Why Can't You Just Control Your Drinking?

We interrupt this series on Healthy Relationships to bring you a bulletin. This just in: heavy alcohol use can interfere with relationships!

"I don't want to stop drinking. I want to drink moderately, like two or three beers a night. If I do that I can get my wife/girlfriend/husband/boss off my back. I think if I just stick to beer, maybe wine when we go out to eat, I'll be okay. It's the hard stuff that's a problem." "Or maybe I could drink beer during the week, and the other stuff, just one or two...maybe three drinks, on weekends."

This is the wish of every alcoholic: to drink like a "normal" person. If alcohol has caused a problem in your life, a legal, health, job or family problem, why would you want to drink more of it? Is that seductive liquid, alcohol, so important that you are willing to risk another DUI and probable jail time? Or is the price of your drinking just a disappointed wife and another night passed out in front of the television? I know, you're just tired after a tough day. You deserve a drink. Right! You have not had "a drink" in a very long time.

Choosing alcohol over your family makes some very clear statements, ones that are devastating to spouse and children. It says that the alcohol is more important than they are. Want to argue that? If you are alcoholic, of course you do; alcoholics spend a lot of time and energy justifying and defending their drinking. If your spouse's request that you stop drinking or your children's hurt and disgusted looks are important to you, pay attention and put them ahead of your precious alcohol. If you don't like being awake (un-passed out) during the evening, don't like being sober and emotionally present, give yourself a break and get help. The need for a drink, even just a beer, to provide you with comfort in your own skin just might signify a little problem. You think? Consider "taking a few months off" from drinking...hmmm...just do it to lose weight...there's an idea. New cure for obesity: stop ingesting thousands of calories of alcohol.

Hint #1: if you are not alcoholic, it is no problem to not drink alcohol. Non-alcoholics do not have to "control" their drinking; they can take it or leave it. Real alcoholics CANNOT consistently drink moderately. Period.

Hint #2: If you cannot stop drinking and stay stopped, you deserve help. Find a therapist who actually knows something about alcoholism recovery, not one who will try to "teach" you to "control" your drinking. Normal drinkers do not have to control their drinking. If you are not a normal drinker, or a non-drinker, you are a problem drinker and you deserve recovery. Drop in at a 12 step support group...it's free. You have nothing to lose.

Hint # 3: When/if you stop drinking, lots of feelings will come up. You will have to find a way to deal with them.

One three part definition of alcoholism goes like this:

  1. Compulsive Use
  2. Inability to Control the Amount Used
  3. Continued Use in Spite of Adverse Consequences

(For an expansion of these three points, see the article Addiction.)

More simply put, if alcohol is causing a problem in your life, you probably have a problem with alcohol and could probably call yourself alcoholic.

If alcohol is not causing a problem, if you can take it or leave it (not substituting alcohol in pill form like Xanax and other benzodiazepines, smoking your alcohol in the form of favorite herb marijuana, or snorting something, shooting up, or using transdermal patches of Fentanyl), then you are probably not alcoholic. Remember, an alcoholic is just an alcohol addict and addicts are able to substitute one drug for another.

What have you got to lose if you actually try living alcohol and drug free...just for a while?

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver info@docdawn.com.


 

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