcoholic that we carry on drinking for way longer than we should. Only rock bottom feels worse than admitting to that lifelong curse.
This isn't a case of me being in denial. I am happy to confess that I AM AN ADDICT. And, as a result, I CAN NEVER DRINK AGAIN. But, confess to being an alcoholic? No thank you.
This is a bit of an issue, as when I start having to do the publicity for my book it's a question I'm bound to be asked publically.
I don't want to give the impression that I'm ashamed of my addiction. I'm not. Or that I think I'm different from self-proclaimed alcoholics - I'm not. Nor do I want to run down AA, which is an incredible institution. It's just not a label that I agree with, like or find helpful.
So, here are my questions to all of you (answers in the comments below, please!)
Do you describe yourself an alcoholic? Do you find the terminology helpful? If not, what do you prefer to say? And, when I'm asked 'are you an alcoholic?' what do you think I should say?
Really looking forward to hearing your views!
Love SM x