Jan. 16, 2016

Am I Really An Alcoholic?

“I am so powerless. I can change nothing. Shrug my shoulders and screw up my mouth, that’s all; I can’t do more.” Franz Kafka (Diaries-August 6, 1917)

The first time I wondered if I was an alcoholic was back in 1989. I was young married with no children; we both had good jobs, and I was happy, but I could not drink just one drink. I had not gotten into any trouble because of my drinking; I just knew this was not normal, and I hated the feeling. I hated getting up the next morning and knowing I felt awful, couldn’t remember anything and wondered what had happened the night before. I had plenty of negative experiences up until this point, but I still wondered if I was an alcoholic. I called a 12 Step group and talked to the person answering the phone; this was before email or the internet. They mailed me a brochure with 12 questions about my patterns with alcohol. I answered yes to eight of the twelve questions. At the time, alcohol had not caused many problems at home, I had not missed work because of alcohol, I didn’t drink every day, and no one had ever admonished me about my drinking. I did wish I could stop at one drink, I had suffered from blackouts, I always wanted more drinks, I had experienced some bad situations while drinking, but none of these produced consequences bad enough for me to stop. I was 27 years old, and I knew I had a problem, but I was not ready to admit it. Today at 53 years old going in and out of a 12 Step program I knew I had no control when I was drinking, I just didn’t believe I was truly powerless. I had to have 26 more years of experiences with alcohol to show me that I am powerless. I cannot drink. In the past 26 years, I have come to the conclusion that people who are not alcoholics don’t usually question if they indeed are and most people would stop drinking if they had encountered the situations I did when drinking. 26 years later I can now answer yes to all of those 12 questions. I have missed work because I was hungover, alcohol has caused problems at home, I have wanted others to mind their own business about my drinking and I finally became obsessed enough with alcohol that I was drinking every day. Not every alcoholic has to answer yes to all of these questions. I have heard this statement in the rooms of my 12 Step program. “I didn’t get into trouble every time I was drinking, but every time I got into trouble, I had been drinking.” In my experience if you are wondering if you are an alcoholic, you probably are. People who don’t have a problem with alcohol don’t usually question this. If alcohol has caused any pain or discomfort in your life, it will not get any better. I am an example of this. I am powerless over alcohol, but today I can do something. I can do more than shrug my shoulders and grimace. There is an answer, and I am grateful I found it.