To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

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YogaAbba
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To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by YogaAbba » Wed Jan 27, 2016 6:57 pm

Hi,

I hope that those of you who have kindly indulged my previous rambling posts will not roll your eyes too badly at another one. Clearly, I'll still trying to figure this thing out.

Since AA meetings are open to anyone who wants to stop drinking, I am quite sure that I qualify to attend. Although I haven't been actively drinking for many years, my obsession with alcohol has as of late become distracting and frightening. Just the other day, I wanted to stop at a liquor store on my way to work really badly (and I was never a morning drinker in the past). I kind of don't know how I managed to get to work without stopping. Maybe this is my present day version of "unmanageable" ?

I think the only reason I really care about the label of "alcoholic" is because everyone at AA meetings introduces themselves by saying "Hi, I'm Jim, and I'm an alcoholic." I've never heard anyone say "Hi, I'm Jim, and I want to stop drinking." But at this point that would be all I am comfortable saying.

Leaving aside the psychiatric definition of alcoholism, I found this Joe and Charlie talk about the Doctor's Opinion in the Big Book really helpful (Link Removed per Forum Policy). As the Big Book conceives of it, according to this talk, an alcoholic has two distinguishing characteristics:

1) a physical sensitivity to alcohol such that once any amount of alcohol is ingested, a craving takes over that makes it impossible for the alcoholic to stop drinking: the craving makes him want to drink more and more;

2) Once that physical craving has passed (after a long enough detox and rehab process), the alcoholic will have a "mental obsession" with alcohol, such that he will, unless he undergoes a psychic change, eventually have that first drink, beginning the cycle again.

I identify entirely with item (2). Like the man in chapter 3 of the Big Book who managed to stop in his twenties, and went on to drink himself to death in his fifties, I am now several decades after active drinking faced with an intolerable obsession to drink. Resisting the obsession is exhausting. Andsince item (2) is precisely the thing thing that AA addresses (nothing can change the physical sensitivity), I can benefit from it, because it would help me deal with the obsession.

I am not as sure that item (1) describes me entirely. It does describe me in one phase of my life. From ages 12 to 15, I drank quite heavily. One of the first times I drank (at the age of 9 or 10 actually), I drank a _lot_ (like, into a blackout). Another time around that age, someone at a party gave me a mixed drink and I consumed it as if it were a soft drink: I'm sure I liked the taste of it. And then I had no idea why I suddenly got dizzy and had to lie down. And when my friend in 7th grade re-introduced me to drinking a few years later, we never drank less than a few bottles of wine at a time (and I was a scrawny kid). At that stage of my life, there was no such thing as wanting a nice warm glow from a glass of wine: it was all about getting as drunk as possible. That was my first version of "unmanageable": I was on my way to developing real tolerance, and to dropping out of school.

Leaving aside how and why I stopped at age 15, I went through most of my life until my late twenties very well able to have a glass of wine with dinner and that was it. I wasn't interested in getting drunk. There was no physical reaction to alcohol that made me unable to stop after the first drink. In other words, there _was_ such a thing as just one drink. This is the part that doesn't quite fit with the physical sensitivity as described by the Big Book, which would predict that a real alcoholic would not have been able to pull off just one glass.

When the obsession started in my late twenties, I knew it didn't feel normal and with one exception did not give in to it. The one time I did give into it, I really did grab that wine and drink it with total relish. I drank enough to get pretty buzzed (like, yeah, that was totally the point), but did not go on a wild bender.

I understand that alcoholism is as much about how you are when you are sober as it is about how you are when you are drinking. It is only the obsession that precedes the drinking that be changed. That's part about being alcoholic I identify with.

