Sunday, April 21, 2013

How do we know if we're alcoholic or not?

I was inspired to do this post from a fellow poster at a forum I frequent.  Paw is our new member and welcome here!

So, how do we know which one we are?  Is there a continuum across the different types of alcoholics?  Does that continuum, if it exists, cross the line from hard drinker into alcoholic, or is there a wall between them... a line that cannot be crossed?

I have my current beliefs on the matter and they probably came from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, my experience with the matter in my life, and what I've heard and seen in A.A. meetings.

I'm aware of other definitions.  Many I disagree with.

The A.A. definition as I understand it is simple; an alcoholic is one who cannot control the amount of booze they drink once they start... AND they cannot stay stopped... aka stay away from the first one, for very long.

I like this new "program" I developed that's even simpler;


This is one way to determine whether you belong in A.A. or not;

Do you want to quit drinking?

If no, then don't go to A.A., keep drinking and jump to END, else jump to LOOP.

LOOP: want to quit? -Yes, then quit.

If your life gets better, stay quit and don't go to A.A.

then jump to END...

else go to A.A. and find someone who can show you how this "Program" works.



  1. I never liked the 20 Questions. As a real alcoholic when I first took the test I was able to answer no to 18 but it was a stretch and a real tribute to the ability of my "Keen alcoholic mind" to rationalize anything when it comes to drinking.
    Looking back on that helps me to realize that I am a real alcoholic and unable to see the truth in the matter of drink. The "jay walker" story in the Big Book is so spot on about the mental obsession that plagues alky's. It clearly demonstrates that when it comes to alcohol there is nothing between the thought of taking a drink and the action of taking it when those "strange mental blank spot" days sneak up on us. When they will occur is completely unpredictable but it is gauranteed that the tempter will come.

  2. My brother Mark got sent to alcohol classes and they tried putting him on the Marty Mann test, two drinks a day for 30 days, and he asked, "Can I wait till day 30 and drink all 60?"

  3. Tough one Dog. Let's analyze this Jaywalker story for a bit. This Jaywalker seems to be a little more of a hard drinker than an alcoholic if you were to ask me. Reason being is the Jaywalker never seems to display this delusion that he can make it across the street like everybody else. He keeps doing stupid things as a daredevil would. A hard drinker sets out to do stupid things by drinking himself to oblivion. An alcoholic has a delusion that he can drink like everyone else just as everyone else in the story of the Jaywalker can make it safely across the street. There's no delusion in the story of the Jaywalker or the Hard Drinker.
    Speaking for myself only. In the last ten years of my drinking I can probably count on one hand the times I set out to deliberately get drunk. On a daily basis I set out to drink like a gentleman and call it quits after just a couple. On a daily basis I ended up drunk. Drinking till the late hours because I couldn't stop drinking. Standing by the fridge with the door open pouring myself just one half of a drink just to end the day. About 10 half drinks later I'd hit the hay. Never getting enough sleep because I had to drink more. No good reason to stay up late. Just drinking by the fridge with the door open. One half drink at a time.
    I don't know if we could describe a hard drinker like that. The fact remains that every day this scenario played itself out again. And every day started out with me deciding to have a couple drinks.

  4. Good points Karl. I was thinking of myself as different than you when you say you can count on one hand the times you set out to get drunk, as you usually rather intend to drink like a gentleman this time.

    I had it in my mind until now... when I just thought about it, that I damn-well for sure set out to get drunk on many occasions. But now, I realize that more often than not, I did not want to get drunk this time as I started. Shortly after the first or second drink in me, I knew I was gonna get fucked up and it seemed like a great idea.

