What Does It Mean to Have a Serious Drinking Problem?

Alcohol was my stress reducer, my reality fighter, the conferrer of artificial joys. It was also wreaking havoc on my life.

Comments: 238

  1. I hear you, sister. Your description of your alcohol use is very similar to my own and I'm not drinking much at all anymore. I used to have something every night after work and then always looked forward to weekend drinks with friends. The aftereffects are not worth it anymore. Thank you and good wishes.

  2. "Chronic relapsing brain disease" is addressed in much simpler terms in the main text of the Big Book. It sounds like this: "Over any considerable period we get worse, never better." The same chapter also addresses how most of us are unwilling to admit that we are alcoholics. I'm glad the author has found some peace in sobriety, if she gets her mind around recovery she may yet lean into an HP and find a defense against the first drink- which, as any alcoholic knows- is just around the next bend. Be it 20 minutes or 20 years from now.

  3. Thanks for reading my mind and putting it into brilliant prose. I wish I had the same talent: both the mind-reading and the writing talent. I still enjoy the alcohol's buzzy effects, the social lubricant of mild intoxication, and a nightcap. But about the time I crested 40, the downside: hangovers, sloppiness, sleep disruption, bad judgment... etc. have all gotten much more pronounced. Moreover, the daily drinks seem to creep back into my habits even after weeks of no drinking.

  4. @Brad Steele I think it's very brave & honest of you to have made these confessions to yourself. Suggests to me that you have what it takes to say goodbye to alcohol once you've made that decision.

  5. Well done! I grew up in a family inhabited by alcoholics and was into drinking myself. Then I became a father and decided my family was more valuable to me than scotch, rum and wine. I said let me see if I can not drink and now it’s been about 35 years. My health is better for it and I saved an awful lot of money. Keep up the good work.

  6. Islam got this one right. Alcohol has far greater long-term disadvantages than any temporary benefits. Avoid it at all cost.

  7. @DeeAitch Creating forbidden fruits only drives the market underground where people are less equipped to handle it if they ever get their hands on it. It's the same reason why Americans with the 21+ drinking age binge more than Europeans who grow up with it available to them at much younger ages. While the sentiment in Islam is great, the no tolerance policy is counterproductive.

  8. @DeeAitch Have you been to an Islamic country? They drink. I spent almost a year in Bahrain and there was a lot of drinking going on there. From what I heard from locals and other's visiting from other Islamic countries, "Allah has no eyes in Bahrain".

  9. @DeeAitch Methodism saved America according to some historians. Friend of Swedish descent and originally Lutherans became Methodists in America. He discoved many Swedish relatives were members of the Knights of Temperance. Oh. First husband's family of Scotts Presbyterians became Methodists but buried their family members in the Presbyterian home church cemetery. Did take a decade for me to understand that Methodist "commitment" to temperence was the source of the switch.

  10. I quit 18 months ago. I have never felt better. I am more productive, nicer and I lost 30 pounds.

  11. @Star water Congratulations! Emile Zola's 1877 L'Assommoir describes how the protagonist, Gervaise, gains a great deal of weight -- from plump to obese -- as she drinks more and more wine. Until she reaches the point where only alcohol is important. She then eats practically nothing and naturally falls ill.

  12. Congratulations. Your story resonated with me and my decision 30 years ago to stop drinking. At that time, I called an anonymous AA hotline after work(no internet yet!) and answered 7 of 10 questions (if I recall correctly), “Yes.” I never looked back. Once my pride and self rationalization was broken down, I knew being sober was the only choice for me. The decision saved my marriage and probably my career, due to the corrosive and insidious effects of long term alcohol dependency. I also wanted to say “no more” to a deep family history of alcohol abuse. My wife of 41 years still enjoys a glass of wine occasionally, and I enjoy serving nice wine to our guests, but, “alcohol and me” is not a healthy combination. The wistfulness for a glass of wine or a beer diminishes with time. Before I retired, I ate out frequently and attended many industry conventions, seeing my peers say or do the most regretful, foolish things after too much to drink. I made my share of mistakes, but always enjoyed waking up clear headed the next morning. Being sober is a gift to those of us for whom alcohol is a siren all to self destruction. Be thankful each day for that gift and never look back!

  13. Wonderful article. Thank you for sharing your story (and mine), and congratulations on kicking the habit!

  14. Great read, and thank you for sharing. I am nearing the end of a "dry January" experiment that has been invigorating and enlightening for me. I've always had the ability to drink quite a bit and not get sloppy or offend others, so when in recent months I started noticing those demons you mention popping up more and more frequently when I drank -- most often directed at my family -- it was worrisome. I was relieved to find it was relatively easy for me to not drink and am looking forward to a new, more productive, happier year.

  15. Moderate Use Disorder is a very nice way of avoiding the truth. Alcoholism by any other name. I'm glad you have been able to stop drinking but alcoholic drinking is a symptom of underlying emotional issues. So it isn't so much the drinking, it's the thinking.

  16. @Paul Panza "Alcoholism" has never been an actual diagnosis, and the various levels of "alcohol use disorder" seem much better suited to the nuances of a particular person's situation. Insisting on absolutes is never a useful way to approach truth.

  17. @Paul Panza, not all drinking to excess is a symptom of underlying emotional issues. Most people drink because it makes them feel good. The addiction is insidious. The problem with digging around for the emotional issue fueling the drinking is that you can do that forever, and never stop imbibing. You can drink because your cat died. You can drink because your cat lived. The reason doesn't matter a damn, especially when trying to get sober. The point is to stop, period, which then puts you in a better place to deal with issues, if you have them.

  18. @Paul Panza Read the article again.

  19. Thanks, Nancy. And congratulations. Outing yourself so publicly took a lot of guts. Stopping drinking in 1994 was one of the best things I've ever done. For a quarter century of drinking, I had fooled myself that "only" four beers a day (plus sometimes four more after my weekend nap) was something I could handle. Finally, after some bad life changes, and after I could no longer rely on my ex to cover for me taking care of the kids when I had a buzz on, I realized I had to stop. I could not control my drinking, and the bad effects were undeniable, Like you, AA was not for me. Like you, my post-alcohol life has definitely been better.

  20. To the writer, I'm so happy for you and your family. Alcohol is actually poison. It's meets the criteria of any definition of poison. In small amounts alcohol can provide a form of (not harmless) recreation. It works against all systems of the user. It can kill in a matter of an hour, or over decades. It can kill by impairment, through a myriad of situations. A really insidious form of alcoholism is Functional Alcoholism. It's very common. A person 'keeps it together', maintaining work, family, and other responsibilities, but all sub par. Such a person often 'maintains' that way for decades. In time the poison wins and serious health problems emerge. life circumstances erode and misery ensues that is shared by colleagues, friends and family. Eventually it is labeled "sad" or "tragic" because it's too late; it's gone too far. We are all going to die one day. Life is now. Our time now is incredibly precious, and by breaking loose the shackles of addiction a person can experience A rebirth and know that life is incredibly beautiful!

  21. @Joe “Keeping it together, but sub par”. Couldn’t have said it better. Sometimes not hitting a dramatic rock bottom can be even worse than jail or ending homeless on the street. Thank you for your wisdom.

  22. @Joe Another insidious aspect of the "functional alcoholic" is that it supports denial, which seems to be part and parcel of alcoholism. I know people who actually brag about being functional alcoholics. Again, I think there is a fantasy many drinkers have that if they drink a lot and aren't waking up in a drunk tank, then they're "functioning." Alcoholic = NOT functioning.

