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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5133
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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Am I an alcoholic

Customer Question

I drink a large amount of alcohol---at least a litre of wine every day.  If I don't have wine, I will mix hard liquor with soda or something else.  I never get drunk!  Can I be an alcoholic if I don't have any of the classic symptoms of alcoholism?  I have a job, do volunteer work for my church, never have had a hang-over, blackout, DUI, DWI,or anything else. My husband, though, insists that I am an alcoholic and even when I haven't had a drink in almost 24 hrs he says that I am drunk if he is snippy with me and I respond in a like-fashion!  I feel that he doesn't want to take responsibility for his behavior or words he speaks to me, but he blames me! Do I have a "high tolerance" for alcohol and does it make me an alcoholic, even though I don't or can't get drunk if I wanted to!!
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.


There are two separate questions you are proposing here: the alcohol use and your marital relationship.

As for your alcohol use, you are clearly not drinking for the traditional "alcoholism" reasons. So that leaves two reasons I most often encounter: Are you drinking because you are from a culture (such as in Europe) where you grew up with this much wine consumption as the norm?

Or, are you self medicating? Are you using alcohol to feel normal, as you say, thus using it as part of a medication program for yourself?

If so, have you been diagnosed with any mental health problems?

Are you getting any treatment right now? If so, what type? How is it going?

If not, when was the last treatment? What type of treatment was it? Was it helpful?

Now, then there is the question of your marriage. You imply that the problem with the alcohol would not be a question were it not for your husband. He doesn't like it. But you see it as part of a relationship problem between you. What are the problems in the marriage you see? What does he see?

Do you two need to go to couples therapy?

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

I see you are offline and so I may be logged off for the night before you reply, but go ahead and reply to these questions and I’ll answer as soon as I log on tomorrow. Okay?


 


Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am not drinking for any cultural reasons like the Italian or French might. Also, I am not drinking to self-medicate now, though I did several years ago. I've been diagnosed as bipolar, rapid cycling and I'm on medications that I take for it. (Effexor XR 150mg, Seroquel 400mg & Lamictal 200 mg) Befor I was diagnosed, I was in and out of psych wards for suicide attempts from severe depression and anxiety. I have not been hospitalized for about 7 years and have no signs of my bipolar illness since I faithfully take my RX's. Alcohol doesn't seem to make any difference when they are mixed.

I've been married 40 years and we have been in couples therapy and might have to return for a "tune-up" though my husband doesn't really want to go. I'm not happy in my marriage--I don't feel like he respects me or even likes me like he would a good friend.

Yet, at my age, 59 (almost 60) we can't really afford to support 2 separate households.

As I type my response to you, I can see how you might view my unhappiness in my mariage as the reason I might "self-medicate", I don't think there is a correlation. Most of the time I am happy at work, with my kids and grandbabies, hobbies/interests, etc.

I drink just because I enjoy alcohol!

 

Going back to my MH, I've been in therapy with the same psychologist for about 12 years and she has really helped me. I have to admit that she thinks I should stop drinking b/c it's excessive. I have resisted her advice b/c I'm not convinced that I am an alcoholic or a "problem drinker" since I've taken all the quizzes and don't fit the profile.

 

What bothers me is that I don't get drunk and I don't think that I could get drunk even if I wanted to!!

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

I know you want an answer as quickly as possible. But this is your life and I want to make sure that the answer I give you is the most fitting to your specific situation and who you are. So I need to ask just a little more:

I am still puzzled. I've dealt with many people who drink a lot of alcohol. They want help because it's causing dysfunction in their lives and they know that they must stop if they hope to "regain" the ability to have a life they want. They may sometimes have come to that realization because their spouse has threatened to leave unless they do something about the drinking. And that was the wake up call. Otherwise, they don't want to deal with their drinking.

You are asking about whether you should stop drinking because you are an alcoholic even though you don't become inebriated and have no health problems or functionality problems from the consumption. Well, if this is the case, it's very puzzling why you are asking. What is motivating your question? You have people in your life telling you to stop because it doesn't "seem" like a good thing to do. You resist that because you like drinking.

So, I wondered if you're asking about your marriage. But you reaffirm that you are asking about the drinking. So, this is a real puzzle!

Shall I answer about the drinking?

Shall I answer about your marriage problem?

Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thankyou, Dr. Mark, for you for your caring questions to help me the best way that you can. I appreciate that.

 

I guess that I am confused, too! I know that relationship problems are a red flag against drinking. I guess b/c I am pretty sure that my husband won't leave me at this stage in our marriage (he's 67 and I'm 59---married for 40 years) it isn't enough motivation yet for me to quit drinking. Whether or not I stop drinking, I think his condescending attitude towards me and his irritability will continue unless we try couples therapy again.

 

I am, therefore, more concerned about whether my drinking is a real problem, taking into account the amount and frequency. I guess I wonder if the alcohol is doing any physical harm to me if I don't feel inebriated. Do you know of anyone who fits my profile of not being drunk with large quantities of alcohol?