    Somewhere along the way, I seemed to change my mind. But I knew for a fact that the Durango hotel incident started off with me... 6 weeks dry, knowing absolutely sure that I would not drink that night no matter what... in fact, I was going to go to bed early that night. I was talked into going out to dinner that night and my coworker even told me, "We don't have to drink tonight. We'll drink sprite." I had two sprites. Then I saw a coworkers' husband sipping on a glass of Scotch. I couldn't take my eyes off the color of that elixer and so we went onto the balcony to check out the scene. A waitress came up there to take drink orders and asked me if I wanted something. I then know. My head literally spun... like a dissy spin, as I came to the realization... I can drink. We'll drink tonight and it'll be a-ok. I ordered a pitcher. So my coworker friend and I were sipping on our beers, and he said, "Let's go down and play a game of pool." I said, "Tonight, we're gonna do it all."

  5. I drank to feel good, that was always my goal. When I went into the liquor store to buy a pint of Jack Daniels, however, I ended up with a pint of "lost jobs" because I couldn't get up the next day to make it on time for work - too many times.
    When I went into bay a quart of vodka, I ended up with 2 quarts of divorces.
    When I went into buy a 6 pack of beers, I ended up with six DUI's.
    The jay walker liked the "game of Jaywalking." He was under the delusion that he could get away with it each time, like I was under the delusion that I wouldn't drink to the point of losing jobs, wives and driving priveleges. I just wanted to feel good and when alcohol worked it took away my feelings of restlessnes, irritibality and discontent while burying my problems - one layer on top of the next taht began in puberty and got worse and worse because I never faced them.

  6. I truly believe this... that first sense of ease and comfort that followed taking a few drinks set off an experience of consciousness in our being that will never be forgotten.

    Drinking the way we did gets us to a "high" state that spiritual seekers would envy. My understanding of how this works is that, for one thing, it deadens the lower states of consciousness for a moment or so and we get to experience our true actual Self for a time and it takes us to a state of joy and bliss.

    But it's a stolen and borrowed experience and we all know what that feels like to come crashing down. But that will never ever become a deterrent for us.

    I'm not an expert on replacing jaywalking for drinking booze. But along the lines of what Karl is saying, I do not believe that Nicholas Cage's character in Leaving Las Vegas was an alcoholic. He was a hard drinker who was hell-bent on killing himself with booze. A weird story more than anything else.

    For real alcoholics, the "goose hung high". For real alcoholics, they come slamming back to the ground and pick themselves up, build their life back, only to bring it crashing down again.

    Not so for Nicholas Cage. He built his life for death from the get-go and didn't vary, trying to blot out the memory of a failed family life.

    I don't know which of the first 100 sober drunks came up with the analogy of the jay-walker, but it's my understanding they were describing the alcoholic who drinks again after leaving the hospital/treatment center/jail cell... not the guy I relate to. I always quit drinking when alcohol destroyed me. I was always devastated on what I had done, felt like a piece of pounded whale shit, and wanted to go crawl into a hole. Then I arose with a firm resolution to get my shit together and quit being a worthless fuckup. Which worked for me for a time... days, weeks, even months. Never did I last anything like a year on my own.

  7. I think you are describing the different classes of alcoholics - 5 of which are described by Silkworth in "The Doctor's Opinion." You said you could stop awhile after it destroyed you. I never stopped daily drinking, no matter what, until AA. You sound like Type 3. Jelnick came up with more variations. I am the guy who left the hospital and went to the first liquor store I could find. I didn't do it to destroy myself, I did it to feel better because w/o booze I felt horrible.
    Bill W's point of the jaywalker example was to , I believe, show the "mental state" of an alcoholics mind that precedes a relapse into drinking. The jaywalker's story follows the examples of Jim & Freds stories that show "no mental defense against the first drink." He is trying to pound home to the reader that self-will and self-knowledge are useless to real alky's.
    When I worked the Steps, it was crucial to for me to clearly see that I was doomed if I kept drinking. In Chapter 5 after the Steps are listed the paragraph states "Being convinced, we were at Step 3. In the original manuscript Bill had written that if you were not convinced re-read the first 60 pages. If still not convinced at that point, throw the book away. The elders thought that too harsh and he took it out. I wish he hadn't - it might have clarified his intent more thoroughly.

