Friday, July 3, 2009

Are you an alcoholic boils down to 2 questions

I have never been a huge fan of the 20 question type surveys to determine “Are you an alcoholic?” Alcoholism is a disease that operates on denial, so subjective questions can be tricky… To the rational individual, most of these questions seem objective and pretty black and white. But to the active alcoholic, still in denial to any degree, a “No” answer can be easily justified. Especially since many of the questions pertain to consequences of drinking… therefore can be “YETS” (they just haven’t happened to the active alcoholic YET). People questioning their drinking habits may look at them and instead use the survey itself to fuel the denial- i.e.” I haven’t lost a job, it’s not affecting my family, I don’t drink daily or in the morning… I guess I’m not that bad afterall!”

Therefore I like to boil it down instead to 2 basic questions or categories of questions… related to: 1, do you have the obsession? And 2, do you have the compulsion? In the big book Alcoholics Anonymous, in The Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. Silkworth explains that the obsession and compulsion are what define the disease of alcoholism.

Whether someone has the obsession and compulsion can be asked in a number of ways, but perhaps the simplest way could be…
For the obsession, how about asking: Do you ever end up drinking when you plan not to (i.e. you think “I’m not going to drink tonight”, but then you end up having a drink somehow). Or: Do you look ahead with anticipation or excitement to the next time you can have a drink (whether it is happy hour, or not until Friday or Saturday night, or that big reunion coming up)?
For the compulsion, simply: do you ever end up drinking more than you planned to (i.e. thinking “I’m only going to have 1 or 2 tonight”, and you end up having several or even blacking out? Or: are you typically the one who closes out the bar or last to leave the party?).

Even if you do NOT: drink alone, drink daily, have lost your job, lost your significant other or family, have blacked out, been arrested, driven drunk, or been hospitalized as a result of your drinking… You may still in fact be an alcoholic!!! Check out an AA meeting, buy the “big book” Alcoholics Anonymous, or contact a drug/alcohol counselor or simply get in touch with a recovering alcoholic … and find out if you have an obsession and compulsion related to alcohol/drugs. Once you understand those two components, you can quickly diagnose yourself. If you are indeed an alcoholic, the great news is- recovery is possible! “There is a solution”.