Are periodic/binge drinkers addicted to alcohol?

Old 03-12-2014, 11:34 AM
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Are periodic/binge drinkers addicted to alcohol?

Not sure where to begin, but my husband has a problem with alcohol. Most of the time, he completely avoids it, because he knows what happens when he drinks. We donít buy alcohol, and on the rare occasion that we have some in the house, he doesnít touch it. He doesnít touch it when he goes out with me, either. But periodically, he tries drinking normally again Ė usually when heís with other guys, and it ends in disaster almost every time. He acts like a jerk, he got a DUI, he gets hurt, etc. This last weekend, he went for a few beers and wound up in the ER after having a seizure from doing coke. They found a cyst in his head that seems to have made him more sensitive. Heís from the UK and grew up around very heavy drinking.

So last night, we talked about all of this. He said he wants to see a psychologist, but not a drug/alcohol counselor. Heís seen a couple of those in the past, and they never believe him when he says he doesnít crave alcohol every day. They tell him he must be in denial. When he has tried AA, everyone talks about how hard it is to get through a day without drinking, and he cannot relate. He said to me ďI donít like to fail. I always find a way to conquer things. I just want to be normal. I want to go out to the pub, have a few pints, and get up the next morning like my dad always could and like every other guy I know can. Itís not about needing alcohol. Itís about needing to be NORMAL. Every time I do it, Iím not thinking about hurting you guys because Iím thinking Ďthis time will be different.í I need to find a therapist who gets that.Ē He also said maybe heís delusional, and this is what all alcoholics think. Can anyone relate to this? Do you think itís true or is he delusional?
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Old 03-12-2014, 11:42 AM
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Emmy, many of us can relate to this. If what you described is accurate, your husband is not physically addicted to alcohol; however, it appears he cannot control his drinking when he does drink. My drinking patterns were very similar to your husband's. I went weeks without even the thought of drinking, but when I did drink I could not control myself. Two or three beers were never enough. I would drink until I was stone drunk.

I'm afraid your husband's quest to be a normal drinker is in vain. IMO, he will never again be a normal drinker, and the only sensible option is to quit for good. He won't like that idea--at first, but he should reflect very carefully on what happens once he takes that first drink. Ask him if he has ever controlled his drinking over the last three years or so? If he has, how many times? Then ask him how many times he lost control once he started.
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Old 03-12-2014, 12:46 PM
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Yeah I wouldn't see the definition of an alcohol problem as being based around a constant craving for alcohol 24/7, it's more to do with once we start, we can't stop, which basically matches the description of your husband. I never had a DUI, never lost a job etc, I never drank in the mornings or all day, but in the evenings I didn't stop until I blacked out into bed.

Regardless of what anyone says, that's not normal behaviour, normal people, or what we term normal, can have 1 or 2 drinks and stop, they mix alcohol into a healthy social life, not make alcohol the centre of their social life.

I'm afraid to say, a problem with alcohol may mean complete Sobriety as the answer, having now not touched a drink for many months, I know if I had just the 1 right now, I would keep drinking till I blacked out into bed tonight, I'd be back to square one, we're simply hardwired to not know when to stop, or be able to stop, that in my opinion is the real definition of addiction, not being in control of when to stop.

It's all or nothing with alcohol addiction, moderation isn't in the vocabulary I'm afraid.

But your husband can still get through this, you'll find hundreds if not thousands of people on this Forum who now enjoy a healthy social life without alcohol, it's not the centre of a good social life, and the fear of removing it from our lives is almost an indication that indeed someone has a problem with alcohol.
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Old 03-12-2014, 12:59 PM
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I don't have alcohol cravings throughout the week like a normal alcoholic, but I have a similar problem. On a day where I do drink, I cant stop.

My doctor told me that its the result of my anxiety disorder though. He says this frequently happens with people who have anxiety or social anxiety disorders.

Maybe it's different with your husband though.
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Old 03-12-2014, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by trikuza View Post
I don't have alcohol cravings throughout the week like a normal alcoholic, but I have a similar problem. On a day where I do drink, I cant stop.

My doctor told me that its the result of my anxiety disorder though. He says this frequently happens with people who have anxiety or social anxiety disorders.

Maybe it's different with your husband though.
He actually has severe anxiety. Curious, what kind of doctor have you found to be helpful?
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Old 03-12-2014, 01:14 PM
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@ emmyG

Just my family practitioner. I was going in for a physical, and somehow the binge drinking came up in our conversation. He says the anxiety and binge drinking are quite common. I have never visited anyone that specializes in alcoholism.
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Old 03-12-2014, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by EmmyG View Post
He also said maybe heís delusional, and this is what all alcoholics think.
He right. He's in denial about his problem. Point him to the Big Book of AA (it's online). He says all he want to do is be a normal drinker. This from Chapter 3:

The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.

And an alchoholic will defend his use as vigoriously as he denies the problem.