  23. @Joe I may be alone in my corner of the comment room - but count me as one who robustly celebrates our friend drink. Nothing so wondrous as a round shared between friends, strangers, and occasionally enemies. Can bring a group together like no other. I also strongly support the author in her quest to overcome a bad interface with drink. The wonder described above can turn sour and worse for some. But I think the two thoughts expressed above are both very true. I thought your comment was condemning drink (or if you prefer, “alcohol”) altogether. So I felt my first point needed to be said. Best to you...

  24. People should not feel bad that they become addicted to an addictive substance. Everyone who drinks or uses is at risk. Our society's relationship with alcohol is a key issue. We are steeped in it, use it to relax as well as celebrate, and therefore it must be the individual's problem when they get sick. Well, an awful lot of people suffer, and 3 million die every year around the world (source: WHO). My friend died. She kept falling while drunk and hitting her head. This lead to seizures. That won't be me and I really hope you can avoid that too.

  25. @Kathy: Yes. Society is very much to blame. That’s where MADD gets it wrong. Once at a party, the hostess asked if anyone wanted cappuccino. I said yes. But when the dainty little cup neared my nose, I could smell the brandy. I had to keep that cup balanced on my knee over an expensive white carpet for about ten minutes, until the hostess got a clue and took it away. I’d like to see someone who’s just stopped drinking manage that one.

  26. I'm lucky I now react to the smell of alcohol the way children do - with disgust. It smells like poison to me. It's not the same with ice cream! I hope that was an error on the part of the hostess. Or maybe she has a problem too.

  27. @kathy: I think a lot of people, in our culture at least, just assume you drink alcohol.

  28. My uncle stopped drinking when he found religion and I am sure it was a help to my aunt and cousins who didn't have to lift him out of the back yard when he passed out. But the deeper issues that he had been using alcohol to deal with were still there till the day he died, at 90. Getting the drug out of your system, is, IMHO, only a first step. It produces the clarity required to look deeper still. Best wishes on your journey.

  29. Christopher Hitchens said, "Alcohol makes other people less tedious..." Getting buzzed around people is a routine like any other. Just a whole lot more damaging and risky.

  30. @Fred Hitchens died of esophageal cancer, which is caused by drinking and smoking. He bragged about his excessive drinking, saying that most great writers drank. He apparently considered himself a great writer.

  31. im on the fence about this. I dont have a no button any more. It's completely broken. I don't even try to stop myself from drinking beers. So of course i'm going to say that drinking alcohol isn't all bad.

  32. @Especially Meaty Snapper I'm sorry you've found yourself in this situation. You sound so sad. I can tell you that life is much, much better without the alcohol. It can be difficult to get there, but it is worth it. I'm over 30 years sober and I have no desire to drink, not ever. I don't even think of it now, unless I see an article about it, like this one, or if a friend asks me about it. There is hope, if you look for it. If you want it.

  33. @Especially Meaty Snapper you can get help just from talking to someone don't have to be ready to quit. think about where you want to be in the future.

  34. @Especially Meaty Snapper I hope you reconsider your position, if not for your own self, think of the loved ones in your life. It affects them greatly, maybe more than it does you.

  35. Congratulations, Nancy. Keep up the good work. Being completely honest with yourself is a saving grace. It's saving you.

  36. Great article that resonates strongly as I haven't had a drink in 3+ years. I applaud your ability to achieve sobriety on your own but for me, I couldn't do it without AA and the tremendous support and shared experiences of the rooms. Having drank hard for 30 years through good times and bad including significant professional success, my emotional growth was stunted. Sure I had the same obvious physical benefits of no hangovers and significant weight loss. But AA has allowed me rewire my brain, be alert to triggers that could cause relapse and has generally made me a better listener and a more empathetic person. That's how it works for me and I acknowledge it's not a program for everyone. But for many of us in recovery, the rewards of sobriety are amplified through a simple and free program that's happening in a church basement right now somewhere near you. Thanks for having the bravery to share your story.

  37. There are alcoholics in my family. Some are "binge drinkers" and some need their alcohol saturation every day. Alcohol is poison for some people. They are not only poisoning themselves but they are poisoning the people who love them. I am speaking from personal experience. And I rarely drink because of it.

  38. I hope this piece is helpful to a lot of people, especially women, who are unsure if they have a drinking problem. If you're even wondering, then you probably do. I hope also that Nancy is working hard to make amends to her family and friends. As someone whose life has been hit very hard by the alcohol addiction of a family member, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to not only celebrate sobriety and to rely on the support of friends and family, but also to be deeply mindful of how much you have hurt them and to try to make up for it.

  39. It's been over 6 months since I quit. My friends tell me I've never looked better. However, I do splurge on candy. I replaced the sugars! But I had to quit. I was way past being a heavy drinker. It's been good. I still think about it but every morning I wake up to another victory of sobriety.

  40. @boise91801 I’ve been sober for more than 2 years (with many attempts in between). I too eat more sugar than I have in my life. Alcohol contains lots of sugars, so eating sugar was a benign way to deal with my cravings. Now I’m addicted yo sugar. My counselors tell me quitting sugar can be harder than getting sober.

  41. @pampdx It can help to taper down to weaker sugars like brown rice syrup and coconut sugar.

  42. @boise91801 I joke that giving up alcohol is easy. Now the sugar after becoming sober? Not so much.

  43. "...turning discomfort into a hilarious anecdote." I can relate to that as I prided myself as a raconteur regarding my episodes of that ilk. Sober now since 94 and I still vividly recall in the early years of sobriety cringing as those events and others percolated up.

  44. Thank you for this article; it reinforces several new truths for me. I'm at 12 weeks (after 35 years of weekend benders) and have truly never felt better, mentally and physically. One of the more difficult aspects for me is my newfound lack of patience with drunk friends. I haven't quite figured that one out yet. Keep it up! I hope I do; for me it's like Chapter Two of my life and I'm just all-around much happier to be here.

  45. @Joe, Keep going. You are on the right track. Re: drunken friends, yeah, that's a tough one. I used to go to journalism conventions which featured riotous gatherings in a hospitality suite after dinner. Alcohol affects a person's hearing, and a few times I felt like everyone was shouting. I soon learned to scout out the nearest ice cream parlor (more likely if we were meeting in a college town) and another non-drinking buddy of mine and I would soon leave for the safer choice of decaf coffee and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The conversation was more coherent, too. Anyway, keep it up!

  46. @Joe Eventually you'll find your drunken friends amusing. I take care of them, grab their car keys, drive them home safely. Plus you can laugh at their hangovers.

  47. Good for you man.

  48. Somd 45 years ago I had a year-long affair with a lovely, older man who was my post-graduate course in civilized New York living. Unfortunately, every dinner together needed cocktails and wine. After a year, we parted amicably. I'm not much of a drinker. Yes, I can make a great traditional gin Martini, and somehow know how to pick a good wine from a bad one. I rarely drink these days. As the lyric goes, "I get along without you very well." I can only pity those who can't.

  49. @Carl Ian Schwartz I'm not quibbling but wonder if compassion might be more mutually helpful than pity.

  50. Thanks for sharing your story and insights. The first step is acknowledging you have a problem. Got a DWI 25 years ago. Lost my License, had to ride my bike 14 miles one way to get to work. The judge forced me to go the AA route. Eventually my mind started to clear and I saw how much I was hurting everyone around me with my drinking. I have been lucky and been able to pull away from alcohol since. (Although a sniff of Red Wine at the dinner table still can trigger longings). After a while you discover meditation and other stress relievers. I won't say it has been easy. But life is too short to live in the fog of the mornings after. If you think you might have a problem, find help. Recovery is possible. Rationalization stands in the way.

