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Alcoholism vs alcohol abuse(what am I missing?)

Old 03-07-2013, 11:23 AM
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Alcoholism vs alcohol abuse(what am I missing?)

I've been reading a book titled, "If you Loved Me, You'd Stop". The author makes a delineation between alcoholics and alcohol abusers and that people who are only abusing alcohol may not have to completely abstain forever from alcohol.

Now, one of the things I've struggled with regarding my AH is that he doesn't fit the 'mold' for an alcoholic as he is a binge drinker and there are times when he can have just 3 beers and stop. He doesn't have cravings and can honestly go months without drinking if he wanted to. When he drinks, it's a conscious choice to tie one on and sometimes he just doesn't have an off switch and these are the times where he gets into trouble.

He won't go to AA because he says he's not like the addicts that are there. He says he drank for emotional reasons, to calm the anxiety, fear, and stress. And, I do believe that's the truth because I've witnessed the anger and stress issues firsthand. So, I guess I'm frustrated because his path to recovery just doesn't fit the AA or treatment program molds.

Our marriage therapist says that even though he's a harm reduction therapist, that AH needs to abstain forever. He truly believes that AH has a real problem, but stops short of calling him an alcoholic(a term that AH has made very clear doesn't appeal to him nor does he want us to call him that while in counseling).

I've really been struggling lately because I know the drinking and lying and driving rental cars on suspended licenses is just the icing on the cake when it comes to our issues. Dealing with his continued drinking and lies compounded with disprespectful behavior are really getting to me.

I'm struggling with the 'disease' aspect of alcoholism and it seems to be making me resentful. I've put so much time into myself and my recovery and I want to keep going with that but many days I just get frustrated because I want to be further along than I am. So the rats in my head keep running ragged and I'm trying to just get them off their wheel, and quite frankly that's exhausting, LOL! Anyway, I guess I'm looking for input but a simple nod of understanding would be great, too! Thanks everyone!
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Old 03-07-2013, 12:03 PM
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If the issue is more about how he treats you, on top of the irresponsibility he exhibits when he is drinking, what difference do labels make? If he doesn't want to abstain, and you have a problem with it - having a label doesn't matter.

Dealing with his continued drinking and lies compounded with disrespectful behavior are really getting to me.
To me - this seems like the real problem.
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Old 03-07-2013, 12:27 PM
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Ok here is the way it was explained to me many years ago, when I first got sober and it still makes very good sense and is true today.

I asked what is the difference between a problem drinker and an alcoholic.

"All Alcoholics are problem drinkers, but not all problem drinkers are alcoholics.

A problem drinker given motivation of loss of family, job, etc can quit, go on with living his/her life and it is no longer a problem With an alcoholic it means nothing to them, they blindly push forward with their love affair with the booze and/or drugs."

It is even discussed in the first 164 pages of the Big Book, so it was apparent even
in 1935 to 1939 that there was a difference.

Doesn't matter if you call alcoholism a disease or not, it is a mental health problem that only abstinence can help the person to get better.

Look to me it is a disease. I also have the disease of diabetes. For my diabetes, I have to eat a certain type of diet, take my long lasting insulin at night, my enzyme injection in the morning, and of course exercise moderately. This is what I MUST do to keep my diabetes in REMISSION.

Now for my alcoholism, I MUST first abstain from any alcohol, I MUST continue to work on myself and be aware when I am H.ungry, A.ngry, L.onely, or T.ired, and use other various tools I have gathered over these years. This is what I MUST do to keep my alcoholism in REMISSION.

Liz, you are again over analyzing and are getting into the "Analysis Paralysis" one more time.

You can't change him, the counselor can't change him. He is still drinking, so really the counseling is a waste of time and money I M O.

Go to your own therapist, talk with your sponsor, and MOVE FORWARD.

Love and hugs,
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Old 03-07-2013, 12:45 PM
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This stopped being about alcohol a long time ago.
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Old 03-07-2013, 01:36 PM
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Considering your descriptions of your AH's behavior over time, I think the alcoholic vs. problem drinker issue is a moot point.

Also, the reason the therapist resists the label alcoholic is usually a treatment decision. I heard somewhere, maybe on here, that one of the first things they train addiction counselors is not to confront addicts with their addiction because it almost always closes the avenue for treatment.

Emotionally, I think you might just be looking for an easy way out. I get it -- I've been doing it lately too. But when we minimize the adverse effects of our partners' choices -- for whatever mental health reason -- we're selling ourselves short. What I've learned is that this is a dysfunctional way of achieving "stability," and that true stability is hard won, and a process -- not something "achieved" -- and usually involves making different decisions than the ones I'm hard wired to make.
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Old 03-07-2013, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by lizatola View Post
He won't go to AA because he says he's not like the addicts that are there. He says he drank for emotional reasons, to calm the anxiety, fear, and stress. And, I do believe that's the truth because I've witnessed the anger and stress issues firsthand. So, I guess I'm frustrated because his path to recovery just doesn't fit the AA or treatment program molds.
Of course he says this. My husband said it too. He also said he didn't want to be like "one of those guys."