Good luck.
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Old 03-12-2014, 02:32 PM
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Whether your husband wants to use AA as a recovery program is optional. However, he would be wise to take few minutes and read the chapter More about Alcoholism from the AA Big Book. I suspect he will see himself in the description of alcoholics and alcoholism found in that chapter.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:53 PM
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Are periodic/binge drinkers addicted to alcohol?
because its not how much we drank
because its not what we drank
because its not when we drank
because its not whom we drank with
because its not where we drank
because its not why we drank

Its only what the magical liquid does to us when we drink it.
We crave more and more with each drink.
This is the allergy to alcohol, the phenomenon of craving.
A strawberry allergic reaction happens and you get a rash.
An allergic reaction to booze is CRAVINGS.

and NO
because there are some "Hard Drinkers" that can stop when something happens.
First DUI, first car crash, medical issues, family issues, first drunk tank expirience, first penal stint

It all is soo critical on the Craving aspect. If one craves alcohol then one is addicted to it.
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Old 03-12-2014, 09:22 PM
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I totally get the belief that 'this time it will be different'. Not sure why his therapists did not understand that. He might have better luck with a therapist trained in Motivational Interviewing. Sometimes, EMDR can also be used to treat addiction.

Addiction is often defined as continuing a behavior even when the negatives outweigh the positive benefits. That sounds like what he is doing.

Physical dependence and addiction are different.

I do not crave every day. I can go for stretches of time with no cravings.
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:50 PM
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I think you can be physically addicted to alcohol and not need it every single day. I personally can go up to a week without drinking before the physical cravings are overpowering and I end up drinking. And once I have a couple drinks in me, forget about it. My advice would be for him to just give up the idea of "normal" drinking, b/c it is most likely impossible for him.
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Old 03-13-2014, 03:33 AM
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She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking, she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it, she couldn’t enjoy it.

This is a quote from a story in the AA Big Book titled "Crossing the river of denial".

He is denial that he can drink normal. It is not the second, fifth, eighth or tenth, it is the FIRST drink that got me drunk.

I have no control once I have one. I never did and I never will. One is one to many and one more is never enough.
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Old 10-17-2016, 09:33 AM
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My wife is a periodic. She can go months without touching it but then does and it starts a spree. When she was in rehab there was no denial, but as soon as she got out she loaded up the liquor cabinet and wasn't an alcoholic again.
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Old 10-17-2016, 09:41 AM
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I don't drink daily and I don't crave alcohol most of the time. But when I do, and i drink, watch out. And yes, I'm a complete alcoholic. I used to drink more regularly, pre-alcoholism, but it has morphed into bender drinking. Those counselors are completely wrong.

What your husband describes, the desire to drink normally, is the dream of most alcoholics at some point in their journey. I've never know anyone that could do it who was truly alcoholic. Once a pickle, never again a cucumber.

I had to accept that I can never drink normally. And if I touch alcohol I will probably kill myself or someone else.
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Old 10-17-2016, 11:20 AM
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I had a long period of drinking, most of my life, when I had a problem with alcohol (drinking too much when I did drink) but wasn't addicted. I could go a week or two without and I usually did, never drank during the week, etc. No severe negative consequences, I should have gotten at least a couple DUIs but I managed to avoid that, no withdrawal other than hangovers, no cravings - yet I clearly had a drinking problem because once I got going, I kept going, even if I only got seriously plastered a few times a year.

I've never seen any success in convincing anyone that he is an addict and forcing him to rehab, AA, etc., so maybe let him approach the problem (he recognizes there is a problem, it seems) as he thinks best and see what happens?
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Old 10-18-2016, 10:25 PM
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Perhaps a closer look at the aa program might be in order, especially the doctors opinion. Alcoholics of my type don't crave alcohol until we have taken the first drink. The doctor called this the phenomenon of craving which does not occur in ordinary drinkers.

One definition in the big book goes if, when you really want to you cannot quite entirely, OR if when you drink you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.

That was me. I was a periodic drinker because I lacked the control to drink continuously, so I always went overboard and didn't stop until I was too sick to continue. Then I would swear off, because I was so sick and the awful memories, and quite often would find myself drinking again without my conscious thought. There was never a craving to get me started, but I didn't seem to be able to not take the first one. I completely forgot why I swore off.
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Old 10-19-2016, 12:47 AM
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I was not physically addicted to alcohol, could go long periods without it, and I rarely had cravings, but when I did drink I could not control it. Ever. Because of that I know I have a problem and I stay away.
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Old 10-19-2016, 02:38 AM
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Are periodic/binge drinkers addicted to alcohol?

I don't know but, when my grandfather who was a periodic drinker started drinking it seemed to be hard for him to stop. I guess that he was lucky because after a week of heavy drinking he would be so sick that all he could do was lay in bed.
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Old 10-19-2016, 05:20 AM
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i never could not binge drink no matter how hard i tried. and i was the occaisional binge drinker then i just became the daily binge drinker. for me it just got progressively worse.

I think he's on the right track just avoiding it altogether and accepting there might not ever be anyhting "Normal" about it when it comes ot him and drinking. thats how it is for me anyhow. It'll never be normal.

1 drink is too many and a million is never enough.
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Old 10-19-2016, 09:10 AM
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Emmy, your husband wants to be something he is not - namely, a person who can drink alcohol without bad things happening.

And he doesn't want to go to an alcohol and drug counselor because he knows that person will strongly recommend that he quit drinking, which he doesn't want to do.

You may want to talk with an interventionist or a treatment center to seek assistance in pointing him in the direction of help.
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