  51. @mnfinn It's illegal for a judge or other government official or staff to mandate anyone to attend A.A. since it's religious, just like it's illegal for a government entity to mandate anyone, whether guilty or innocent of any charge, to attend church or other religious activity. The fact they get away with doing it doesn't make it legal. If you don't believe me, check out the federal legal decisions of Inouye v. Kemna (parole officers denied qualified immunity for forcing 12-Step); Hazle v. Crofoot; Kerr v. Farrey; Warner v. Orange County Dept. Probation; Griffin v. Coughlin, among many others.

  52. @another Matt That may be true. But it was what I needed at the time. Admitting to a roomful of unknown people that I had a problem and finding others with similar issues got me back on the path to sobriety. Thanks to AA, I'm where I am today, fighting addiction one day at a time. And very appreciative of the opportunity to live life addiction free for at least today.

  53. Thank you for this insightful and brave essay. There is no "safe" amount of alcohol consumption. It's an addictive substance, meaning it changes your brain to accommodate its presence in your life. The pleasure of ordinary events is diminished by the alcohol-dependent brain in order to cue you to include a drink. The commercial success of an addictive product is no surprise. It's ubiquitous in popular media, songs, stories, videos, not to mention advertising. Our culture won't change unless we think this through and make a decision to reduce the wow-factor that lures young drinkers to step into the fray. We've done it with tobacco, to some extent. It's not impossible to imagine a comprehensive health warning for consumption of any amount for anyone, of either sex, at any age.

  54. Fermented drinks, a glass of beer or wine have been human pleasures throughout history. Yes, alcohol can be abused and can cause social or health problems. So can sex, the compulsive pursuit of money and being obsessed with one’s eating habits. I have spent fifty years wandering the planet far off the beaten track carrying a small backpack. Many people consider that to be a risky behavior, but at 70 I continue to do it. What is life for anyway? Certainly not sitting at home and never having fun. Anyway, even though alcohol consumption can be problematic, sugary soda pop is just as much of a dangerous scourge on humanity today, wrecking millions of lives.

  55. @Chuck Burton Last time I checked, "sugary soft drinks" did not cause people to black out, get into physical and verbal fights, drive under the influence and possibly kill and maim people, lose jobs, wind up in jail, become homeless, damage their personal relationships, ruin their livers, kidneys, pancreases and other organs, develop mouth and throat cancer. . .I could go on. I lost my younger sister to the disease of alcoholism in 2017. At 57, she was homeless and so physically and mentally damaged that she could not function. No amount of family and institutional help could reach her. I suggest you learn more about alcoholism before you compare it to far less damaging addictions.

  56. This is a wonderful and very helpful article. Thank you. The idea that there is a spectrum of alcohol disorder, that it is not just a black and white problem may help many more people to recognize that their drinking is hurting themselves.

  57. If something causes problems, don't do it. Lots of people enjoy alcohol without negative effects. As with weed, etc. In these political times being moderate in all things is decidedly out of fashion.

  58. @JohnBarleycorn The point of the article was that "moderation" doesn't work for some people. The consensus for a long time was that so long as you're having under two drinks or so then you're okay. This piece, along with countless studies, memoirs, etc, prove that this isn't the case for everyone. I think that's all this piece is trying to say.

  59. Sorry if you are smoking pot or drinking alcohol on a daily basis, you are by definition dependent -thats a problem whether it impacts your job, driving etc. You are self medicating- how can that be healthy at any level?

  60. @JohnBarleycorn Moderation never goes out of fashion However some are unable to find that balance for various reasons Let's be generous and congratulate those who have found an path that works for them

  61. I can relate to almost every word of this article. It has been over six years since I had a drink, and I did it without AA. relying instead on my daughter, husband and friends. Congratulations Nancy on addressing and overcoming your addiction.

  62. I love to drink, but in my experience even light-moderate drinking can provoke symptoms of anxiety and depression. I would love to have wine with dinner every night, but for me it’s not worth the destabilizing effect on my mood.

  63. @Amanda I have the same issue. I don't drink much but when I do I can almost guarantee I will spend the next day very anxious. It has been somewhat mitigated by taking depression medication but it's definitely still there.

  64. @Amanda . This has been my experience as well. In my case, I also found that alongside anxiety and depression, anger, and blaming others for my troubles. And this with just a couple of beers every night. Quitting the regular habit brought almost complete relief. I still have a beer now and then, and the bad mood always follows.

  65. Wonderful piece, that makes me think of the most useful definition of alcoholism that I've seen. It comes in the form of a question: "How do you know you have an alcohol problem? When alcohol starts causing problems."

  66. As a recovering alcoholic I applaud the author for her candor and her successful avoidance of alcohol and all of the repercussions of its abuse. The experience she describes however; is of abstinence, not sobriety. True sobriety is a reward and accomplishment that requires much more than refraining from drinking.

  67. @FNL Do you mean to come across as sanctimonious? I can't understand why you feel a need to take a jab--or even what your point is. You seem to think you know something she does not, yet are smugly cryptic about it. If your "recovery" entitles you to condescend to someone brave enough to write about her own alcohol problems and sign her full name, I see little to admire.

  68. @ARNP - I have attended many AlAnon meetings and FNL is exactly correct; the 12 Steps are a recovery path from the complexities of life in addiction or being in a relationship with someone who is addicted. Abstinence is a part of the sober experience and full recovery can be a lot more work and effort. I have not made it through all 12 Steps and admire those in AlAnon who have.

  69. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was raised from childhood to be a functional alcoholic. This meant I could blend in and feel at home with most school mates and family members. Drinking was normal behavior and everyone made sure you never forgot that fact of social life. Over the decades it never occurred to me that nearly all aspects of my life — family, friends, travel, pastimes — were being defined by ubiquitous drinking. C’est la vie. Where and when is the next cocktail party with our dear friends? Then the day came when my wife quit drinking because of cancer and I felt like a complete fool by continuing to drink in her sober presence. So, I quit. Fifteen years later my wife and I are still still in amazement at the world of functional alcoholism we left behind. We used to do that? Those people were our friends?

  70. @Al Yes.... I grew up as the later child of a Depression era kid. My father was born in '28, and I in '67. He was what people called a "heavy drinker", not an "alcoholic"... never an "alcoholic". Those were the people down at the river, under the bridge drinking grocery store sherry and listerine... But the extended family and friends of my father.... they were just "drinkers" or "heavy drinkers". Average for my father each week: 3 26ers of rum, 1 26er od Vodka on week-ends. Wine with dinner, and beer all day Saturdays and Sundays. The Vodka on week-ends was for brunches with Bloody Mary's and Caesars that would have triple shots in each one, starting at 11am and going until 3pm when the beer would come out before the wine at dinner. He died at 71 from complications of 50 years of hard smoking and drinking. Along the way he caused 2 devastating car accidents prior to the arrival of DUI prosecution. I avoided alcohol until my 40's and then found that all of our professional friends liked to drink quite a bit. Socializing on week-ends meant being at parties where someone was always on a bender. Before heading down that route myself, I cut ties with almost all my "friends". They don't miss me as much as they would miss alcohol, and I don't miss them as much as I prefer my life unencumbered by the burden of "functional alcoholism". From where I stand, the bar for "functional" is set pretty low as long as one is on salary.

  71. As someone who still lives in that world you left behind, I find you view from the outside in, fascinating.

  72. I see this too and suspect some of it is regional and class based. In cities like New Orleans and Savannah with their open container laws and so many locals employed at restaurants where alcohol flows freely day and night, drinking is embedded in the culture. I’ve also noticed how affluent people build bars in their homes or the new trend of having bar carts full of liquor and artisan ice cubes as a sign of hospitality and Southern welcome. I recently told a decorator I do not want to display alcohol in my home, in part because I have teenagers and I don’t want to send them the message that drinking is necessary to relax or entertain.

