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Since starting this journey (and to be honest for the last few years) I have wondered constantly ‘Do I have an actual drinking problem’?  From this one question comes so many more…

Is how I drink normal? Does everyone think in the same way as me when I want a drink? Am I making excuses to have a drink? Am I dependent on alcohol?  Could I ever imagine my life without drinking involved?  Am I drinking too much?  Am I damaging my body…… my mind?  Am I classed as a heavy drinker?  Am I actually an alcoholic? There’s more but you get the gist…

These questions have led me to look into things a little..and while this is just the start of the research I want to undertake into my past drinking habits I thought Id share what answers I think I have so far.

I stopped writing this yesterday as I was not sure I wanted to finish this post but today I feel OK to share what I found.

As I have mentioned before the phrase functioning alcoholic has been something I have read about before and to be honest I felt at the time that it was just a title for the health bodies and governments to give to us “normal people” who like to unwind with a drink and go out on weekends to blow away all the stresses of the week. But now I am not so sure, I give you the definition of an functioning alcoholic.

A high-functioning alcoholic is an alcoholic who is able to maintain their outside life such as jobs, academics, relationships, etc. – all while drinking alcoholically.  Many HFAs are not viewed by society as alcoholics because they do not fit the common alcoholic stereotype.

I also came across the signs and symptoms and thought I would see if I met any of them?  You know out of curiosity? Hoping that of course I did not…..  Here they are with my answers

  • When they have one drink, they experience a craving to have more and cannot predict what their alcohol intake will be.  Once I have one glass of wine I want more, end of.  When I am home and there is half a bottle of open wine I will want to go out and get some more as I would think to myself that the couple of glasses wont be enough.. Oh dear one question in and I am already on the yes I do that route….
  • They obsesses about the next time they will be able to drink alcohol. – I do this, I used to think about the next time I would have a drink or plan drinking into my week or weekend as ‘something to look forward to’
  • They behave in ways that are not characteristic of themselves while drunk and continue to repeat these unwanted behaviors and patterns.  They Feel guilt and shame about their drunken behaviors. I consistently act in a way that I am embarrassed of when drunk and do things I would never think of doing if I was sober.  Always so sad at myself after drinking too much and feel shameful at how I may or may not have behaved (If I do in fact remember)
  •  Surround themselves socially with heavy drinkers.  I do have friends and family that ‘like a drink’ I am not going to finger point anyone or any situation.  But drinking has been a big part of my life since I was 17.
  • Getting drunk before actually arriving at parties/bars (pre-partying).  Always having wine while getting ready for a night out and I have to say if I am going out with friends I will always take a bottle to have while waiting to leave. I am definitely a pre-partyer or a preloader as I saw it called on a documentary about cheap alcohol the other week. 
  • Setting drinking limits (ie, only having 3 drinks, only drinking 3 days per week) and not being able to adhere to them. For years and years I have tried to limit my drinking – only taking one bottle to a party, not drinking unless its Saturday, limiting myself to two bottles over one week – NONE of these have worked for any long period of time.  I have attempted to manage my alcohol intake too many times to count.
  • Always having to finish an alcoholic beverage or even another person’s unfinished beverage.  Always have to finish my glass of wine (unless I have fallen asleep!) However, do not feel the need to finish other peoples drinks so I am thinking that’s good, right?  I am clearly not an alcoholic if I do not feel the need to finish anyone elses drink – case closed..
  • Using alcohol as a reward.  Taking breaks from drinking and then increasing alcohol consumption when they resume drinking after a period of time.  Make excuses for drinking by using alcohol as a reward or to relieve stress   Guilty -I can reward myself for a hard day or a difficult week, because I did something really well,  because I am completely stressed out, because I am going to do the ironing….because its Tuesday……… you get the idea.  I often take breaks from drinking when I have attempted to manage my drinking better, but always ends up with a drink after to reward myself for abstaining from drink (vicious circle comes to mind)
  • Drinking daily or binge drinking (more than 5 drinks in one sitting) on weekends. Right OK so I do not drink daily on a regular basis but when I do drink its at least a bottle (going back a few years maybe two each time) and on a weekend if I go out one of the evenings we are definitely talking at least two bottles plus maybe shots and spirits.  I have actually worked out an average unit consumption for myself…Ill mention that later on.
  • Having blackouts (memory lapse due to excessive drinking) and not remembering what they did for a portion of their drinking episode. Shit! This is a big one for me, not remembering my evenings is one the reasons this all started.
  • Not being able to imagine their life without alcohol in it – Until now I honestly couldn’t.  But then again if something has been a constant in your life for almost 20 years you wouldn’t would you?
  • Have difficulty viewing themselves as alcoholics because they don’t fit the stereotypical image and because they feel their lives are manageable.  I do find it difficult to see myself as an actual alcoholic I am still hoping that this isn’t the case, that this is not the label I would be given.  I am not drinking every day and have an understanding of what triggers my drinking and ways to help me stop I just haven’t really wanted to until now.
  • Avoid recovery help.  I have sought help.  I have been to doctors and my doctor at the time explained she didn’t think I had a physical dependency for alcohol it is more of a mental dependency (for want of a better term.)  This was a couple of years ago at a very bad time in my life when I suffered what I can only describe as a panic attack which resulted in me pulling over my car and sobbing and calling a doctor right then and there.  She saw me that day and was a massive help and that there was the start, the start of small changes and decisions which has brought me to make the decision to take this step and write this blog and change my life.
  • Appear to the outside world to be managing life well. – I do manage OK, I have had a lot of ups and downs in my life over the last ten years (maybe longer) and I think I have dealt with them OK, emotionally? OK yes; I have dealt with most things very emotionally as I am lets face it a very tearful emotional person when things get tough, but I do not think I have faked how I have actually managed, I may have understated a few times how hard I was finding things to people but in all fairness everyone does that at some point don’t they? 
  • Skilled at living a compartmentalized life (i.e, separating professional, personal, and drinking lives)  I have never been secret about anything..I have not compartmentalized my drinking, I have always been quite open and honest about my drinking, I think because up until a point a couple of years ago, I thought my drinking habits were completely normal
  • Experience few tangible losses and consequences from their drinking, often by sheer luck. Id probably have to agree with this one.  There probably should have been more severe consequences from my drinking but by luck I have not experienced anything too major. There have been times when I have been drinking either out with friends or home alone and thought ‘that was lucky’.
  • Experience recurrent thoughts that because they have not “lost everything,” they have not hit bottom.  Often hit bottom and are unable to recognize it.  I do not believe I have reached this stage, I do not try to convince myself that I am not at rock bottom. I know I am not.

