Last week I said farewell to my friend Michael, someone who had helped me get sober and stay sober in a happy and satisfied way (you can read my goodbye here). Unfortunately he could not get the same satisfaction and peace that I had and after getting sober many times and getting drunk many more times, he was found dead in his flat.
I wish that I could say that Michael was an exception but he isn’t. As another friend reminded me, we, the ones who get sober and stay sober, are the exceptions. Far too many drinkers just don’t make it, in fact Michael is the third friend I’ve had to say goodbye to in three years. It is such a tragic waste.
Someone asked me about the signs of alcoholism recently. Eventually, albeit reluctantly, I got the reason for the question. It appears that a workmate drinks a considerable amount when she is not working. Seemingly she justifies it by saying that she never comes to work drunk, for her that is line and she is satisfied that she hasn’t crossed it, so no problem there.
In my drinking days when anyone asked what were the signs of an alcoholic, I always told them that a/ it was someone else, definitely not me and/or b/ that the main criteria was something that I did not do. That way I could drink without feeling guilty. However for me at least, there came a time when I could no longer deny it – I had crossed the line and I was an alcoholic!
I was, and still am, one of the fortunate ones, the denial was swept away from me as my life and health crashed down round my ears. My wife left me, I was threatened with job loss, the bank manager called in my debt, I was admitted to hospital in the DT’s and told I had six months to live if I continued drinking. For me there wasn’t an option and yet I have seen people in even worse conditions tell me that they are in control.
Most of us are afraid to tell someone that they drink too much, in case they take offence. The person that asked me about the workmate does not want to approach her and who can blame her. Yet that approach may be the difference between getting and living sober and dying a drunk.
At one time in AA one of the criteria for entry was that you had to have hit bottom, meaning that you had lost it all. They changed the rules as they recognized that drinkers do not need to go to the end of the line. Drinkers are given chances and some take them and get out early. I did, Michael didn’t.
If you suspect that you have a problem with alcohol you can check it out by going to this website and taking the alcohol assessment that you find there. It is completely free and confidential, you do not need to enter any personal details or email. Try it out now, it may save your life. If you know someone who may have a drinking problem point them to the alcohol assessments – you may save someone else’s life.
If you live with a drinker and suffer from his/her drinking you can find help and support here.