But, the physical side of this thing seems different. I mean, I don't want to test it (as suggested in chapter 3 -- just go to a bar and have a drink and see if you can stop: uhm, maybe not?). But I am also not sure about identifying myself as an alcoholic when the typical pattern of that physical sensitivity doesn't seem to fit the picture of what the Big Book describes. It is also the typical pattern described by most AA's (even those who don't go on the drunkalogues that are common in some meetings [see this article for an interesting discussion of this phenomenon: (Link Removed per Forum Policy)
When I pointed all this out to my therapist the other day, she said: "Are you saying this to give yourself a pretext to start drinking again?" I don't think I am? I mean, I can't really predict what would happen if I did have the first drink. And watching my father drink himself into early dementia from the brain damage caused by his drinking, I have every reason to be concerned about the genetics of this thing. I like my life so much the way it is -- I totally do not want to screw it up by letting the genie out of the bottle. But I am just not sure how much to identify as ". . . and I'm an alcoholic."

Thanks for listening.
--YA

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by Lali » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:36 pm

There is nothing wrong with introducing yourself and saying, I have a desire not to drink. Plain and simple.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by BPG » Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:20 pm

YogaAbba wrote:I hope that those of you who have kindly indulged my previous rambling posts will not roll your eyes too badly at another one. Clearly, I'll still trying to figure this thing out
Hi YogaAbba - Your post was well thought out, apparently sincere and --- to me, anyway --- familiar. I commend you for your efforts in sincerely trying to figure this thing out.

But here's the kicker; for me, anyway, I didn't begin to figure this thing out until I realized that my NEED to figure this thing out was undermining any chance I had to figure this thing out. Mine was a kind of intellectual arrogance that couldn't be gotten around until i gave up my gig as Master of the Universe.

It's a simple program, but I'm a complicated navel gazer. That's why I keep coming back.

Good luck to you.

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by Layne » Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:38 pm

Only you can make the determination whether you are an alcoholic or not. Putting that aside, others will have opinions whether you are or not. Judging by the length and content of your post, i am leaning to the "are" camp. You are comfortable with the part about the mental obsession but not the physical part, yet
When the obsession started in my late twenties, I knew it didn't feel normal and with one exception did not give in to it. The one time I did give into it, I really did grab that wine and drink it with total relish. I drank enough to get pretty buzzed (like, yeah, that was totally the point)
which to me sounds like pretty much like
1) a physical sensitivity to alcohol such that once any amount of alcohol is ingested, a craving takes over that makes it impossible for the alcoholic to stop drinking: the craving makes him want to drink more and more;
Yeah it was one episode, but how many episodes does it take to make that description fit. True that you
did not go on a wild bender.
But to me that (and a lot of your post) sounds a lot like a justification, which is merely another word for denial (also a hallmark of an alcoholic personality.

I am not trying to bust your chops, but personally speaking I know that many times I can't see the forest for the trees. If I had been able to see the forest earlier, my bottom might have been higher and my active drinking might not have been measured in decades. I believe that I was an alcoholic before I picked up my first drink, but I had to drink before I could come to that conclusion. damn them trees!

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tyg
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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by tyg » Thu Jan 28, 2016 1:42 am

If there is no physical sensitivity when you drink then why are you wondering if you have a drinking problem?
1) a physical sensitivity to alcohol such that once any amount of alcohol is ingested, a craving takes over that makes it impossible for the alcoholic to stop drinking: the craving makes him want to drink more and more;
Have you ever drank "Way to much," or more than you intended to?
Has this happened several times, even when you didn't want it to?

If yes, then one is experiencing the phenomenon of craving AA talks about (as in No 1 above). This craving (body allergy) is the reason why drinking causes us problems in our lives. If we did not drink more than intended or, "way too much," repeatedly, then our drinking habits would never be an issue for us. There would be no need to wonder if our drinking is problematic or not.

The alcoholic thinking (obsession) is very cunning, baffling and powerful. A lot of us think we don't have this phenomenon of craving (physical sensitivity) because we Can, and Do, stop when intended, some of the time (maybe a lot of the time). This type of thinking is delusional and gives us a false sense of security that we are in control and not powerless over alcohol.