With all these points covered, and I know it was very long, but I wanted to be honest, (as I have mentioned this is my therapy) I think I have made a decision; I do not think I am a fully fledged functioning alcoholic but here’s the thing I think I could be with just an additional one or two bottles being drank a week or with a few more years of drinking under my belt.  I think I have many of the traits associated with FA’s but not some of the last ones, luckily there’s always been this voice within me trying to get me to change, making me have days off and convincing me that I could do without a drink some days.

However I do think I am what they would call a ‘high risk drinker’.  I am someone who regularly drinks more than 35 units a week and could be putting many aspects of my life and health at risk and may already have done so without me even realising it.  Scary thought and something I suppose I have to be aware of now I am beginning to finally understand the implications that continual heavy drinking can bring.

Food for thought…….on a normal week with no big nights out and no hen weekends or birthday parties or any other special event I average between 39 to 41 units per week.    This is well over the high risk figure of 35 units!  I would hate to think what it would average out if I looked at the whole 20 years I have bee drinking.

Interestingly there is not much from UK sites on functioning alcoholics……make of this what you will – but here is one article I have found on a UK site which is worth a read about another ladies story http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/health/my-life-as-a-functioning-female-alcoholic-1534853

Writing this and getting it down has helped me recognise what I was doing and the signs that I was ignoring.  I am hoping now that as I continue not drinking I can start to write about the positive benefits I am now starting to experience from not drinking…its just onwards and upwards!!!!!

Here is one, my new hair – my treat for reaching days 10 and 20 and not spending any money on wine!  Plus a glass of completely non alcohol bubbly in the sun while watching lilbit play cafes this afternoon! (ill go into the non alcohol part next post 🙂