Have you ever tried to quit drinking and had trouble doing so? Or are you one of those people who can knock back one or two beers on the weekend then not even think about alcohol for days or weeks?
I was the first type and could never understand the second type, though I know many of them.
Maybe you are another type of drinker. Maybe you drink fairly often, maybe even heavily. But if alcohol began to interfere with parts of your life, such as your job or your marriage, you could stop drinking with no problem. This last type of drinker can look very much like an alcoholic. In fact, if you were to sit beside them at a bar and watch them drink you would probably have a hard time telling which was the heavy drinker and which was the alcoholic.
So, it turns out…there are at least two types of drunks.
Drunks Who Can Quit Drinking
The “other type of drinker” mentioned above likely has a problem with alcohol. He probably drank a lot and got in trouble a lot when he drank too much. He didn’t have problems every time he drank, but every time he got into trouble he was drinking.
Something happened in his life that made drinking inconvenient, unprofitable or too painful. When that event occurred he quit drinking. He probably had cravings and probably thought about drinking from time to time, but booze did not consume his every waking thought.
Drunks Who Can’t Quit Drinking…aka Alcoholics
I am an alcoholic. Like my friends mentioned earlier, I enjoyed drinking and only quit when the pain of drinking outweighed the pleasure of getting drunk. For many of us it is financial trouble, loss of a job, threats from a spouse, or legal trouble.
The difference between guys like me and guys like my friend is that whenever I quit, I always started back again. My dry periods were brief and marked by a compulsive fixation on that next drink (or absence of it). The pressure built and built until the only relief was to actually drink again. Once I drank two things happened.
First, I got relief from the overwhelming anxiety and stress. As soon as that first gulp of liquor hit my belly I felt like a different person.
Second, I drank constantly, only stopping when I passed out or was stopped by someone else.
So, for me, alcohol was not the problem. In a very real way it was the solution. Obviously, it wasn’t a very good solution and it led to a whole set of new problems. For me, the root cause of my behavior is not liking how I feel naturally. How do you tell the difference between a drunk and an alcoholic? There really is no way…they look identical from the outside. The only way to know if you are an alcoholic or just have a problem with alcohol is to quit drinking. If you can quit with no (I mean NO) negative consequences, then you have the answer. If you find it difficult to quit, then you have an answer as well.
If you have a problem with alcohol,quit drinking. If you try to quit and can’t, find help through a treatment center, church, twelve step program or some other method.