But he was. He just was getting into the fine details that separated him so that he could convince himself he was normal and just going through a "phase." And, I'll be honest, I don't think AA is the end all be all of treatment programs and I'm fairly critical of some treatment programs, but AA isn't about the "not drinking" part of the addiction.

My husband also drinks because he doesn't have normal coping mechanisms. It's easier to drink. He likes the taste. He wants to be normal - and normal people to him both drink and don't have the contant anxiety/stress. However, without the treatment path to learning better coping mechanisms, it doesn't matter if he's abusing alcohol or an actual alcoholic, abusing benzos, or addicted to some video game, his behavior is the issue. The lying, the deception, the gaslighting...for me, it's what for me personally has made detaching from his alcohol intake much easier - because at the heart of things, the alcohol, while a problem, isn't *the* problem...Don't get me wrong, his drinking bothers me, and I tell him it bothers me.

For a while, I too bought into the argument that my husband was different. That AA didn't quite fit his needs, that the "other addicts" were "real addicts" with the "real disease." The fact is, my husband, while he has limited control over his drinking and hasn't had legal or health issues, is only lucky that he hasn't had legal or health side effects - but deep down....he's got the same problems he's trying to avoid as everyone else at AA meetings.
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Old 03-07-2013, 03:19 PM
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at the beginning of my journey ~ I too struggled with the concept of "disease" of alcoholism/addiction

I mean - really a disease??

Then I went with a big chip on my shoulder to an open AA meeting - a birthday nite -where the families attend to celebrate the members years of sobriety.

In my all knowing smugness I sat there - deciding who was an A and who was family -
and there was a very classy elagant woman probably in her late 60's not a hair out of place ~ truly she could have been the "Jackie Kennedy" of the room ~ I thought to myself - she must be someone's wife or mother ~

much to my surprise - she stepped up the microphone to start the meeting and said
Hi my name is _______ and I'm an alcoholic. It is solely by God's Grace that tonite I celebrate 20 years sober.

She went on to tell her story ~ it was a doozy - about drinking well into her 40's, in front of her children, loosing jobs, family, and everything ~

She said something like this disease is NO respector of person, sex, age, or religion - it destroyed me

I was floored ~ how wrong I had been,
How convicted I became about my judging nature
she looked nothing like the alcoholics/addicts in my life ~ but her story was just like theirs.

That's when I realized there was no "understanding" this disease thing - I could accept and decide to start my recovery or I could keep my focus on trying to decipher something that was cunning, baffling and powerful

So right or wrong - disease, not a disease, alcoholism or problem drinker ~ for me it doesn't matter what you call it ~ I call it something that if my focus stays on that my life is unmanagable ~ if my focus stays on my recovery and what is healthy for me - serenity, joy and hope tends to be in my heart, soul and mind regardless of the world around me ~

Just my e, s, & h ~

pink hugs as always!
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Old 03-07-2013, 03:39 PM
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I think most alcoholics drank in the first place to deal with some kind of anxiety or fear or discomfort with living in their own skins. The problem is that alcoholics can't cope without it. It is a very destructive "solution" that only works for a certain amount of time before it turns on you.

I think some "problem drinkers" are people who situationally drink heavily. IOW, they lose a loved one, suffer some other trauma or setback and temporarily cope with it by drinking too much. They may get into a bit of trouble from it, but they eventually heal and they no longer need to drink. Or maybe they really love the taste and the buzz, but again, if some good reason to quit comes along, they don't have an insurmountably hard time quitting.

But as everyone here has pointed out, the bottom line is how it affects you, and how YOU cope with that.
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Old 03-07-2013, 04:36 PM
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Liz, in my journey leaving my AH and starting to get through co-dependency, I've had moments (sometimes days, weeks) of real insight where I "GET IT" and then I lose those insights and I'm all muddled again about what I thought I got.

The path to healing hasn't been an even one for me, with my recovery advancing step by step in a linear fashion.

Sometimes it helps to go back and reread your own posts from the beginning, maybe make some notes with a date and a comment about a particular insight you had. From remembering what you've written, I think you've had lots of moments of greater clarity than you may be having right now. You have the right to go back and find them and reclaim them.

When my daughter was learning to talk, when she would first say a word, she really understood what it meant. Her first word was "boo" for book, and she expected a story. Then, she got fascinated by the sound itself as much as the meaning and kept repeating it, and then she lost the meaning and only had the sound, and then she went on to another word, same process. But a little while later, all those suppressed word meanings came back to her at the same time, and she started to make little sentences and began to actually converse with us.

