How do I Identify a High-Functioning Drinking Problem?
While most retailers are recovering from the exhaustion of the most fiscally important time of their year, those who sell diet plans and gym memberships are just getting revved up. The transition from the way we live our lives during the holidays to the crushing reality of January can give us whiplash, for sure.
For us high-functioning alcoholics, January is the most important time of the year, too. The shame of holiday overindulgence and regret of festive alcohol-induced decisions is fresh is our minds.
If you are like me, or you know someone like me, the damage of holiday drinking is not outwardly apparent. Yes, the drinking was excessive, but everyone was partaking recklessly. The damage is on the inside – depression, anxiety and an unavoidable knowing that something has got to change.
So many Januaries of the past, I scoured the internet for the answers to my questions about my own relationship with alcohol. I found lots of online surveys designed to help me understand my alcoholic status. In many ways, those surveys gave me more confidence about the normalness of my drinking. The last five or ten questions were always about end-stage alcoholism: Do you shake uncontrollably when you go a few hours without alcohol? -and- Do you urinate in your sleep? – and- Do you experience hallucinations while consuming alcohol? I never experienced any of that. My “no” answers to those questions gave me great hope. I’m not really that bad. I’m not a real alcoholic. I’ve just got to try harder and get my drinking under control. No need to panic. I don’t need to quit. I just need to moderate.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Celebrating the fact that I hadn’t gotten to the end yet ignored the path I was on and my inevitable destination.
My story is not for everyone. Just like my sobriety solution works for many in a similar situation to mine, but it doesn’t work for everyone, a survey that includes questions about end-stage alcoholism is not the right self-diagnosis tool for high-functioning alcoholics. That’s like judging the effectiveness of a point guard by her ability to dunk a basketball.
An alcoholic’s bottom doesn’t have to be a crash and burn tragedy. A drinker reaches the bottom when he stops digging and starts climbing. And a survey that encourages the drinker to just try a smaller shovel is of no use to someone in search of freedom and a better life.
I’ve put together the fifteen questions I wish I had asked myself when I was engulfed in the mental gymnastics of my alcoholic status on several Januaries toward the end of my drinking. These fifteen questions do not mention hospitalization, legal trouble or financial collapse. They are about performing reasonably well on the outside while life unravels clandestinely. They are the questions that can help you or your loved one stop digging before reaching a catastrophic bottom.
But these fifteen questions are just a primer. They get us in the mindset of high-functioning alcoholism. The last two questions – the sixteenth and seventeenth – that’s where the rubber meets the road. These last two questions will tell a concerned drinker everything she needs to know about her relationship with alcohol, and the steps she needs to take going forward.
If you or the drinker you love wants to wait until he wakes up soaked in urine, or worse, he wants to wait until he’s hurt or killed someone, the inevitable will eventually come. But if you want to save painful time and tragic damage and loss, I encourage you or the drinker in your life to consider the seventeen questions that saved my life.
Take my Drinking Status Survey, or send it to the person in your life who needs to consider these questions. If you’re not sure how to broach the subject with the drinker you love, here are some ideas.
“I came across this guy on the internet, and he reminds me of you. He had a lot of fun as a partier, but eventually, the fun turned to something different. I thought you might be able to relate to him.” Paste this link to the survey below those two sentences, and hit send:
“I found these questions that might put your mind at ease. I know you’ve been thinking about your drinking lately. Maybe these questions will give you the direction you’ve been seeking.” Paste this link to the survey along with those words of compassionate concern, and away you go:
“I really hit it hard over the holidays, and I’m thinking a lot about how much I drink. I found this little internet survey, and I feel like this guy really gets where I’m coming from. Check it out, and let me know what you think.” Include this link to my questions along with that request for your heavy-drinking friend’s opinion, and your hint could not be more subtle.
My permanent sobriety has had a more profound impact on my life than anything else I’ve ever experienced. I want that for you or the drinker you love. Now’s the time. January only comes around once a year. It is a time of reflection and contemplation, and we all try to create positive changes in our lives. Besides, it’s cold, dark and dreary. Alcohol can only make that situation worse.
If you are subscribed to my blog, you are probably already addressing the role alcohol plays in your life. I encourage you to send my survey to someone you care about – someone who could benefit from introspection and straight talk from someone who has walked in his shoes.
Finding the courage to help someone look in the mirror isn’t easy, but it’s infinitely better than helplessly watching the downward spiral of addiction. Be the person your loved one needs, whether she appreciates your intrusion in her self-destruction or not.
And if the answers point you or the drinker you love toward sobriety, I want to help. Please consider participation in my SHOUT Sobriety program designed to help people navigate the challenges of early recovery. We are a donation-based program. We don’t charge $800 to $1,000 or more like similar offerings. We ask for a $25 per month recurring donation to keep our mission alive for the next person who needs us. For more information, to enroll or to make a donation, please click the button below.