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Old 06-11-2013, 06:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Is it inevitably progressive?

People often say that alcoholism is progressive. I'm wondering whether this is an absolute, or whether there are those who find a level of (dys)function that sorta works for them and stay there.

Thanks for your thoughts. I really value the discussions and insights on these boards.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It is ultimately progressive. Some can function at a certain level for a period of time, but not forever. If nothing else, health over time will deteriorate. That could be liver dysfunction, high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy, etc. Alcohol is a toxin to the body when consumed in abnormal quantities over a long period of time. There are those who feel the effects immediately, and those who take a few years.

No one "finds" a level of dysfunction that "sorta works" for them and stays there. To believe that is to believe that the A has some control over the disease. They do not, but that is part of their denial about the reality of the disease.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Interesting question.
Hmm, I stayed at a certain level for about 5 years, then I started getting black out drunk every other night.
I did that until I was ordered to rehab and saved my life.

My father stayed at a level to stay in the military, but it was at a time when alcohol
was part of the landscape of being in the Army. Lots and lots of functioning people.
But he drank after the doctors told him straight out it would kill him.
Died from cirrhosis.

I have never known a drunk to find a set point and stay there.
There always has to be more, whether it is weeks or years later, first it is more,
then you need less when your body stops processing the alcohol.

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Old 06-11-2013, 06:55 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I've never seen it be regressive!
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:02 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Yup, some people plateau for quite a while, but then can decline precipitously.

And Anvil's point is well-taken. This is not a disease of spontaneous remission or improvement. In my case, when I quit, I was still able to "control" the drinking to some extent--if I had to. But I could only do it for periods of time, and the physical and mental addiction were progressing in the meantime. So someone looking at me might not really know how bad it had gotten, though they might think I smelled of alcohol or was not mentally "with it" much of the time.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I agree about the physical effects, although I wasn't even thinking of that when I asked the question!! There is certainly only so much a body can take, for sure.

I'm thinking more of the behavior, I guess. The king baby crap, the dead eyes, the demanding, overly emotional behavior. It's not all the time, so I can deal. I don't know what will happen if it increases. I don't want that!

You may have an excellent point that this is me hoping that SOMEbody has some kind of control. I know that's not the case, but man, I wish...

I want to stay, it's usually not that bad and sometimes it's still pretty good. I know that the whole situation is forcing me to grow emotionally and spiritually in ways I would never have done. That said, I just wish he'd wise up. Barring that, it would be nice If it didn't get worse, but my crystal ball is broken.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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usually not that bad...that's known as settling.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Yeah, I can't really argue with that one, Anvilhead.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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sorry, but you deserve almost always awesome.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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In the case of my husband he maintained that certain level of dysfunction that seemed tolerable for 15 years until he seemingly over night cimpletely lost control and turned into that stereotypical stumbling, fumbling, and slurring drunk. I am sure that there were signs I missed that things were about to get totally out of control but it was a very rapid progression.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Such an interesting question. Don't really have an answer, but my guess would be yes. I've also been told that when someone is dry for a time, they get back to their prior drinking level quickly. Here's a little of what I experienced.

My AH was dry for 17 years (we met, fell in love, and were married during this period). He never did a program. Looking back, I can see how he was emotionally immature due to his drinking, and I can see how he started to mentally/emotionally regress further over the last few years. When he started drinking again, it was minimal at first. Once in November, then again in January, then about three weeks later, eventually weekly, and by the following September it was every. single. day. It amazed me how quickly he slipped back into what I assume were the drinking behaviors of his early 20's. I said to him several times that if I wanted a frat boy I would have married one. He was completely immature & irresponsible; the decisions he was making did not come from the man I knew at all.

I enjoyed reading these responses & look forward to reading more.
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Old 06-11-2013, 10:06 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I recently talked to a therapist at a rehab center and he said... that highly functioning alcoholics tend to be able to keep up appearances longer. While a construction worker who shows up after lunch smelling of beer will get kicked out on his backside pronto, lawyers can have two martini lunches and get away with it.

