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The Risks of Being Alcohol Dependent

If you can't go to a party, a restaurant or a sporting event without drinking alcohol, you might not be an alcoholic but you still might have a problem.

 

I’ve always been pretty outspoken about how there is a middle ground between full-blown alcoholic and “not an alcoholic.” With the publication of a new book titled “Almost Alcoholic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drinking a Problem?,” I no longer feel like a lone voice on the subject.

The book presents the concept of “almost alcoholic” as a middle ground between “OK” and alcoholic. The book’s authors say the use of alcohol is a spectrum, not an “either/or” proposition.

I don’t really care for the author’s term of “almost alcoholic” as it seems to imply that if you’re not a full-blown alcoholic, then everything is OK. I prefer to use the term “alcohol dependent” for people who can’t seem to be at a party, go to a restaurant, enjoy a sports event or an evening home with the family without needing to include alcohol in the mix. And there’s the rub — the word “needing." 

As a Life Coach, I often work with people who have a strong dependency on alcohol. I show them how this dependency is almost certainly an obstacle to achieving their goals. At first, they’ll argue with me up and down that they don’t “need” to have alcohol, they simply “choose” to have it. That argument is quickly ended when I challenge them to go one month without alcohol. Most are honest enough to admit that they couldn’t do it. The best line I’ve ever gotten around this was “Well, I could do it, but not this month because our big weekend bash is this month...”

Does that make them an alcoholic? I don’t know and don’t care. There is way too much baggage these days connected with the term “alcoholic.” But I know for sure that it makes them “alcohol dependent” and that it is probably a factor that’s preventing them from getting everything they could out of life.

Our society is obsessed with alcohol. Perhaps obsessed is the wrong term ... maybe “programmed” is better. From the youngest of ages, we are reinforced with the notion that alcohol is a standard, if not necessary, part of life and social interaction, and so many people follow right along like Pavlov’s dog.

We get this programming from many sources — family, school, and even religion, but nowhere do we get the message more than through advertising. You can’t flip through a magazine or watch a half hour of television (unless it’s Barney or the Doodlebops, thank God!) without being told how wonderful your life/event/sex life/etc. will be simply by adding alcohol to the mix. Let’s be clear. Advertisers don’t want what’s best for you, they want what’s best for their coffers. And certainly, getting you to buy copious amounts of alcohol is good for their coffers.

Prohibition didn’t work, and I certainly don’t advocate a return to those days. Prohibition created an entirely new set of problems that we are still dealing with to this day. And I don’t believe in trying to regulate people’s behavior with laws. What I do believe in is offering people a new perspective on a subject to think about. This might lead them to further educate themselves on the subject, and then do some deep and honest observations of their own habits and behaviors. Then they have to be allowed to choose what is best for themselves and those around them. Being alcohol dependent is rarely, if ever, best for them or for those around them.

People seem to think that as long as you're not an “alcoholic” you aren’t a danger to yourself or others around you. People use this lie to justify all types of behaviors and to feel good about their actions. Well, without being an alcoholic, you can still:

  • Kill someone’s loved one because you were driving while “buzzed”
  • Put unnecessary strain on your family's budget
  • Do emotional damage to your child because alcohol has made you short tempered and less in control
  • Make your child feel unimportant because you fall asleep on the couch too many nights rather than spending quality time with your children
  • Take years off your life because of damage caused by ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption’. Just think, those lost years just might be the ones you would have spent enjoying your grandchildren.

I’m not a prude, I’ll have a beer on occasion with friends. I’ve even been known to have something harder like sake if that’s what’s being shared. For me, it’s about the sharing — and being able to make a choice. You don’t have to use alcohol as a gift. You don’t have to have alcohol in the house. And you can actually go to a party or a sports event and not drink alcohol. I observe that many people can’t. In my book, that makes them alcohol dependent.

It’s all about being able to make a considered choice. I rarely see people make a conscious choice around alcohol. Instead, they have a “knee-jerk” reaction based on years of programming and practice. Making a conscious choice, whether it’s about alcohol or the food I choose to eat, is about choosing not to be like Pavlov’s dog: “stimulus - response”.  But of course, that’s what the alcohol industry wants you to be, because the more you drink, the more money they make.

MAC July 05, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Joel, this is one of the most valuable and best articles I've ever read on Patch. I hope you submitted it around the state, and even other states. It is just sad that there have been no comments here. I'm guessing that is because hundreds, maybe thousands, of Manchester Patch readers won't even read articles like this, because they ARE "dependent" on alcohol and refuse to admit it or seek treatment, or attend recovery groups.

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