It could be very beneficial to sit down face-to-face with a recovered alcoholic or talk one-on-one by phone. It makes it easier to understand alcoholism and its symptoms and much easier to determine for oneself, whether or not they may be alcoholic to. If you should ever find you are alcoholic, you can address yourself in the meetings however you like. There are no rules to that in AA. Sometimes I introduce myself as, hi, my name is ______ and I am allergic to alcohol and not capable of drinking alcohol safely.
~The secret to the AA program is the first three words on page 112~

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by Jim1991 » Thu Jan 28, 2016 5:31 am

I think it is a matter of personal choice. Some groups ask you to not identify yourself as anything other than alcoholic. In the forward to the first edition of the book, it says something to the effect of "when writing or speaking publicly, we introduce ourselves using our first name and as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous." Open meetings are open to the public, and Bill W. wrote you are a member when you say you are, so that's one option. In closed meetings, I use my first and last names.

Some years ago it came to me that after years of introducing myself as an alcoholic and talking about myself as an alcoholic, that I had made bring alcoholic my identity. One day, in a meeting, I introduced myself by saying "I'm Jim and I'm an alcoholic. That is what I am but it isn't WHO I am."

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by clouds » Thu Jan 28, 2016 7:58 am

Hi Yoga Abba,

You probably know this, and its not really your question, but traditionally you have no obligation to meet any requirements in AA except have the desire to stop drinking.

I don't have experience to share about control with alchohol. I did always drink until the stuff was gone or I passed out or blacked out and so don't remember. I have one experience of having had 1/2 a glass of beer after a very shaky, fist clenching stretch of dryness from alcohol of about two months. Next day though, I went on the worst bender of my life. I have thought about that night, getting up when everyone else was asleep wanting a beer. Then thinking, maybe I can just have a half a drink and it won't get me. A sort of test it was. Thought about it alot. How did I stay sober all through the wedding of my sister in law the next morning after drinking that half a beer the night before ? Its a singular experience for me. After the wedding I got totally smashed and my bad actions will never be forgotten by some. So this one time I managed to not drink the whole fridge full of beer that was being stored there for the next days guests.

Then I was so mortified at what I had done I made another self willed attempt at going on the wagon. That lasted a few weeks, but I drank again. This time I telephoned AA, someone took me to my first meeting and I've been sober since then. I walked through the doors convinced I was an alcoholic and I was willing to do whatever they were doing to get andstay sober.

Since then I have met many people in AA who came through those doors unconvinced, but they asked questions, listened to others and read 'About Alcohlism' in the book Alcoholics Anonymous and were able to see the characteristics of their own drinking in that book, and so they have joined us in sobriety. Keep asking away, we all love to respond here. Also read some more until you understand the difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic. As suggested, its always good to meet some alcoholics at a meeting, they will be happy to share experiences with you.

Just to clarify, before these last two attempts to stop drinking on my own, I had been a daily drinker, I drank all day once I started, usually starting when I woke up or within a few hours. I had been like that for years. I had no more doubts about my hopeless condition by the time of my first AA meeting. That isn't true for many people here on e-AA, or in AA who have lots of years of sobriety, so its not a requirement for membership in AA to have been able or unable to drink half a glass of beer without going on a bender.
" Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98 A.A.

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by Larryp713 » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:07 am

Lali wrote:There is nothing wrong with introducing yourself and saying, I have a desire not to drink. Plain and simple.
I agree with Lali. We have many people come in to our closed meetings that identify themselves by name and their desire to stop drinking. As long as when you share in the meeting, you keep your comments focused on your problems as they relate to alcohol and recovery, I don't think anybody should have a problem with your attendance.

The reason closed meetings are important is because there are some people there who are really struggling, possibly with imminent life or death consequences. I was desperate when I started attending meetings and they were a safe place for me because I could openly share without fear of being judged or ridiculed. Of course, not all AA members abstain from judgement or ridicule, but most of the members are part of an incredible fellowship.

As for your obsession with drinking, I can definitely relate. I can't diagnose you, but I have come to believe that non-alcoholics don't obsessively think about alcohol or drinking. That was a shock to me because I assumed most people had those thoughts, at least occasionally. I know I am an alcoholic, and my obsession with alcohol grew even during my dry periods. The only thing I found to push away that obsession was earnestly working these steps. My obsession of alcohol was probably more undeniable evidence of my alcohol than anything in my drunk log. I never shared my obsession with alcohol until I surrendered and really started to work this program. I am so grateful for AA meetings and those in attendance who allowed me to be honest about my problem. I wish you well! Larry
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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by leejosepho » Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:36 am

YogaAbba wrote:I understand that alcoholism is as much about how you are when you are sober as it is about how you are when you are drinking. It is only the obsession that precedes the drinking that be changed. That's part about being alcoholic I identify with.