But, he said, that also usually means that when the high-functioning alcoholics finally get a crack in the foundation, they go downhill very fast. Because their disease has had that much longer to progress before the foundation starts crumbling.

My ex is a good example. He was brilliant and funny when we met. He always had a mean streak when he drank, and it got worse, but he was still fun to be around when he was sober.

And then there was less and less sober. And in five years he's gone from respected member of the community to being unemployed, on the verge of homelessness, and unable to follow a simple line of reasoning. He is paranoid and I'm the great satan.
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:17 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Thank you all for your thoughtful, and painful, responses. I am deeply afraid that you are right, so I'm probably looking for evidence that it doesn't "have to" be that way. At least I can see the breakdown in my logic, even if I can't get by it yet.

CarryOn, we are in very similar situations. I didn't understand it at the time but I lived with a dry drunk for five or six years before relapsed. It began with, "we're on vacation and I think I can handle a drink," and went to *secret* drinking evry day very quickly, within months. About a year ago he stopped pretending he wasn't. Drinks til bedtime most nights, with a real bender thrown in every few weeks, generally if hes upset about something. After one of those, we might get a day without drinking, but im usually too shell shocked to enjoy it. He's a good person and that good person is still in there, but he sure hides it well sometimes.

It's probably pretty telling that I don't go to Alanon mtgs because I don't want to deal with listening to his reaction. I do go to therapy and read a lot about this stuff though. I'm learning and putting the knowledge in action when I can.
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:32 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I agree with others. It progresses....how and when is a different story hut it always progresses.
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:36 AM   #15 (permalink)
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My husband is a secret drinker too. He can pretend very well. He is very high functioning at this point. It cycles, he will cut back when i say something and "appear" to be functioning like a social drinker and then it spirals quickly within a few months back to drinking until bedtime and all weekend long from morning to night. Each cycle I can see it getting a bit worse. This has gone on for years. I too often wondered if it would get worse or just stay the same but now I can see it getting worse. The decisions he makes, his appearance, his involvement with the family have all declined. He is still a respectable member of the community with an important job people admire but for how long until that declines too? They can only keep up appearances for so long before it all crumbles. I too haven't been to Alanon yet but I did join online. They have online meetings too. Keep taking care of yourself, see the therapist, try Alanon. You will know what o do when the time is right.
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Old 06-12-2013, 04:37 AM   #16 (permalink)
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My husband is a secret drinker too. He can pretend very well. He is very high functioning at this point.
My same situation--he had been drinking secretly for virtually our entire marriage, first just "supplemental" drinking while openly doing social drinking, then complete hiding of daily drinking while claiming to go to meetings but not really going. It has been progressing slowly but certainly progressing. I can only imagine how rapidly it might start to go downhill once he hits retirement age (not that many years away) and no longer has any schedule to keep; am sure the "weekend schedule" of drinking AM to PM would become the "daily schedule" then....so I'd then be that much older and STILL have to face the crap. No thanks. I am dealing w/the situation NOW, no more hiding or pretending for me, regardless of what he ends up doing.
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Old 06-12-2013, 04:45 AM   #17 (permalink)
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when the high-functioning alcoholics finally get a crack in the foundation, they go downhill very fast. Because their disease has had that much longer to progress before the foundation starts crumbling.
Yep. This has been my experience too.

My once 'high-functioning' exah has made three trips to the psych ward and been in jail another three times over the course of the last two years. He's in jail right now likely headed to prison. All of this for a man I once adored beyond measure. He went from being a loving, affectionate, funny, charming man to a man who is paranoid, delusional, and downright scary. I now have a personal protection order against him and he was recently convicted of stalking me. Never in a million years could I have guessed where this disease would take him.

