Suffering From a Drinking Problem: Almost Alcoholic

The diagnoses for alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency require significant negative life impact. For example, if a person develops a health problem as a result of drinking or if drinking leads to job loss or criminal activity, these sorts of incidents would match the criteria for abuse or dependency. However, many more people over-use alcohol without incurring these severe results.

A new book, due to be released next month, discusses the rather large number of people who are more than social drinkers, yet manage to live just shy of alcohol dependency. The writers of the book call this group the almost alcoholics.

A social drinker is a person who occasionally will share cocktails with friends. Perhaps once a month the social drinker meets friends during a happy hour to visit and share one or two glasses of wine, maybe they drink only at formal parties or simply have a couple of beers with they guys when they watch the big game with their buddies. This person will usually have no more than a half dozen drinks over the course of a month and it will be almost exclusively in a social setting.

By contrast, the almost alcoholic drinks more both in terms of volume and frequency. The authors say this person likely has an ongoing painful life situation such as conflict within the marriage or family, may be struggling at work, could be mildly depressed or even be battling insomnia.

Over time the almost alcoholic drinks more, drinks more often, and doesn’t restrict drinking to social occasions. They don’t fall into the serious problems associated with dependency; nonetheless, drinking plays an ever-encroaching role in daily life. Like the true alcoholic the almost alcoholic probably fails to see any link between the painful situations in his/her life and the drinking pattern that develops.

Writers of the soon-to-be-released book call this being able to connect dots. Almost alcoholics don’t experience the worst symptoms of alcoholism but they do meet many other diagnostic criterion such as continuing to drink even though it brings unpleasant consequences, developing a tolerance for alcohol, drinking in solitude, thinking about drinking and drinking to numb some kind of pain.

Alcoholism does not develop overnight; it is a disease which comes on progressively. Just about every person dealing with alcoholism passed through the almost alcoholic phase previously. That is because these conditions traverse a spectrum. The social drinker encounters a life challenge and moves into the grey region of almost alcoholic drinking.

Over time, the drinking moves farther and deeper into the grey area. The person drinking may not recognize the pattern they have been developing, but those nearest to him/her almost certainly have noted and likely been impacted by it. Hopefully, by alerting people to the danger of their almost behavior and by helping them to connect those dots many future cases of alcoholism can be prevented.