  73. I applaud the author for her self reflection and subsequent termination of alcohol consumption. It is heartwarming to read of another person overcoming alcoholism and proceeding to a better life. However, what also came across to me in this and other articles by ex-drinkers celebrating the joys of sobriety was an anti drinking stance. She cites studies to back up her claim that even moderate drinking is harmful, yet there are many reputable studies that indicate the opposite. Try Googling "alcohol use risks and benefits." The symptoms Ms Warwick describes are not normal for moderate drinking. No woman I know has those severe reactions from one drink a day.

  74. I do.

  75. @JAS I can feel very tipsy on one glass of wine; one and half glasses of wine and I am drunk! I rarely drink and detest those who feel the need to top off my glass of wine as it is crucial for me to keep track of how much I drink. Two glasses and I am throwing up and falling asleep. I'll agree that this is not normal but there are a few of us out there

  76. @JAS It's the unbreakable habit that matters. If you "need" that one drink a day - if you have a strategy about when and where to have the drink - if you drink alone - if you look forward to it as relief...then the one drink a day is too much.

  77. I have been sober with the help and support of AA for 32 years. So glad I made the change so long ago. I am an all or nothing gal -- either I'm in or I'm out. I'm glad you have made some positive changes. I hope your new lifestyle suits you for the long run --- I have seen enough people fall off the wagon to know that it never gets better; only worse, over time.

  78. Fifteen years sober here. Never thought I was an alcoholic like my Dad. It's a progressive problem, it just gets worse and worse, never better. The obsession with alcohol is a sure sign. Why is it so important to be able to drink or to talk about sobriety when we achieve it? Because we are obsessed with alcohol. AA has helped me fill the emptiness that I'd fill up with alcohol. People are sometimes afraid to go to AA, but it is wonderful to be able to be understood by people just like us. ''Social drinkers'' just don't get it. I have tons of friends (of all generations) in sobriety and AA gives us a blueprint for good living. After you put the cork in the bottle, you have to learn to live life without alcohol and address the issues that made you run to it to alleviate stress, anxiety, fear, lack of self-confidence, boredom, loneliness, resentments, etc. What I was looking for in the bottle and robbed myself of the rest of the time I now find in recovery.

  79. Incredibly relatable. I have a feeling you've hit on something a lot of us have grappled with—how long we've known that we have an alcohol problem even if it doesn't fit the traditional image of one.

  80. Your comment, ERod, is perfect.

  81. I am 20 months sober and like myself more than I ever have. I appreciate this article so much, as I never had "rock bottom" either, but knew that I was going down a pretty destructive path with my drinking. Bravo to you for quitting.

  82. Congratulations on your sobriety! I don’t drink much but my life has been affected by alcoholics. Living with, and being friends with, an alcoholic is challenging and can be devastating. I had the good fortune to hear about Al-Anon. There I learned that I didn’t cause, can’t cure, and can’t control the alcoholism. Al-Anon did for me what sobriety can do for the alcoholic.

  83. Not sure why the author and some commenters note proudly that they’ve been able to stay sober without AA, as if that makes them better, less weak, more—normal? I’ve met the best people I know in my 32 years of AA membership, and developed a spiritual practice that has carried me through the sorrows and joys of real life. I fear for the sobriety of those who put their eggs in a small basket of relationships. I have hundreds of thousands of people who would drop what they’re doing to help me, if my sobriety depended on it.

  84. @Lucinda It's because in truth nobody but you can keep yourself sober, no matter how many friends you have. People who stay sober outside of AA do so because they have the strength within themselves to stay sober day after day without needing to be reminded of it. A lot of us in this camp find AA to be a bit cult-like with strong religious overtones, heavy patriarchy and a lot of know-it-alls telling people what to do. We don't like that. But if AA works for you, then wonderful. Stay sober whichever way works for you. We all know we have to. We all have that in common.

  85. @Lucinda The author doesn't come across to me as if she's "proud" or boastful of being sober without AA. I think you're reading into it. Rather, I assume she is mentioning the fact to let others know that AA is not the only way to stop drinking. AA has helped many people, but it is not "the answer" for everyone. Folks need to know that. If one is uncomfortable with AA for any reason, or tries it and relapses, they needn't feel hopeless. I talk with my patients about a myriad of approaches that have been helpful to some. Contrary to the Big Book, AA is not the only way. And FYI: compassion, given and received, carries many of us through the sorrows and joys of real life.

  86. @ARNP Actually the "Big Book" doesn't say that AA is the only way. It says, "Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We know only a little." --p. 164. Also, it contradicts itself in places. Nothing suggests it has all the answers. Only an idiot would suggest any group or individual has that.

  87. I don’t know. But I can almost guarantee that if Trump is re-elected I’m likely to learn,

  88. @Ken Nyt I appreciate how you feel but I really hope you're kidding. We already have enough self-destructive Americans - the ones who vote for people who don't care about them and will continue to harm them. We all have something in common, though. We need to take better care of ourselves.

  89. Thank you for sharing this. I closely relate. The millions on the spectrum could benefit from these words. After years of habitual and sometimes excessive drinking, sobriety was almost unimaginable to me. I started a meditation practice some months before quitting. Then after one of many bad hangovers, I completely stopped. Now I practice allowing stress, pain, and cravings to pass, as they will. I feel healthier in every way, and a greater sense of possibility.

  90. Thank you so much for this article. My experience is eerily similar, though I have not stopped drinking. Some of the ideas in here are very helpful.

  91. @NYT reader It took me many times to stop drinking (for a month at a time) before I realized that it wasn't impossible to do, and I was better for it. Not feeling guilt, better sleep, not needing to take zantac and advil each morning... those were all good. But I found that I no longer had intensely bad feelings towards a sister I have a hard time with. That's specific to me of course, but it really spoke to how different I was as a person, and that has made me most grateful of all. Good luck.

  92. so much to think about in this wonderful piece and all the comments. i was the victim of sexual abuse at the age of 15 and became an instant alcoholic, drinking to excess from the beginning, trying to forget and avoid. 15 years later i was at the end. i knew something was wrong and could not admit to myself it was the alcohol. but every time it bubbled to the surface i was filled with panic. what's going to happen to me? i would lay in bed at night and just put the question out there to the Universe. What do you want from me? i found myself at an aa meeting and was absolutely flabbergasted when they said the lord's prayer at the end, because, after i remembered it, that was how i was asking my question..show me your will. i attended, and believed, for years. but i gradually stopped going because i believed i had internalized all the suggestions. i still believe it all, but no longer feel the compulsion to go. i know i'm through with alcohol today. this guy has it pretty much right..."Being sober is a gift to those of us for whom alcohol is a siren all to self destruction. Be thankful each day for that gift and never look back!" 40 years. thank you all

  93. I guess you can say this is an open talk in print. An open talk is what a recovering person gives to the group (verbally) where they share their experience, strength and hope as it relates to their addiction. In reading this article I'm reminded of what I've learned in my 34 plus years of sobriety:that if you've got more than a third grade education, learning to practice total abstinence from all mind altering substances can be a little difficult. We've learn to "keep it simple", and that if life doesn't get any better, at least you will.

  94. @peace on earth: You are obviously familiar w AA. According to Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, AA promises freedom from alcohol and nothing more. It’s not about “total abstinence from all mind-altering substances.” And taking it that far goes against co-founder Dr Bob’s admonition to “keep it simple.” Sometimes, as people get older, they may need drugs that are not “de-tox” approved, yet they don’t overdo it. It wasn’t until the movie Clean and Sober and the influence of hordes from general de-tox units that AA changed.