 

I know that the amt. of alcohol is excessive, that I drink everyday, that I drink other forms of alcohol if I am out of wine, that I am not thrilled about going to events where alcohol is not served (but I will go). This sounds like an alcoholic except that when I take the various quizzes about "am I an alcoholic?" the quizzes ask about problems with jobs, drinking in the morning, blackouts, DWI's, DUI's, etc. Because none of these symptoms apply to me, I am in a quandry.

 

BotXXXXX XXXXXne: I think I am an alcoholic but with what the AA Big Book calls a "high bottom." I haven't lost anything yet, my physical health is still good.

I just hate the idea of never being able to drink again!

 

I know I have been all over the page in my replies and I appreciate you "listening."

I have to make a decision as to whether I want to press the limits and wait for bad things to happen to convince me--or stop now before it gets worse.

 

When I was in AA before (for several years)I always "identified out" and wasn't convinced that I really belonged in AA. One of the reasons I stayed for as long as I did was b/c I liked my sponsor and made friends. This time, if I return to AA, it has to be because I really believe that I need the help and support.

 

Dr. Mark, what do you think, based on the fact that I am more concerned about whether I am an alcoholic rather than my marriage problems?

 

PS My dad died of cirrhosis of the liver and my sister is a drug addict on methodone, with no intention of being weaned off of it b/c she said it is an excellent anti-depressant for her. But, as I said about myself, I no longer feel the need to self-medicate.

 

Also, is my husband correct in saying that my bad disposition (which I think he causes) shows that I am an alcoholic even when sober for 20 hours??

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for the added information. This last posting helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. You are intelligent and competent. And you are intelligent enough to know that the alcohol is causing you problems. But you like drinking so you are looking for some way to eliminate any excuses for the drinking to LET you stop.

The marriage aspect of this is interesting. We don't know if he is acting badly independently of your drinking or if your drinking is part of your perception of his bad attitude. You've had a history of problems and he's stuck by you. That's good evidence. So, let's leave the marriage questions UNTIL you've addressed the alcoholism issue.

Are you an alcoholic?

Well, clearly you are. If you judge alcoholism by its dysfunction effect (as some mental health professionals will do for you if you let them), then you can squeak on by. But that is not what alcoholism is. And now that I know YOU know AA, then I can say this. Alcoholism is the NEED for the bottle. And you have it, as you so dramatically state: no wine, and you'll go to whatever there is. No better testimony than that, is there?

So let's agree on the fundamentals so that you can move on in your life. Okay?

You're an alcoholic. Why? Because you are dependent on it. Dependent for what? To get through the day! You've been to enough meetings to know that's what addiction is about. We know that a junkie doesn't get pleasure any more from heroin; but he can't make it through the day without his fix. Well AA is about not being able to make it through the day without a drink. That's addiction. It doesn't matter whether it makes you as high as a kite or as normal as a grandmother knitting a sweater, it's an addiction when you can't make it without it.

I don't know how to make it any more emphatic. And I wouldn't be this open if you weren't so honest with me. So let's continue:

You don't have to get slurred speech to have your liver damaged. You have family history of such damage. There isn't clear research evidence at this time linking genetic disposition based on alcohol use of various diseases. But there is the general research evidence on diseases in general. So just like we can't tell a smoker he's going to get lung cancer 100% for certain but we all know it is not a good idea to keep smoking, well...you finish this one...

But these are the external motivations you are looking for. You are hoping they will make you, force you,, to do what you know you need to do.

But you need to get to that internal motivation. You have to give yourself permission to stop drinking because you WANT to. Because you know it's not how you want to be as a human being, as you. Give yourself permission to stop. To go back to AA.

That's really the message I want to give to you.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button because: even though you have made a deposit, I do not get paid for my time unless you press ACCEPT. Feel free to continue the discussion as my goal is to get you the best answer possible. You can continue the discussion even after pressing ACCEPT. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5133
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Dr. Mark and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Dr. Mark----

First, I will press the green accept tab. I really appreciate the time you have devoted to giving me your best evaluation. You show that you are a professional,caring person.

 

You state that I need to give myself permission to stop drinking because I WANT to stop drinking. Problem is that the idea of never being able to drink at social events or just with friends, is a depressing thought! I know that this statement just validates your opinion of me being an alcoholic, and I know that you are right. It just sucks!

I sent an e-mail to my former AA sponsor and asked to meet with her.

 

Thanks again for all of your help. If I ever need help from JustAnswer, I will ask for you.

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
Hi. I am so sorry that the system for some reason did not alert me that you had replied. I just found your posting now when I was manually going through the database. I apologize to you.


Let me comment on "It just sucks!"


Well, yes. But I want to give you what I think is the importance of WHY things "suck" for human beings:


We tend to be self indulgent in certain ways. Each of us is very unique in that. Even those who indulge in cookies, for example, have their own unique quirks in that. Indulging is what we crave, enjoy, and want in life. It's what we think makes life worth living. But is it?


What do we "grow" from as human beings? What makes us more the kind of person that people want to be with a lot? What makes us someone worthy of respect? Right.


It's the difficulties we've gone through. The ability to not indulge when it is harmful in some way. The struggles we've been willing to undergo. The suffering sometimes we've had that we did not let overwhelm us.


In short, it's the things that "suck" in life.


So, keep it in mind at the next party...


All the best, Dr. Mark

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