That may be very simplistic, but it is analogous to my recovery and my insights coming and going and now, starting to be integrated.

I'd say let go of the details, let go of defining what is alcoholism and what is alcohol abuse. I think you've got yourself back up a rabbit hole, chasing a rabbit who went out the other exit. I think you're down there in the tunnels, trying to see if this fork in the tunnel will get you somewhere useful, or if that one will. The real point is that you don't have to go underground into that tunnel at all; you can look at what YOU want YOUR life to be without having to first assess your AH's behavior at all.

On another SR forum today, I posted a thought that may be useful (or not!) to you.

In long term recovery for co-dependents, I am beginning to believe the questions we ask need to be framed in a much larger, deeper context.

We can ask ourselves "What are my values?" "What do I believe in?" "What are my ethics?" "What do I want to do with my life?" "What are my gifts and talents and how can I best express them?"

We then begin to articulate much deeper issues. We begin to truly seek our own soul, and we begin to connect more directly and powerfully to our own values, our own ethics, our own morality.

Then, having formed more of our own identity, we get to an entirely different place when we look at whether someone else's behavior fits into our lives.


Figure out what are the core questions that you need to ask yourself to heal, to recover, to grow. Pursue them, reclaim the insights you've already had. Center yourself in you again.

The Quakers have a saying "way will open", and I am finding that the more I find out what I am all about, the more the path forward is opening to me.

Lots of hugs, this is such an arduous passage, and you have really been working on it. You deserve lots of credit,

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Old 03-07-2013, 06:18 PM
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I'm sure I may get flamed but I'm really not sold on the disease theory of alcoholism....I'm also not sure that AA is the best or only way to address a drinking issue.

Disease or not, disrespecful bejhavior is unaccptable and must be adressed whether its through AA, SMART, counsling or a spirit quest. I think you have every right to resent and feel hurt by bad behavior whether it was caused by a disease or not.

I'm at a place where I've realized my STBXAH gets no "free" passes on behavior. His hurtful words hurt regardless of the cause. I can't feel less hurt or resentful because these are caused or not caused by a disease. The only thing I can control is how I handle the situation and how I respond.

Take care of you and deal with what's coming your way regardless of why.
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Old 03-07-2013, 06:54 PM
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Liz,

I've been hanging around SR for a long time. So, instead of retyping a bunch of stuff, I've bumped a very old thread you might find helpful.

Look for Behavior not Booze.

L
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:09 PM
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Lizatola-

I struggled not with the disease model but with the binge drinking for a long time and the "definition" of alcoholism vs problem drinking.

I finally realized it did not matter which one he was living with, because I was walking on eggshells all of the time around his drinking....and that right there tells me all I need to know.

It took me a long time to act on that, but looking back that is what is important. I was deeply uncomfortable with the drinking and the impact of me with the drinking. I did not need to know anything else (except he did not want to stop).
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:26 PM
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IMO an alcoholic ends up down the same road every time even if their drinking seems to be more controlled or they stop for periods of time. When they binge that is when you see the uncontrolled - ending up in a DUI, an accident, a fight, a blackout etc. May see a period of time weeks or months without drinking and then when it happens again some kind of disaster strikes.

Like when you went out of town and AH boozed all weekend - you came home to a house destroyed and dog poop inside among other things.

The problem drinker I think I have seen that too. Might have even been considered one in my younger days when I made poor choices based on drinking but they weren't devastating. And then as I matured i just lost interest in partying my focus went elsewhere - I got to where it just wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't important. Now, if someone told me I would never have another drink for the rest of my life, I wouldn't even blink - I don't care.

I guess given the magnitude of the problems caused by your husband's drinking, and his decision to continue to do so, and continue to have it cause problems says to me he is beyond a problem drinker and is an A.

I use rational vs. irrational as a metric as well. To continue to risk marriage, job and further legal trouble says this guy is not rational - there is not anything logical about how he handles alcohol.
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:36 PM
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liz, what difference do either of those two "diagnoses" DO for you?
ok, he's a alcohol abuser.....
no wait, he's an alcoholic........
how do either of those terms change ANYTHING for YOU? this actually stopped being about him quite some time ago. it's about you, but instead of focusing on YOU, what you need to do, what you need to change...time and again you bring it all back to HIM. what's he's doing, what he is saying, thinking. what HIS problems are.

what is it you don't want to look at? what is it you are unwilling to do that is holding YOU back?
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Old 03-07-2013, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by LaTeeDa View Post
Liz,

I've been hanging around SR for a long time. So, instead of retyping a bunch of stuff, I've bumped a very old thread you might find helpful.

Look for Behavior not Booze.