  95. @Anonymous with all due respect I practice total abstinence from all mood and mind altering meds. if I'm prescribed a narcotic and the instructions are to take 1 every 8 hours, I become a little confused and do 8 every hour. My issue is addiction, drugs and alcohol are merely symptoms. In the event I'm prescribed opioids; I hope while I am hospitalized.

  96. @peace on earth "if life doesn't get any better, at least you will." - Interesting. I'm writing that one in my journal today. Thank you

  97. The reasons given for drinking in this article are the same ones my mom told me, explaining why she started when she was a teen. My mom was a chain smoking alcoholic. Blackout drinker. Prone to vicious rages when in those blackouts. I was exposed to alcohol both in the womb and at the breast (no, I don't have fetal alcohol syndrome). After her mother, also a chain smoking alcoholic, died, my mom got serious about her drinking; she survived on three packs of cigarettes, a pint of vodka and half a BLT a day for the next 30 years, until a year before she dropped dead of a heart attack at age 70. Her blackouts eventually cost her most of her friends. She had to stop drinking when the cirrhosis and hepatic encephalopathy got too advanced. At that point I asked her about all her vicious and hurtful behavior. That's the thing with blackouts, she didn't remember any of it. The whole thing is just sad. A tragedy really. My mom was a smart, capable, educated person who liked people and made friends easily. Alcoholism tears through lives indiscriminately, like a wrecking ball.

  98. @Sport Both my parents were alcoholics and both were dead before I was 30 because of it. I found immeasurable help understanding the family dynamics and why I am the way I am by attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings (ACOA). I urge you to check out a meeting. What an eye opener!

  99. @Flinty Thanks for that. Decades ago I attended an AA meeting a day for three years, some court mandated, most not, with the occasional Al-anon and ACOA meeting thrown in for good measure. I found AA immensely helpful in getting a grip on my own drinking and ridding myself of my codependency. As it turned out, I'm not an alcoholic; although I did tick a lot of the boxes for problem drinking at various times in the past. Now that I'm older, I can take it or leave it. I just don't enjoy it. It fogs my thinking, raises my blood pressure and interferes with my sleep.

  100. Good for you, Ms. Wartik. It is brave of you to realize that you needed to make a change. I drank for 30 years until I realized I had to quit drinking alcohol. I've had a productive and successful career, but in my early 50's booze no longer did me any favors. I did CBT and Smart Recovery for two years, and they were both very helpful. My life is simply better now without alcohol. I wish you the best of luck.

  101. I had my last drink at age 25, I'm 73 years old now. A friend dragged me, very much against my will, into AA and that was the end of my drinking 'career'. I stayed for 16 years, taking in all they have to offer. Circumstances made me stop going. I had 2 children, a full time job and a husband that worked long hours. I am profoundly grateful to that organization that made all I have today possible.

  102. Imagine there is an amazing new drug from the Pharmaceutical companies. It promises to help you lose weight, sleep better, sharpen your mind, improve the functioning of your internal organs, give you more energy and clear up your skin. Oh, and it will also save you money. Too good to be true? Nope. That drug already exists. It's called not drinking alcohol.

  103. @TMDJS Well, when you put it THAT way . . . :)

  104. @TMDJS Believe it or not, there is a drug that comes very close to doing a few of those things, mostly by eliminating the craving for alcohol (and eating). It’s Naltrexone. With it, (and under the supervision of an excellent MD and therapist), it saved my life. Alcohol-free and 80 lbs later, I love my life. Read the literature. I truly believe that the alcohol lobby has kept this drug from being widely prescribed in the US.

  105. This is an incredibly insightful column. Thank you for sharing your struggles and victories as they are very helpful for many of us who no longer drink. I quit drinking 2 1/2 years ago, and have experienced everything that you mentioned for us now non-drinkers. The one thing that I would add that makes giving up drinking very hard, even years later, is the prevalence of drinking everywhere in our culture and in our media. You cannot watch a movie or TV show or commercial without seeing people enjoying alcohol. The same is true with going out to dinner with friends. When one is exposed to all of these positive images of consuming alcohol and the fun it creates, it instills such a feeling of loss associated with not drinking. But, I find it useful to all remind myself of all the positives (and there are a lot of them) with being a non-drinker. In particular, the sense that I am in complete control over myself is one worth remembering.

  106. I'm lucky. Maybe it's because I wanted to stop for so long before I did, but I haven't experienced a feeling of loss, and I don't feel the need to be strong at bars, parties, etc. I know it's poison, and I know where that road leads. I think it's a mistake to focus on the substance. I found that it did not have a hold on me. The need to check out and dull emotions did, and still does but at least I can deal with that now. I spend my booze money on a good therapist instead.

  107. I've never craved alcohol in all my life--nursing one glass of wine for five hours is nothing for me. But a slice of chocolate cake or an ice cream sundae--now you're talking!

  108. Thank you for this wonderfully open and personal story. I wish this were an ongoing blog, not just a comments section. I hope the comments section stays up for future readers. I wish doctors would hand something like this out to every patient. I wish men were advised about the differences that alcohol has on women's bodies. Years ago I found myself at a book sale with a old hardbound book staring up at me called Women and Alcohol. Didn't read it, but kept it, still have it, with a growing sense of awareness of alcohol's toxicity and ability to take hold of anyone even if it didn't taste that great. It was just a habit. And there are links to several types cancer for both men and women. and our society seems totally afraid of addressing the toxicity aspect of alcohol. Although younger generations are said to be drinking less, there's always some alcoholic component, hard cider, even kombucha, craft beers. New resstaurants that pair craft cocktails with food, etc. Giving up was very hard, as wine especially was an old friend, but after some time you won't think about it. It's not a cure-all for all of life's woes and worries, but giving up is the only way to inner wisdom, sleep, clarity and more. I would say forget the Dry Januarys or periodic tests. Give yourself the gift of "no more."

  109. Courageous essay. Thank you for sharing both your struggle and your victory.

  110. I stopped drinking last May. I have to say, it feels great. I started drinking at 15. I wondered what it would feel like not to have alcohol in my system after 40+ years of being a more-than-moderate consumer. I also wondered if it would be difficult to stop. Luckily for me, it's been a snap. I haven't touched a drop. Sure, there have been those moments (summer barbecues, the holidays, dinners out, etc) where I get a pang, but nothing too bad. I still like to mind-bend every now and then with a little weed -- a much less dangerous drug than alcohol. I feel better, sleep better, have fewer headaches. All-in-all, I'm happy to be on the sobriety train. Feels good. Huzzah!

  111. I have similar trouble with cutting down. Alcohol is soothing and reduces social anxiety. But according to recent medical research, the disadvantages outweigh the health benefits. The National Cancer Institute has reported many times that there is no safe level of drinking in relation to the risk of various forms of cancer. The benefit of drinking on heart health is still being debated. Binge drinking is shown to thin out the brain gray matter (which can be reversed by stopping). Abstemious religious cultures such as Seventh Day Adventists and Latter-Day Saints live longer than anyone else. Furthermore, alcohol consumption adds to weight gain and subtracts from your bank balance. I am fed up also with the memory lapses and waking up with a dry mouth. After consumption, ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde, which is bad for your body. You might as well pour gasoline into your body. As noted by the writer, a wonderful substitution is seltzer. It is exciting and non-caloric. I find it mood elevating.

  112. Alcohol can enhance one's life. A glass of wine with dinner. A beer with friends. Most of the people wrestling with alcohol have larger, unresolved issues. While I don't begrudge them choosing to give up booze, that isn't the solution, but merely the first step on a process of self-reflection and tackling the deeper issues.

