It’s the Holidays: What is Problem Drinking?



It looks festive, doesn’t it?

I don’t want to be a downer, but the holidays present inordinate opportunities to overindulge. For those of us with drinking issues, there are triggers around every corner. I started thinking about drinking this morning – not about actually drinking , but about the subject of imbibing during the holidays and what makes a drinker, a problem drinker?

Caron Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Center says, “Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are among the most common, devastating, and costly problems in the United States (duh).  In fact, recent studies have shown that approximately 53 percent of adults in the United States have reported that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem.”

Statistics like this slay me. Where do they get these factoids? Where does a person report a close relative with a drinking problem? It’s not like there’s a census. And if 53 percent of adults have tattle-taled on one or more boozer in the family, doesn’t that mean alcoholics abound? At least half of the adult population of the United States?

And how is a drinking problem defined?

I drank three bottles of wine a day. By anyone’s yardstick that’s a problem. But I’ve seen videos and read chagrinned accounts from self-proclaimed alcoholics who shuffle their shoes and admit guiltily to drinking a cocktail every night after work…

My definition of problem drinking is this: Drinking is considered a problem when it starts to adversely affect a person’s personal or professional life, or when the person loses control over his or her drinking.

For those of you who wonder, that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not whether you swill an entire bottle every time you start to drink (although you should watch that…), it’s that you anticipate, crave and prioritize alcohol above all else.

It’s coming onto Thanksgiving. In our family, we have a corny tradition of going around the table and telling everyone what we are thankful for. This will be my second sober Thanksgiving. For that, this problem drinker is eternally, humbly grateful.

Today I’m not drinking because I am, by anyone’s yardstick a problem drinker.

How come you’re not drinking?