  8. No, the guy who drank to destroy himself was Nicolas Cage. I'm not saying that alkys are incapable of doing this. I think my uncle did it this way.

    I was not a daily drinker. There was a period of time I was drinking daily and maintaining a home job and wife, but I'd end the bout with a bad spree where I was forced to quit or give up the home job etc. I would always say "Fuck the booze" and put it down forever... just watch me.

  9. But by the same token, I was also not the guy who was going on the wagon for keeps. I went for long periods of time drinking and doing my damdest to do so successfully.

    I would do well for a time and build up a nice tolerance then at some point, I'd have uncontrollable blackouts. When the shit hit the fan, I started to resort to hiding my drinking. I tried everything at my disposal to control and enjoy my drinking.

    There were times when I did quit for a time and was able to enjoy myself sober. Hooking up with a gal in sobriety was a kick because sometimes I found one who accepted the sober version of me and I gave my all to that relationship for a time. This is another huge God-given instinct which drives us. But drink-day eventually would come again.

  10. I like your relationship experiences. I did hook-ups and marriages all the same way. Start out great and end up in disaster ! Once I heard a speaker say that "Us alky's are good at beginnings and bad at ends to relationships, we just never figure out how to do middles."

    When you went for these long periods did you tell yourself before you started that "I'm going on the wagon for keep?" I would say that when my life was in the crapper. It lasted no more than 3 days. I cannot conceive of how anyone could stop for long periods, it just wasn't something I, as a daily drinker, ever thought possible. I knew whatever vow I made would only last briefly, even as the words passed thru my lips.
    I can identify with your uncle doing that. When I was super depressed, I would tell myself "I'm going to drink myself to death."
    That thinking became an incentive for me in early sobriety when I realized that it would probably take a long miserable time to die that way with so much longevity in my family.
    Bobby Earl used to say "Alcohol doesn't give you what you want ! If you want to live it kills you quickly, if you want to die you live a long time !" That scared the shit out of me.

    BTW,I am thoroughly enjoying your BLOG. Thanks for the invite. The key thing I remember is what the BB says about alky's - that all of us have one sympton in common = we cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenom of craving - once we take that first drink.

    After you went for those long periods of time w/o drinking did you ever believe that you were entirely free from alcohol and could pick up a drink w/o danger ?

  11. When I quit drinking, I had at least one thing to build on. At least I'm sober. I'm sober and I have a chance. I would go about life and try to observe other people and see how they did it... how they kept things going. I tried real hard to fit in and to do well. Things would be nice from time to time. I'd get into a group of people and get nervous as shit. When I'm nervous, I talk like crazy. I can recall being confused and scared and driven.

    I guess you could say I was basically trying to manage well. Sometimes I'd just sort of get careless and take a sip of what I thought was my drink and it would be the wife's rum and coke. Then like that, I'd say oops and I'd just decide to order one for myself and I'd say, Well, I guess I'm drinking again. There would be no fear to it. I was quite sure that I would continue to manage well.

    But sober, I was basically scared as shit.

    Tell me what you know about the craving. Do we really have chemical processes going on like THIQ? Is there new science to add to or back this up or is it just a theory?

  12. I only know a little. Silkworth described it as a phenomena that he observed on his alcoholism ward for many years.

    The studies being conducted with todays technology seem to be indicating an actual bio-chemical signal in the synapses of the brain when triggers are shown to actual real alky's. Brain imaging shows certain areas lighting up in the pre-frontal lobes. W/O getting too technical it boils down to alcohol working differently in our heads than in regular Earth people's heads.

    Further, geneticists are making progress towards identifying specific chromosomal alcohol related abnormalities. It gets awful deep and I am still trying to keep abreast of the data as I find it in my research.

    Don't know if this answers your question or not. The one thing I believe is that the primary problem of the alcoholic centers in the mind, not the body. Craving is our secondary problem - and we stop that by not taking the 1st. drink. So far the best method I know in dealing with the "mental obsession" is the 12 Step planned program of action outlined in Chapter 5 & 6 of the Big book.