  113. @Dan My sister thinks that anyone who drinks is an alcoholic. I love a good chardonnay! But i never have one around her.

  114. @Dan Don't we all have "larger, unresolved issues"? Or do you mean that only folks with "larger, unresolved issues" have problems with alcohol? That sounds really smug and, from my personal and professional experience, false. If alcohol isn't a problem for you, consider yourself lucky. Your defensiveness and judgmental attitude hint to this reader that you may have "larger, unresolved issues."

  115. @Dan, if it were all about “larger, unresolved issues,” certain ethnic groups would not be more prone to alcohol addiction than others. It’s true that alcohol, like certain drugs, can help the user avoid working on problems. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who has a drinking problem is avoiding deeper issues.

  116. The problem with AA or AlAnon is that you have to have "God" in place in order to follow the other 11 steps. Unable to submit to this mental artifact, while remaining true to oneself, prevents many people from participating. Fortunately, courts now have other edifying counseling choices that offer different approaches to sobriety. There is nothing worse than watching a loved one destroy him/herself with alcohol or any other drug. It is exhausting, indeed. If "God" is in place, then, "go for it"; go too AA. The camaraderie that emerges among group members may be the key to address the illness. Try whatever works. It is worthwhile.

  117. @Impatient2020 Thank you for saying exactly what i was going to submit. I have a few recovering alcoholics in my family. all of them have found their god; good for them but they feel that everybody has to do it that way. I have a niece who recently has relapsed (for the third time) and started going back to church (for the third time) and meetings. Something tells me that she needs a different method.

  118. @Impatient2020 God is many things to many different people. He/she is used to justify forming a club to exclude others, justify a particular action, or to enforce loyalty and motivate others to follow. There are positive aspects as well- and if "God" is something to focus on to make you sober, it is worth a try. It could be the "god" of sobriety that you are worshiping.

  119. @Impatient2020 46 years ago I went to my first AA meeting. I am the daughter and granddaughter of women who never crawled out of the bottom of the bottle. I was determined to break that line when I recognized I was going down their road if I didn't stop drinking. AA was my lifeline, and although I stopped going to all 3 groups long ago, I still seem to live by the tenets I learned and the Sobriety prayer is my guide. I am an atheist and have been since early in life. I listened to the "God" part in AA and did what an old timer told me to do. To use him as a guide (sponsor) and believe that he believes enough for us both. I'm now 87.

  120. To the author, and perhaps others who may need more support then family and friends alone: So often this topic is discussed as if there are two options, do it with AA or without AA. I'd just like to add to the discussion, there have been more options for community support for a long time now. Charlotte Kasl first described this in her book first published in 1990, "Many Roads, One Journey". Please look into SMART Recovery, Buddhist Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Refuge Recovery (recently with a new name), She Recovers. I believe there are others as well. This no longer has to be only AA if you find you need additional self help!

  121. It’s worth noting that AA has never claimed to be the only solution to alcoholism. Indeed, the book Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the organization took its name (the book came first), advocates seeking help from other organizations, both religious and psychiatric. Whatever works, go for it!

  122. Most folks in rural Wisconsin drink at every occasion. Skiing, boating, hunting, packer games, grilling, card games, family get togethers, all start with a bloody-mary, and continue with whatever your drink of choice happens to be that day. We have a breweries that draw people in every weekend to try new flavors of hop water, and more bars per-capita of any place in the country. Some thrive in this culture whereas others struggle mightily. There certainly is a stigma attached when people do not drink. This is unfortunate. I personally love this culture; I love the aged bourbon barrel stouts and porters, and the comrade that comes when you're enjoying these with friends and family. But, I do commend the folks I know here in Wisconsin that realize they have a drinking problem, own it, and control it.

  123. @Loren It's not just in rural WI. It's inextricably woven in the WI culture and very disturbing. Go Brewers, sorta reveals the secret here.

  124. @ejonatha I think you might be over stating things a bit!.

  125. @ejonatha Yes! It is a trial to visit relatives in Green Bay because all they want to do is go out in a group and drink. And encourage others to drink. And make you feel like a spoil-sport if you don't drink. I'm not even going to comment on the destruction here in Alaska that's been brought on by alcohol.

  126. Went to a high drinking college. Then same in military service. Cut back to 2 two ounce drinks plus some wine at night 4 decades ago in a study of intoxicants with our kids. Never had more- ever. 90, now- and often take less- chuckle. so, alcohol tolerance depends on the person. Studies only go so far. My wife's Doctor thinks one/day too much- and two is intolerable. Maybe, for her- chuckle.

  127. Though I never was a heavy drinker, my life has been populated by severe alcoholics for 40 years. Seems like there are three kinds: those who are high-functioning at work but in their private lives have alienated most of their associations, and those who manage to keep many of their friends but whose personal lives are nonetheless in utter chaos, e.g. piles of unopened mail, trash everywhere, uncompleted projects, and a general inability to think rationally. The third group is composed of those who have single drink and lapse into an immediate spiral: fighting, crying, extreme sexual promiscuity, DUI, inability to work at all, loss of personal possessions (phone, wallet, keys, vehicle impoundment,etc). It's that third group which has probably kept me on a sober track most of my life, and I would thank them for it if any of them were still alive.

  128. Congratulations on becoming sober, however, it is one day at a time. Anniversaries are important, but see if you can write this same essay in another 5 years. 2 years sober with a minor relapse ain't much to brag about. Just saying - - I'm booze-free for almost 26 years and every single day has its own challenges. The years will add up, but it's never easy.

  129. @Bman I think one day is enough to brag about. I have 23 years. So what? Like you said, one day at a time. Why give this woman grief? We, in the community, or we, that have been through this battle, should be lifting this woman up in support of her Sobriety.

  130. @Bman One-upmanship among abstainers is another relic that needs to go. If keeping track helps you, fine, but keep it to yourself. For some, a relapse after a run of days--months--years can be devasting . . . in part because of the sense of shame it brings from the "6 yrs, 3 mos, 14 day" crowd (unintentionally). This also applies to how many Dead or Phish shows you've seen: we don't care.

  131. So we've decided to blame this on a medical disorder rather than, say, something wrong with our economy and working lives. Perhaps some day we will wise up about that.

  132. @Thomas--I agree that we live in a human-hostile economy, but immoderate alcohol consumption is an unhelpful remedy for many of us. Continuing to pursue an unhelpful remedy is some kind of disorder, don't you think?

  133. @Thomas As with many things, the answer is "both / and".

  134. Economics do not cause addiction, they exasperate it. Addiction does not discriminate. Call it what you like, the writer has an addiction to alcohol, the same way someone has an addiction to pills, needles, shopping, food. And addiction crosses all economic lines. If you’ve ever been in an AA, NA, Al Anon meeting you’d see that. Say you are a middle class, college educated, professional man or woman with a family. In that meeting there could be someone skirting the poverty line, another person, who came from an abusive household, you could hear parts of your story in their stories because addiction can effect anyone. And often it is multigenerational. I speak as the adult child of an alcoholic who is recovering in Al Anon.

  135. I am coming up on 2 years without drinking, would classify myself into the same alcohol use disorder category and found that there are so many other resources out there besides AA. Just reading TNM by Annie Grace (took two times to really grasp it and put it into action) was an enormous help for me to understand what was going on. I am fine to be around others drinking, but I know that it is not for me at all. I won't be going back and I am glad people like this author are addressing these things. Living without that daily shame is everything for me.

