How Do You Diagnose an Alcoholic?
“Ricky, can we go out to dinner with our friends this weekend? We have not been out in ages” “Daddy, will you go to my soccer game Saturday? Do you mean it this time?” “Dave, YOU tell your mother why we are canceling the family dinner again.” “John, why are you calling in sick so much on Mondays?” “No, Steve, I will NOT go to the liquor store for you. I just went last night. Are you seriously out of vodka again?” “Sorry, Verne, George is passed out. Again.”
Sound familiar? Are these statements similar to what is being said to you or by you to someone you love? Do you find yourself drinking more and more before you hit that comfort feeling you like? Do you have blackouts and not remember the night before or why your wife is mad at you and giving you the silent treatment the next morning?
Chances are, you are an alcoholic. Alcohol can take over a person's life just as any illicit drug can. If your friend calls you up and acts like he just really wants to see you, but then you get over there and what he wants is for you to go to the liquor store for him because he is soused, you can bet he is an alcoholic.
If you have an engagement to celebrate, and your best friends cancel because he would rather sit home and drink, then go out and socialize, yes, he is an alcoholic. If he spends more Mondays at home than at work because he is getting over his drinking binge , you can correctly diagnose it: he is an alcoholic.
So now the diagnosis is made. What happens next? Just as with drugs, an intervention is the best route to go. It does not do any good for just one person to say something, and a fight ensue. A gathering of loved ones in a calm environment governed by a professional counselor will most likely be the best bet in getting the alcoholic to admit he has a problem. Truthfully, he already knows he does. This will help him to admit it finally.
Going straight from an intervention to a treatment program is the best route to take as well. He can get a leave of absence from work; he can make the decision today to get the help to get clean. If he does this, he can make little Annie's soccer games next season, he can make it to the wedding, he can make it to Mom's house for the next family dinner. Simply put, if you suspect someone is an alcoholic? He probably is. Get help for that diagnosis today. You and everyone else around him will be so glad you did.
Am I an alcoholic?
If you are asking yourself this question, you definitely have an alcohol problem. Whether or not you have crossed the line in your alcohol use to be categorized an alcoholic is really a moot point. There are many assessment instruments that you can take that will determine whether you have are a social drinker, a problem drinker or an alcoholic. A quick person assessment can be done by honestly answering these questions: 1. Has alcohol use caused problems in my life, and I have vowed to stop drinking, but have never followed through with my pledge? 2. Do I need to have alcohol to enjoy life? 3. Do I lie to others about my use or the amount of use of alcohol?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be an alcoholic, but definitely you have a drinking problem.
Is alcoholism a disease?
In short, the answer is NO. However…
It has always been hard to have consensus on the idea that addiction and/or alcoholism is a disease because it doesn’t follow the model that is established in identifying diseases. Alcohol and other drugs could be seen as the causative agent of a disease, but many use these substances and are not addicted or become alcoholics. The idea that alcoholism is a disease came from the beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous. It behooved them to characterize addiction to alcohol as a disease since the medical community had been putting alcoholics into mental health centers and using electro-convulsive therapy, or shock treatment, and the alcoholic community wanted to establish that their problem wasn’t a mental problem, but an addiction. In the 1950’s the American Medical Association characterized alcoholism as a disease as well, but recent scholars, like Dr. Bill Miller, a leading researcher in addictions from the University of New Mexico, have established that it alcoholism doesn’t fit the disease model.
If I recover from alcoholism, can I still drink socially?
This is a very dangerous question to answer in the affirmative, because most alcoholics do not get the level of treatment that it would take to be a “controlled drinker”. Programs that follow the disease model, (like all 12-step programs), would say that alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease, which means that it continues as a disease for the rest of your life and gets worse in time, hence, progressive. Under this belief, one would be at very high risk to be a deadly drunk if they took one drink after many years of being alcohol and drug-free.
However, some programs put their emphasis on helping and creating more able people and do not work on the disease model. These programs have shown that once a person has confronted his past and taken responsibility for his actions, he may be able to possess enough control over his life to have an alcoholic drink from time to time. However, there are no programs that promote this action. It is best to avoid ever returning to drinking alcohol if it has ever caused a problem in one’s life.
Is it dangerous to stop drinking cold turkey?
The simple answer is YES. Alcohol is one of the drugs that can become physically addicting to the point that stopping cold turkey, which means to stop abruptly, can cause someone to go into seizures and is life-threatening. It is best to call a professional and have an assessment before one decides to stop drinking after having been on alcohol for a continuous period of time.