Is My Partner an Alcoholic?

I have recently been talking to family members of people who do not want to recognise that the person they love is an alcoholic. It is a word they are uncomfortable with and something they are afraid to acknowledge. They might find it easier to say that their loved one is ‘alcohol dependent’. But what is the difference? – alcohol dependent, alcoholic, it is the same thing.

Today I spoke to someone who had noticed that his wife was drinking too much (after all she had not got dressed for several days) but was looking for somewhere that would help her control her drinking. Last week I spoke to the partner of someone who wanted to book in for treatment but who needed convincing that this was necessary as her partner did not drink every day but was ‘only’ a binge drinker.

Their Drinking Serves Us in Some Way

Even my own mother, on first being told that my brother had experienced delirium tremens and hallucinations (seeing rats walking on the ceiling) was concerned as to whether this meant that he could never have another drink again. In hindsight and with the gift of a much greater understanding of the illness, this amazes me. Why are we so anxious that our loved ones should be able to carry on drinking? It is probably saying something about ourselves – that selfishly, we want to be able still to enjoy a bottle of wine together; we don’t want to look at our own drinking; their drinking serves us in some way (gives us some form of control over them for example), etc etc.

Alcoholic?

The fact is, that once someone has crossed the line into alcoholism, there is no going back to controlled drinking. It is like having an allergy.  If someone has an allergy to peanuts or shellfish, can they try a little controlled nut or prawn eating? Of course they can’t, even one taste can make them very ill indeed. This was first recognised by Dr Silkworth, in a chapter called The Doctor’s Opinion, in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (and as an interesting aside, why is it called the Big Book? I have heard this is because it was originally printed in large text on thick paper so it looked better value for money! To many recovering alcoholics it is a priceless support and fount of knowledge on how to live sober).

Disease of Body and Mind

Alcoholism is a disease of body, mind and spirit. Alcohol starts off as bringing us pleasure. We build up a tolerance and can drink huge amounts without getting a hangover – perhaps because the alcohol never leaves our body without us pouring more down our throat. Eventually it starts to affect us negatively and we find we can’t sleep properly, our appetite goes, we get anxious, paranoid, have panic attacks…. Recognise any of these symptoms in yourself OR a loved one?

The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol rehab and alcohol addiction treatment centre which not only successfully teaches people how to stop drinking but also offers drug rehabilitation treatment. The Haynes Clinic follows the Twelve Step Programme of AA and advocates attending AA after treatment to help maintain sobriety.