  136. @Shaw Congratulations. After about 40 years of having "alcohol use disorder" I quit six months ago. I found out the hard way that taking a lot of ibuprofen (as per endodontist's instructions after a root canal) and drinking vodka was a bad combination. Wound up in the ICU with internal bleeding. It was the absolute worst. I am so enjoying sobriety. Yes, living without daily shame is a huge relief.

  137. @Shaw, I second the recommendation of Annie Grace's book This Naked Mind! I drank for 43 years, I am now sober 4 months and a week. My remaining time here will be as a renewed human and a delighted non-drinker. Annie's book was a game changer.

  138. All of this is true. It sees the aspect of alcohol that is self-medication to avoid problems, which instead aggravates them. Yet our doctors can give us meds that will do some of the same things. Doctor prescribed medication to avoid problems also lets them fester and destroy us. I don't mean to blame doctors. I mean to blame a medical care payment system that will far more readily pay to medicate the most immediate symptoms than pay for help to face and overcome the problems. A pill is cheap, for anxiety or depression or both together. But what caused the anxiety or depression, and what will happen with that cause if the most pressing symptoms are medicated but then ignored? Most doctors know this. They just can't do much about it, so they do what they can. And so patients sink.

  139. Congratulations on your brave decision to quit drinking! The journey of sobriety is well worth it.

  140. I live with a late-blooming "Nancy" although for how much longer is anybody's guess. I took the test for her, giving her major benefits of the doubt, and it still came out ugly. The selfishness of a problem drinker is difficult to understand and sad for all involved. It is especially sad for those who shouldn't have to be involved (Children)

  141. @Fighting Sioux it is a disease like any other, part of that disease is extreme selfishness, no doubt, but still an illness. Unfortunately, only its victim can do anything about, when and if ready. My father died of liver failure due to drinking. I have been sober 34 years. that is about all there is to do about either. hang tough

  142. @Brendan McCarthy - Considering there is no cure for selfishness, leads me to believe excusing oneself from the situation is an attractive option. Sad, but true. What a shame.

  143. Thank you for an honest depiction of the struggle with alcohol. As I've watched family members die from alcoholism, the power of the addiction is all too real. Anyone who emerges should be celebrated.

  144. "I hadn’t grasped the degree to which a sense of shame had insidiously undergirded my life." This, for me, was a revelation when I quit. Eighteen years sober, I still remember the shame. I believe each day you are aware, not drinking or trying not to drink is such meaningful service to you and your family. There is no right way to be sober, just the way that works for you. I love the ambiguity in your story - it shines a light on how challenging it can be, truly, to know it's a problem. But when you know, you know. Best to you, Nancy.

  145. I just celebrated my 12th year of sobriety on Jan 12. To say the benefits of sobriety outweigh any thoughts that drinking again would be fine, could not be farther from the truth. I too had those days where I woke up sick, hung over and full of regret. My alcoholism progressed (as it does) to drinking in the morning just to feel better. Thank god I got off that hamster wheel before it was too late. I do participate in AA, and I can't say enough about how it helped me. I have made some of my best friends in that community, where I can be myself and they understand me. It's a fellowship unlike any other. Today, I'm happy, grateful, and living my life as a sober woman of dignity. Great article, and I think every day your journey will be one of fullfillment, joy, freedom, health and happiness.

  146. I quit drinking 31 years ago after very similar experiences. The first years had hard points, but I did reach a point where I couldn't imagine drinking again or returning to that life. Sobriety takes time and practice, but the longer you do it, the more you become that person you want to be. And it is worth all the effort.

  147. I can really identify with this. For years I jumped through hoops trying to define myself as a normal drinker (what I described to myself as 2 drinks a day was in reality more like 4 or 5), but like you, it was very difficult to string 2 or 3 no-booze days together. And if I ever pulled it off I felt very noble, and I used it as proof that I didn't have a problem. But I did. When I quit for good, I realized that is also eliminated an entire category of worry and shame, because while I was drinking so much I also spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about my drinking. Poof! That's gone now. What Homer Simpson said is really true: Alcohol is the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. I wish I could drink normally. I watch my husband drink half a glass of wine and leave the rest with envy. But I know I can't do it.

  148. @EMB I'm glad that you have gotten a grip on the problem. Your notes are spot on, and I am hopeful for the rest of us who have 'alcohol use disorder'. Power to you.

  149. @EMB - I heard some man share in a meeting that he was in a salad bar and there was a couple there getting their dinner. One guy said to his mate, “Honey, should I get a couple of beers for tonight?” The other man said, “Nah, I’m not in the mood.” The alcoholic stood there, riveted in amazement. Two people, two beers and one person turned it DOWN? He said it was like being in the presence of Martians.

  150. @EMB "I wish I could drink normally." Really? I consider it a great benefit that I can't drink because it means I won't be putting a destructively toxic substance into my body.

  151. The Atlantic magazine just ran an excellent article about the history of alcohol in America. We know it's dangerous and unhealthy, yet we include it at nearly every social event, and fetishize cocktails and wine connoisseurship. Nondrinkers are often seen as party-poopers or suspiciously sanctimonious. The article is called "America's Favorite Poison." It's a fascinating read.

  152. @Elizabeth A It's hardly an exception. Car exhaust is far more carcinogenic, as are barbecues involving red meat, but we're not seeing a dip in car dependence or increase in vegetarianism. Honestly I can't wait until people wake up about air pollution and meat consumption. Theit effects on mortality and quality of life are way higher than alcohol's in everyone but the most severe alcoholics.

  153. Life immediately improved 1/21/1986, the day I stopped drinking. Like you, I abstained without aa, but about 20 years into my sobriety I started going and things improved even more markedly. Everyone's mileage varies, but many folks sure can use the help of a support group; it can augment self-will to a remarkable degree. I seldom think about using. That's part of some long gone version of me. But I do feel the program is a very effective tool to mitigate the effects of some of the underlying causes of self-destructive behavior, a larger issue than drug or alcohol abuse. Congratulations.

  154. I celebrate your journey, Nancy, and thank you for sharing your story. This article will boost many people, especially women, as only bravery within one’s own truth can.

  155. Alcohol is a very dangerous neurotoxin like gasoline on a fire for anxiety, depression and resentment and anger. The health and social consequences continue to increase in our society. So glad you are better. Most alcoholics are high functioning and “just like to drink”. Your story may help many. Thanks for being honest and brave.

  156. Thank you for your honest and insightful commentary. You described how I acted and felt for years, especially that point in time when I started to wonder "do I have a drinking problem"? The answer came crashing down on me 2 years ago when, after a series of personal losses, I slid way down the rabbit hole into a place of drinking vodka straight from the bottle and total despair. Fast forward, I am now 18 months sober and couldn't be happier. And, by the way, I am 70. You touched on some important points. Not only do women not tolerate alcohol as well, it is especially true for older women. Also, thank you for your explanation of "Alcohol Use Disorder". Not only does it sound so much kinder than "alcoholic" but it describes how one can be somewhere on that spectrum for years. To add some words of caution though, as you mentioned, alcohol is a drug that changes the brain, and it didn't take much for me to go down that slippery slope. Also, you are right, AA isn't the only way to get sober, but it is free and provides a marvelous blueprint for living that could benefit anyone. But there are many good options. I, too, am so grateful to wake up ever morning having been sober for another 24 hours. The best part is being rid of guilt and shame and knowing it is okay to be just "me".

  157. I am 66 and have struggled with this for years, managing to stay sober for 2 years about 6 years ago. Now i’m back to quitting again (12 days). I find it gets harder and harder to do the longer or older I am. Was that your experience? Thanks

  158. @Patricia I believe loneliness and isolation are causing older people to drink more. I'm also 70 and while I'm "internet savvy", etc. I find most social media boring and don't have a lot of money to socialize. Also, lots of activities with a group are centered around drinking. It's surprising how much better I feel. A lot of the physical side effects of drinking I thought were of aging. Drinking feels good for just a little while and then you feel worn out, frustrated and slightly ill for a longer while. One thing that helped was a told myself, "I've spent enough time on this already."

