In case it wasn’t clear, I am not a medical professional. I am in no way offering medical advice to anyone reading this. When I dove into this, I learned for the first time what it really meant to be an alcoholic. And I met the criteria by all accounts.
Because I am not a doctor, much of this information was copied and pasted from the Mayo Clinic’s website. They use the term ‘alcohol use disorder’ in place of ‘alcoholic’. I put in my two cents in at the end of each symptom, for brutal honesty’s sake.
Alcohol use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe, based on the number of symptoms you experience. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink-ding ding
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so- not me. Why would I want to do something practical like that? Moderation Sucks
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use- yeah, like pretty much all day everyday
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol-everyday (at the end)
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use-mostly I was a high functioning alcoholic but, naturally, there were times when this was a yes
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social or interpersonal problems- I drank more when I realized that it was causing problems
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies- I couldn’t do anything after 4 pm. 4pm was drinking time.
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming- the amount of times I got behind the wheel intoxicated is disgusting. I am 100% lucky to be alive.
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount- I drank everyone, in every social situation, under the table. Proudly.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms- In the peak of it, I threw up almost everyday.
Not gonna lie, I got pretty fucking stressed out when I realized that I had every. single. symptom.
I often thought of alcoholism in stages. Maybe the stages ranged from 1-3. Or, like the Mayo Clinic suggests, the stages are mild, moderate and severe. For a long time I refused to believe that my problem with alcohol was worse than anyone else’s. I was definitely a stage one/ mild, mayyyyybe a stage two/ moderate. Only stage 3/severe people really needed help, right?
I was listening to an episode of The Bubble Hour, and host Jean McCarthy was interviewing a woman named Victoria. Victoria was a drinker who didn’t fully face her addiction until she got the diagnosis of breast cancer. The title of the podcast is Victoria’s Story: A Crisis of Health and it was posted on 7/10/2018. I suggest listening. Victoria compared alcoholism to cancer. The way she explained it made so much sense, I actually had to stop the podcast and digest it….
If you went to the doctor and he told you that you had stage one cancer, would you tell him that you wanted to wait to treat it? Would you say, ‘You know, doc, I think I’ll hold off on chemo/ surgery until it progresses to stage 3.’? Or how about ‘Can this wait until it spreads a bit more? Into other organs? My bones?’? NO. NO YOU FUCKING WOULD NOT. Why? Because it’s stupid. Downright ignorant. INSANE. And you’d be risking your life by waiting. Why, then, do alcoholics do this? Why do so many of us know we have a problem, but refuse to treat it when it’s in the beginning stages? It makes no sense in any other medical context, so why does it make sense with alcoholism? Spoiler alert: it DOESN’T.