Hidden Symptoms of Alcoholism Do Not Offer True Escape
anonymous Asks ...
I have a drinking problem that I can sort of control but which mostly controls me. I go through these back and forth phases of not drinking and binge drinking. What I do is quit drinking and get focused on getting in shape and doing better at work and being a better dad and being a more spiritual and mindful person. I do this for a while and after a couple of weeks I start feeling really great, much better than I ever feel when I am drinking. And then after a while I am feeling so great and there will be this reason to have a few glasses of wine or an old friend will come through town or whatever and I will end up having a few drinks. And then a few days later I will have a few more drinks and then it will just escalate until I am drinking between 6 and 12 beers every night. Once I am in a drinking phase I get obsessed with thinking about drinking and I will be thinking about getting and drinking beer all day long. Because my family knows about my battles with drinking I am also obsessed about hiding my drinking so they don’t know how much I am really having. After a while, things will get bad enough that I will quit drinking again and tell my wife that I am done with drinking again.
I know myself very well and this cycle has repeated itself enough times that I know it’s like a pattern I can’t break free from. I am on my first day of not drinking again today after a health scare that I thought was related to drinking but wasn’t – but since I am in my 40s and have been drinking for decades, it very well could have been. I really want to break free from this cycle and stay sober for good. I have been to AA meetings before and I did not like them. I can easily quit for a few weeks or even months so I don’t think I need rehab. I just don’t know how to keep myself from slipping up a month or two down the road. How can I stop myself from repeating this pattern of my life?
Delisted Expert Says ...
I think you already recognize that in many ways you are fine father and a spiritually minded individual who cares for his family. These descriptors describe your character, not your medical condition or dis-ease. The struggle I sense is in your strong effort to try to control or hide your alcohol consumption.
Alcoholism is a life-threatening disease. What prevents many people from recognizing alcoholism is for a variety of reasons. First, most people do not like to think they cannot control a behavior or substance and are uncomfortable feeling controlled by externals, like alcohol. Secondly, many people do drink and can drink till intoxication, but do not show a loss of function. They go to work, to school, and fulfill most or all of their obligations. However, the difference between heavy drinkers like these and alcoholics is loss of control over their drinking. This loss of control includes, but is not limited to, a loss of control over how much is consumed in one setting, the amount of money spent on alcohol, the amount of time spent planning or acquiring alcohol, having to hide drinking or the amount of alcohol consumed from others, etc. Hence, I would like to draw your attention to common signs or symptoms associated with alcoholism:
You might have an alcohol problem if you experience three or more of the following alcohol-related symptoms within a year:
- Not being able to quit drinking or control how much you drink
- Needing to drink more to feel the same effect
- Feeling sick to your stomach, sweaty, shaky, or anxious when you stop drinking
- Spending a lot of time drinking and recovering from drinking
- Giving up other activities so you can drink
- Trying to quit drinking or cut back, but not being able to
- Continuing to drink even though drinking causes you problems
- Trying to hide your drinking from others
- Having blackouts, where you don’t remember what happened while drinking
- Having friends and family be concerned about your drinking
For more information about this, go to: maketheconnection.net/conditions/problems-with-alcohol
If you continue to have doubts about alcoholism, I would recommend you take an alcoholism screening test by Alcohol Screening Organization at alcoholscreening.org. This is a free test which indicates whether or not you test out as an alcoholic, based on your age, sex, and drinking patterns.
You asked what you can do to address this problem. Although I have offered resources, I still think your best move would be to consult with a substance abuse professional who can properly assess your drinking and making treatment recommendation for you, based on your drinking, level of motivation, history of alcohol abuse, family issues, and community/medical resources available to you. Since you did not like AA, you could also augment any treatment with attendace at recovery groups such as Smart Recovery or Rational Recovery meetings. Smart Recovery and Rational Recovery are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous. I do want to assure you that alcoholism is a progressive disease which will get worse if unattended by recovery resources or medical treatment. I encourage you to take action, get an assessment, and then consider your treatment options, if necessary.
I wish you every success in your search for answers for this common and treatable problem. If I can be of further service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA, LPC, NCC