Predicting Alcoholism – When Does Choice Becomes Reliance?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a divining rod that foreshadowed alcoholism? It would start shaking when a person was about to hit the point of no return – that moment when over-drinking morphs into reliance. I can picture some modern day Carrie Nation entering a pub, water-witching her way along the bar. Pointing her stick at those folks who are about to ruin their perfectly good lives…

What is the point of no return?

This is a subject that fascinates me.  I try not to indulge in “what could have been.” But, the one thing I do ruminate about, is when exactly did I become an alcoholic? Was there a time when I could have stopped the runaway progression of the disease? And is there a crystal ball to help others stop before it is too late?

There are stages.of alcohol dependence. And looking back, I can see that for almost ten years my drinking was risky. There was a reason I kept a repair kit (nail polish, sand paper, small hammer) to fix the scratches and dents in my car before my husband saw them. The stages are:

High Risk Stage

Characterized by drinking enough and behaving badly enough that people begin to talk. In my case, I was too scary to confront. But, this is the time to confront. Especially when the person is making dangerous choices under the influence. This was the time when I began to drive tipsy. It was the stage when I missed the installation for my own gallery opening (I was drunk in a hotel room across the street). And I began to make lame excuses for my inappropriate conduct.

Somewhere in between these two phases is where the crystal ball belongs – this is the point where things might be able to be reversed…

Early Dependency Stage

Friends and family are concerned and very aware there is a problem. Health, legal and personal issues occur. This was the phase where I got stopped by the police all the time for “driving erratically.” I got into screaming fights (I haven’t screamed at anyone in four years – ain’t recovery grand?). I watered the wine, so my husband wouldn’t know I was drinking a bottle a day. I was hungover most mornings, but it didn’t stop me from drinking at lunchtime.

Middle Stage

During the middle stage of alcohol addiction, problems mount. For me, the kicker was my divorce. You will note above that I was accountable to my husband. I was like a defiant teenager, covering my tracks, but I was watched. After the divorce, I was left to my own dubious devices, and the consequences. The middle stage is marked by ignoring the negative consequences of drinking.

And in the middle stage of my alcoholism, I bought a house in The Bahamas. A place where drinking in the morning is called “Bahamian breakfast.” Can you say, “Double whammy?”

Late Stage Dependency

Mayday! This is the crisis point where everything takes a back seat to drinking.  The alcoholic is rarely without a drink. Nothing matters but buying, harboring and drinking alcohol. This was the stage where I didn’t even look out the window at the spectacular, Bahamian view. I drank from morning till night. If it happened after 5 PM I made a slurred excuse. I was, in a word, miserable.

Okay, class what have we learned?

That there is no joy in looking back? There is no point in thinking, “If only I’d gone to treatment right after my divorce… if only I hadn’t gone on that vacation in The Bahamas… if only I hadn’t met that dude who looked like Captain Ron…”

What’s done is done, but I have become pretty militant about calling people on problem drinking. I do not tiptoe. Because, if I can halt the progress of alcohol dependency in a few people, in just one person, I will have accomplished something grand.

Today I’m not drinking, because I’m divining…

How come you’re not drinking?

E2E – thinking of you