L
I read it. Very helpful. Of course, calling my sponsor today helped me, as well. Just when I start focusing on myself I get distracted by a book, his behavior, or comments and I start obsessing all over again. I remind myself of 'progress, not perfection' and I keep pushing on. Sorry for the confusion on this thread, I let myself get wrapped up in that book and I got off track, as usual. Thanks everyone for the support.

Funny, we had marriage counseling today which sucked, as usual. He is ticked off at me for calling him out on his behaviors and is now giving me the true silent treatment. He won't even look at me, but I'm just being normal and friendly and it's sad to me. It's sad that he won't interact with us and enjoy the puppy with us, taking him for walks, etc. It's really sad, but I have finally gotten to a place where it doesn't bother me and doesn't affect MY enjoying MY evening. My son and I are watching HGTV and messing around with the crazy puppy, LOL!
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Old 03-07-2013, 11:15 PM
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I really struggle with this myself. My husband has tried a few different meetings, and I genuinely believed he went in with good intentions, wanting it to "work", but he says he honestly doesn't relate to the people there, because they're literally fighting the urge to drink all day every day. It makes it hard for me to understand, too. My aunt runs a rehab center and I've read a considerable amount about alcoholism. I even went to a group-style meeting with him once, and I couldn't relate to what everyone else was dealing with, either. My husband manages to keep a job and go months, sometimes a year, without drinking. It's really confusing.
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Old 03-07-2013, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by EmmyG View Post
I really struggle with this myself. My husband has tried a few different meetings, and I genuinely believed he went in with good intentions, wanting it to "work", but he says he honestly doesn't relate to the people there, because they're literally fighting the urge to drink all day every day. It makes it hard for me to understand, too. My aunt runs a rehab center and I've read a considerable amount about alcoholism. I even went to a group-style meeting with him once, and I couldn't relate to what everyone else was dealing with, either. My husband manages to keep a job and go months, sometimes a year, without drinking. It's really confusing.
Look for the similarities, not the differences.

Attend different meetings. Some are filled with newcomers, others with old timers and some with a good mix.

That's what saved my butt.
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:13 AM
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with you all on this one, my A has now been told that i think his behaviour related to alcohol is unacceptable and that i cant tolerate it anymore.
ive made it clear that i cant stay together like this, and told him if he wishes to carry on drinking then thats his choice and i have no issues with that, however its not the life i want for me.
his choice is now to try and stop drinking, previously he wasnt really prepared to try. were going to give it a month, but i know what will happen.
he too works hard, doesnt need to drink every day, even doesnt really get drunk when he drinks, but sure enough every few months he'll have a binge weekend, related to stress, and then all will go back to usual life again with it all massively controlled.
i think as partner to an A we dont want to believe that they are alcoholics, or there not stereo-typical alcoholics, so we cling on to every ray of hope to assume their not an A and its something else, something not so serious.
reality is and its taken me a while to get to this point, if the drinking is enough to cause you a worry and they cant seem to learn from it or stop it, thats all we need to know.
i love my A like you wouldnt believe, and a life without him in it would be just awful, i have the visions of him now without me, sat in a flat, working 12 hours a day then going home and getting steaming drunk, replay and repeat, replay and repeat. that thought saddens me so much... but if thats the life he truly wants then i cant stop that try as i might. If its not important to him then im wasting my time.
watch this space, although i could write you the answers right now.
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:57 AM
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Hello Liz, I'm sorry to hear that you have been in such a spin. Lots of great wisdom being shared here. I have done exactly the same thing...obsessed over details that do not matter in the big picture.

Alcoholism vs alcohol abuse(what am I missing?)
As simply as possible, "The forest for the trees."
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Old 03-08-2013, 04:28 AM
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Originally Posted by scacra1 View Post
i have the visions of him now without me, sat in a flat, working 12 hours a day then going home and getting steaming drunk, replay and repeat, replay and repeat. that thought saddens me so much... but if thats the life he truly wants then i cant stop that try as i might. If its not important to him then im wasting my time.
That's what my XAH does. He sits in his flat. Gets steaming drunk. Calls in "sick" to work. Gets drunk again. Stays home "sick" again.

Of course he SAYS to everyone in the whole entire world that me and the kids are his LIFE and he would DO ANYTHING for us. Yet, he drinks and drinks and drinks and takes drugs and lies to us and his work and everyone else in the whole entire world.

I gave my XAH chances, then I gave boundaries, then I gave him one last chance: Get help or get out.

He chose to get out. He now chooses to get wasted and **** his life away. Not my problem.

The kids and I are now peaceful. We know we won't wake up to a smoke alarm or a burning couch or loud drunken music and singing on a school night. XAH's neighbours now have the pleasure of that corner in hell. And he has the pleasure of his own drunken misery.

I sometimes wonder who he yells at or abuses now I am no longer convenient. He still blames me for him being a drunk and a drug addict and for every failure in his life. I wonder who he yells at at 2, 3 and 4 am? The walls?
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