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How do I know if its alcohol dependency or not?

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 09:38
by marmite!
My loved one drinks a bottle of wine a day (at least) and more at the weekends, suffers mood swings, has violent outbursts, sometimes has paranoia, is a jekyll and hyde, twists things, has shaky hands during the day, recently got involved with 'new friends' who go out and drink to oblivion every Friday night, and she has to go, its almost an addiction to the friends/ lifestyle too. She is very up and down was recently on anti depressants but is now off them, is this classic case alcohol dependant or underlying mental illness/depression?
This is affecting her marriage and family, she is self destructing, thought we had a breakthrough this week as she admits she needs help, but hasnt yet admitted to it being help needed with alchohol she thinks she needs help sorting her head out? She has no idea that I think this way, I am at the moment just trying to be a support, but I really need to understand how to deal with it, it is so hard, thank you.

Re: How do I know if its alcohol dependency or not?

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 10:39
by Mark.
Hi Marmite,

I think that drinking a bottle of wine every day indicates an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It's physically detrimental, for one thing. Moreover, a reliance will develop, if it hasn't already. If not a physical dependency, then from personal experience I know that someone with that drinking pattern can still become highly psychologically reliant on drinking to that level every day. You just kind of forget how it's possible to see out the day without drinking that bottle of wine; and staying sober during the evening seems impossible.

So I would suggest that, even if she's not quite there yet, your loved one is certainly heading towards either a physical or psychological dependency on alcohol that may be difficult to break.

Why we end up drinking like that, though, is another matter. Without knowing your loved one, I couldn't possibly say this for sure, but - from your mention of her recently being on anti-depressants and her other behaviours - it would seem she has underlying biological, emotional or "life" issues that may be influencing her to drink too much - as a "release" maybe from them? These issues might also explain her "need" to indulge in the lifestyle of her new friends. It sounds as though she's either suffering a chemical imbalance of some kind, which is causing her to become depressed and then to adopt a new lifestyle; or, she's unsatisfied in other areas of her life, and is trying to substitute/cover this dissatisfaction with alcohol, rather than deal with the real causes of it.

I think it's definitely good that she recognises she needs help with her current wellbeing. With any luck, if she's prepared to investigate that with the help of professional advice she might be led to acknowledge that she's currently drinking too much, too regularly, and for the wrong reasons.

However, I would stress that it's enormously difficult sometimes to reason with someone who's become physically or mentally reliant on alcohol - they really have to acknowledge themselves that it's a problem. They won't accept this until they are ready to.

It sounds from this post and the others that I've read by you, Marmite, that you're a hugely caring and compassionate friend to this person. I think that's the best way to continue - show support, give advice, don't take any cr*p from your loved one (yes, be sympathetic - but a drink problem doesn't excuse every behaviour), but - if you can - continue to be patient with her.

Her willingness to admit a general problem is good: gently encourage her to act on this, won't you, so she gets professional advice? It may take a huge number of baby-steps before a real difference can be seen; but even a journey of baby-steps can lead to the most marvellous of destinations.

I know, Marmite, that I'm missing stuff out here, so I hope others will post soon with the things I'm forgetting to say.

Keep posting, won't you? We'll do all we can to help. And, from a selfish point of view, it always helps me to hear the views of someone whose friend/partner/loved one drinks too much, as it reminds me of exactly why I don't want to return to drinking, myself.

Best wishes and speak soon,

Re: How do I know if its alcohol dependency or not?

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 13:12
by marmite!
Thank you for that Mark, it really helps. This is a previously very strong person who dealt with a trauma in the family several years ago. She had and still has lots of family and friend support which got her through that terrible time, the alcohol was there then, but I would say on a manageable level, which did not affect her everyday life. At the time she turned down councelling and medication as she felt she could deal with it which she did. My take on it is that she carries the sadness from that time. Recently, again my take on it, is that at a certain age, a midlife crisis kind of kicked in, a sense of needing more in her life? maybe insecurities, the need for excitement? who knows but thats what I am trying to get to the bottom of. She says herself that she's mad, which she isnt, but feels the need to sort it out. I think she feels she is depressed and having a breakdown, but when you see the involvement in alcohol in all of it, it just seems to me thats it is an addiction that she could not live without.
On the outside looking in, I see that her life revolves around drink. All social events are alcohol involved, and lots of it, she never ever drives to a social event, the friends are drinking friends (although I think they are more the binge drinker rather than everyday) her involvement with alcohol is very unhealthy. She is very unstable at the moment although I would like to suggest that maybe she drinks to much, I dont want to drive her away, I just want to help but dont know how. I have also read about helping and enabling which is hard to differentiate the two! thank you so much for helping.

Re: How do I know if its alcohol dependency or not?

Posted: 05 Nov 2011 17:38
by Mark.
Thanks Marmite!

I wish I could help more. It can be very difficult, can't it? I've felt mad myself, in the past: for me, that meant being in a situation, or mindset, that I couldn't see a cure for. Of course, the problem was not that I was irreparably "mad", but that my mind was just too confused to see the "cures" or escape-routes back to safety that were available to me.

That's why it's so life-saving when someone close to us can put the options we have before us, just enough inside our line of vision to see them, but without it being so obvious that we think we're being deliberately steered towards them (which, ungrateful though it is, is often very annoying to the dependent-drinker).

It does seem, though, that your close one is going through some kind of breakdown or (perhaps) crisis of identity even; and it does sound as though she could use some counselling/therapy, if she's willing to try it. You are very right that the alcohol will not be helping her, though, if she is feeling depressed. In my experience - and I know others would agree - it makes things feel even worse the following morning, which just increases the desire to blot it all out with alcohol.

Vicious cycle: feel depressed, drink, feel worse, drink even more... and so on.

It's all a question of tactfully guiding her towards dealing with that, though...

I wonder if anyone else here has any suggestions?

Best wishes and speak soon, Marmite!