But, the physical side of this thing seems different. I mean, I don't want to test it... But I am also not sure about identifying myself as an alcoholic when the typical pattern of that physical sensitivity doesn't seem to fit the picture of what the Big Book describes.
I hear your dilemma, and my first comment would be to say it does not matter *why* you want to stop. For any reason of your own choosing, you can still take the Steps in order to be certain you never again ever take a drink. If you want to stop forever simply because you are only uncertain of what might happen if you drink, there is no requirement for you to go try some controlled drinking just to prove to someone else that your drinking experience matches his or hers. Part of the problem you are encountering there in meetings comes from the fact that people who have lost all control over their drinking are using that fact to try to help keep themselves sober. Do not be fooled by that ego-feeding, self-reliant nonsense and take the Steps instead.
=======================
"We A.A.s do not *stay* away from drinking [one day at a
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=======================

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by Layne » Fri Jan 29, 2016 8:58 am

I could be wrong here, but it seems to me that the issue that the OP is addressing, is not other people's opinion on whether he identifies himself as an alcoholic or not, but rather that he is having trouble fully conceding to himself whether he is an alcoholic or not.

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by leejosepho » Fri Jan 29, 2016 9:35 am

Layne wrote:I could be wrong here, but it seems to me that the issue that the OP is addressing, is...that he is having trouble fully conceding to himself whether he is an alcoholic or not.
Understood, and agreed...and that can be a tough place to be. But rather than being concerned about that, taking the Steps can still remove the insanity of ever again drinking and even while that question might never be fully answered.
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"We A.A.s do not *stay* away from drinking [one day at a
time] -- we *grow* away from drinking [one day at a time]."
("Lois Remembers", page 168, quoting Bill, emphasis added)
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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by PaigeB » Fri Jan 29, 2016 11:00 am

http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/aa-liter ... aa-for-you

Is AA for You? 12 Questions
The Grapevine Quote of the Day:
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January 29

"There was no use in my wondering why or when I became an alcoholic
for the very simple reason that it wouldn't change my condition;
even if I did find the answer, I would still be an alcoholic."

Toronto, Ontario, November 1952
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Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by Brock » Fri Jan 29, 2016 12:21 pm

In this case the 12 questions do not apply.
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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by PaigeB » Fri Jan 29, 2016 12:43 pm

Perhaps I misunderstood. Please forgive any harm, surely none was intended.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: To identify, or not identify, as an alcoholic

Post by pete » Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:04 pm

Two thoughts for the OP. I'm not nearly as experienced or wise as some of the posters here, so take my thoughts for what they're worth!

1) You mentioned in your original post the following:

When the obsession started in my late twenties, I knew it didn't feel normal and with one exception did not give in to it. The one time I did give into it, I really did grab that wine and drink it with total relish. I drank enough to get pretty buzzed (like, yeah, that was totally the point), but did not go on a wild bender.

I was the same way in my 20s. Lots of times I could go out with friends to dinner and not drink, or just have a couple of beers with dinner. In fact at home, during the week, I didn't drink at all. I didn't even keep alcohol in my house. But it's a progressive disease and by the time I was in my late 30s, I was getting hammered 3 - 4 nights a week, hiding booze in the woodpile (literally), and doing all the other awesome things that alcoholics are known for. So I think in your case maybe you can be grateful that you didn't allow it to progress to that point. But unless you're different from me, rest assured that it would have done so.

Which brings me to point (2), namely: the best way to determine if you are actually an alcoholic, is the very fact that you are asking yourself, am I an alcoholic? An old-timer put it to me that way when I first came into AA. No one who is not an alcoholic seriously asks themselves that question, any more than (I assume) you've ever wondered to yourself, am I a gambling addict?. In other words, if you have to ask, then the answer is probably yes.

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