Are you going to al anon? I literally saved me life.
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Old 06-12-2013, 04:45 AM   #18 (permalink)
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It was slowly progressive with me. Lot's of stopping, starting, trying to control over a period of years. I had very few consequences, my health was holding together, I drank alone, my adult family didn't have a problem with it because they didn't see it. But I knew I was in trouble.
It was a losing battle before I decided to abstain completely.
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Old 06-12-2013, 06:03 AM   #19 (permalink)
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It was slowly progressive with me. Lot's of stopping, starting, trying to control over a period of years. I had very few consequences, my health was holding together, I drank alone, my adult family didn't have a problem with it because they didn't see it. But I knew I was in trouble.
It was a losing battle before I decided to abstain completely.
Feeling Great's post could easily have been written by my RAH. Now that he is really going to AA meetings, instead of just telling me that he is, he has started bringing home a copy of The Grapevine, which is AA's monthly magazine. I'd like to share a story I read just this AM:

The A writing this piece is also high-functioning, same story as above. He felt he had no issues b/c he held a job, drank alone, had no DUIs and wife/kids didn't know b/c he concealed it. Then one day while drunk he DID have a car accident, and not a fender bender. He was badly injured himself and killed the other driver. This resulted in a 3-year jail sentence and, needless to say, a permanent and huge change in his life. All in a moment of time.

The point I'd like to make (as others mentioned also above) is that the progressive nature of alcoholism is not going to necessarily be an even grade, where you can figure "well, it took him 10 years to get to this point, so it'll take another 10 before anything really serious might happen." Something like that car accident can happen in just a minute to someone whose life doesn't seem to be "that bad", and all of a sudden the gentle slope of declining functionality becomes a steep and high cliff.

This is something I do bear in mind, as it would be pretty easy for me to stick my head back under the covers and pretend it's not all that bad. If he is not sober, any day could be the day he drives to his model-building club meeting drunk and kills someone. Any day could be the day he decides to have a nip BEFORE going to work or at lunch, and there's an accident and he has alcohol in his blood. I don't say this in the sense that I obsess about it or think I can control it, but solely that I need to be mindful that if he is drinking and I am choosing to stay with him, this can be the future, and I am choosing to be part of it.
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Old 06-12-2013, 06:40 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Sueski, and others here in similar situations, you can't predict the pace of your partner's alcoholic progression, but you can take care of yourselves.

I'd suggest that this is a good time to get your own financial life together, while you're solvent and not in immediate crisis. There's a lot written here about what to do if you have to leave your alcoholic partner, and it is so much easier if you're prepared in advance. If you don't have to leave, so much the better.

Here's what I'd suggest, having run away from my STBXAH last July 4th when his alcoholism and other addictions became outrageous.

Establish your own credit in your own name. Get one or two general purpose credit cards in your name only, use them, pay them and keep a zero balance. If your partner is overspending, take your name off of his credit cards. (I had a funny thing happen - - the only credit card in my name when I left was LL Bean, which, if you live in the NE, is a huge sporting goods/clothing/you name it US store in Maine. Well, all the money I spent on my divorce lawyer, I charged to my LL Bean card, and now I have $500 in free coupons to order clothes from their on-line catalog!!!!!!! What a reward for living through this mess!) Keep getting a higher line of credit as often as you can.

Open your own bank account, and get your own checks, in your name only. Start saving for a rainy day fund. Get enough money put away to fund a start-up on your own - money for 3 months rent and enough to keep you going for a few months if you can. Anything helps.

Make copies of all important papers, with the account numbers, addresses, on-line sites, and get your own access/passwords to the sites. This includes insurance, both life, homeowners and car; retirement accounts; birth certificates; etc. If you have to leave quickly as I did, you won't necessarily be able to get back in to get these things. Keep track of any assets you both have, including retirement funds, IRAs, 401Ks, etc.

From my experience, any credit card account and some bank accounts that are in your partner's name first allow him to remove you as secondary user without your permission. When my STBXAH did this, I was unable to get information on our assets from some of the banks.

If you can, take charge of the family finances so that you know the important bills like the mortgage are being paid on time and aren't affecting your credit. And keep good records - maybe on a program like Quicken - so you keep on top of where the money is going. If you can, have your paycheck direct deposited into your own account.

Forewarned is forearmed. God bless that none of you will need to have taken these precautions. In that case, you'll just have well managed finances with a top-notch credit rating! Having this done also lets you track how the money is going, and you may notice some red flags earlier than you might have otherwise.

Just my experience, take what you want and leave the rest

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