When is an alcoholic an alcoholic?

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve been in relationships with alcoholics. Unfortunately in both cases I didn’t realise it until I was fully invested in each relationship. The problem I then found out is that while for me, once I recognised it, it was easy to see that they were alcoholics it was their denial that then became the problem.

This is something that I struggled with for a long time. How do they not see it? I tried educating, rewarding, support and eventually had to leave for my own sanity.

I think that the issue is that alcoholics always seems to know somebody else that they see as an alcoholic. As they themselves don’t match this idea of what an alcoholic is they don’t see themselves as one too. In one occasion, my ex was an extremely highly functioning alcoholic who most of the time people would never have known he was drunk despite the fact that he was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day. Yet, because he wasn’t a falling down drunk, to him he wasn’t an alcoholic.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a great set of 12 questions which help you identify if you are an alcoholic or not. Just 4 yes’s and the respondent clearly has a problem with alcohol.

Unfortunately for those of us who have loved alcoholics we tend to take on the issue for ourselves. If we could just not set them off, keep quiet, not speak up, live on eggshells…… they wouldn’t need to drink.

What I had to learn through Al Anon, a support group for those people impacted by the alcoholism of people in their life, is that I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it. But I won’t condone it.

Ultimately for my own safety I left my second relationship with an alcoholic, and the first left me when his alcoholism came to light.

As somebody who is a problem solver, as a researcher, this was incredibly hard to get my head around. Surely I could do something. I just needed to find what would get through. Eventually I learned that only the alcoholic can choose to change. That my only responsibility is to myself and any minors that I’m responsible for at the time.

Alcohol destroys lives. It kills relationships and yet still it remains a driving force in many people’s lives.

As for me, I would rather go through life sober, thinking I’m an alcoholic, than going through life drunk, trying to convince myself that I’m not. So knowing that I have a hereditary disposition towards addiction and a genetic tendency to metabolise alcohol very quickly I drink extremely rarely, and never when I’m driving,

So if you, or somebody in your life is an alcoholic do something about it. Get help. There is AA for the alcoholic themselves and Al Anon and Al Ateen for those impacted by others who drink.