  159. @Rick Foster - you CAN do this. You did it for two years. Figure out what circumstances caused you to pick up that drink after all that time. Remember “HALT?” Hungry, angry, lonely, tired? Avoid those. You are in your final chapters (I’m 72, so I can say that). How do you want to spend them? I PROMISE. Sober will be better. And, a bonus is you won’t feel so old physically. 66 seems mighty young to me:-)

  160. A number of years ago when friends were getting married after college, a friend and I went to a wedding of one of the crew overseas, and decided to make a mini vacation. The wedding was a riotous drunken affair, and afterwards I, and my liver, were done. For my friend, (really), who now goes to AA it with the trigger for a week long series of excess. Every night I saw someone drink to the point of vomiting, and was hungover the next morning, limiting our touristing adventures. Don’t judge about my not intervening. We were kids just out of college and I had no idea what if anything to do. What we did do is talk about it, and I said when I have a drink, the more I drink, the less I like it and the more I tasted the alcohol. For her it was the opposite. She said the more she drank the less she tasted it and the more she wanted it. It was eye opening for me. I thought that there but for the grace of God go I. Yes if one never has a drink, it cannot become a problem, but what random genetic luck on my part that when I went to a college party I did not have an AHA! moment I would have thought “where were you (alcohol, opiates, benzos) in my life you are what I have been missing?” I commend the author and my friend for staring down demons every day. We as a society need to figure out how to help our friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to overcome this insidious scourge. If we don’t figure it out soon especially with opiates we will lose a generation.

  161. Congratulations... too much of our society thinks that several drinks a day is healthy and should be encouraged and especially that seniors should be able to "do whatever they want".

  162. There is no way that I can describe myself as suffering from moderate alcohol use disorder. I was drinking between a pint and a quart of vodka a day when I was digging my bottom. I classify that as severe. And it was. I am grateful I walked into my first A.A. meeting January 21st, 2011. I just celebrated 9 years of sobriety. As a result of the stupid choices I made while being drunk I ultimately got rigorously honest about them and surrendered my law license in 2013. I took the Bar Exam for the 2nd time last February (1st time was 1983) and passed. My petition to be reinstated as an attorney is currently pending before the Missouri Supreme Court. Thank you, Nancy, for your candor and integrity. I also have discovered a wonderful life I never thought possible in sobriety. There are many ways to find not just physical sobriety, but also mental, emotional and spiritual. I am grateful you found your path to sobriety. Marc B. PS: I love A.A. It saved my life.

  163. @Marc Congratulations. I know a quart-a-day drinker who is slowly dying. You are one of the fortunate ones.

  164. As an addiction counselor it is alcohol that I see more than anything. It’s still harder for women to come in for treatment than men. I hope your story inspires others to look at their pattern of use and recognize the destruction inside and around them. Today Uber and Lyft have made drinking large quantities so much easier. People think, “hey as long as I’m not driving I’m good.” But often that’s far from the truth. It takes a lot of courage to tell your story and acknowledge the pain. All the stories I’ve heard is what encouraged me to write a rock musical about addiction. The goal is to reduce stigma. Nancy your article goes a long way towards that goal. Thank you!

  165. One AA adage is to ask “are you sick and tired of waking up sick and tired?” My answer was yes. Generally, if you are asking yourself am I drinking too much or am I an alcoholic, you already know the answer. The compulsion to drink is a serious indicator. For me, my life has been much better at all levels since I stopped drinking. My health, my energy levels, my marriage, my relationships with family and friends. All the best.

  166. @al macdonald My thoughts exactly. If you have to ask, there's really only one answer that is true.

  167. By not attending AA you are missing out on the positive reinforcement necessary for a full and long term recovery. Sitting with people who have also bettered their lives and sharing your story with them will help to complete your sobriety. Give it a try.......

  168. @al macdonald By this logic, if I am asking myself whether I should really eat this donut, does that mean I am likely to have an eating disorder? Striving to be healthier in aspects of your life doesn't automatically imply you have a problem.

  169. If you can't stop, you have a problem, whatever the actual amount.

  170. I have never heard anyone say they drink because they like how alcohol tastes or smells. It’s a drug and should be treated as one.

  171. @Queenie I am not about to defend heavy/excessive drinkers and their behavior, but you've honestly never heard anyone who drinks wine tell you they enjoy the taste? Abusing anything is harmful of course, but if there were a non-alcoholic beverage that complemented a great steak or a hearty red sauce over pasta like wine does, I'd drink it. Until then, a glass (nothing more) of Cabernet. There ARE people who enjoy the additional complexity of their food with wine. I'll tell you...it DOES taste good.

  172. @Queenie What? Have you had wine?

  173. The use and abuse of alcohol is a long neglected public health issue. It's effect is not only harmful to the person drinking, but also those in contact with them.How many times has one had to endure the obnoxious behavior caused by alcohol intake? That can occur at a party, sports event ,concert or in a restaurant.Let alone the abuse, physical violence,and DWI events that it engenders. Unlike tobacco use, alcohol causes loss of one's inhibition. Yet alcohol, like cigarettes in the 1950s and 1960s continues to be glamorized today in the media. The relative excise tax rates on alcohol in the USA continues to decline yearly.Adjusting for inflation, a bottle of spirits is less expensive than it was 20 years ago. I challenge our legislators to place the same amount of tax on alcohol as those on tobacco products. Even if one DWI death is prevented, it would be worthwhile to consider that option.

  174. @Gabor Then children would go without food so their parents can buy alcohol. Sin taxes hurt the poor. But not those who are better off.

  175. Nancy - I quit drinking on my own, years ago, and it was much as you describe. I did not know if I "needed" AA, until a friend said, "Sure, you can quit on your own, but why would you want to, when you can share the experience with people who are going through the same thing." She did not say I needed help, she gave me permission to discover new, life long friends, people just like me, who used to drink, but don't anymore. Check it out! - David

  176. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.

  177. I've struggled my whole life with both depression and alcohol. I finally started treating the depression and hoped it would help with the alcohol, but it sure hasn't.

  178. Great Job, keep it up. Every day sober is better than drunk. If it is ever of interest to you, try AA. It may enhance your sobriety. The ONLY requirement for attending an AA meeting is a DESIRE to quit drinking. Anyone who says anything else, is not working the program.

  179. I'll spare the NYT comments section the details on the havoc alcohol has induced on my family and community. I cannot express how much I wish that this compound was never discovered by humanity. I don't really care how many people think it can be harmless for them. I'm happy for this author-- her story should be spread.

  180. Congratulations. As someone who had an alcoholic mother who worked full time and drank all night, I'll say her hilarious anecdotes weren't funny at all, though.

  181. Such an honest and forthcoming essay. Isn't it interesting that the media writes story after story about the "opioid crisis" or the dangers of vaping when alcohol kills more Americans each years than all other drugs combined?

  182. Thank you for putting yourself out there with your story.

  183. The worst times of my life have included alcohol.

  184. I do not drink alcohol at all nor anyone in my family. I had a good friend who would drink himself into oblivion, get abusive, cruel, depressed, and then forget about the whole incident. After he left for his drying out confinement, I realized this this addictive behavior not only hurt him but all of us involved with him. Please get appropriate treatment!! Everyone else suffers besides you.

  185. I would love to know if anyone has used The Sinclair Method and it so, your thoughts.

  186. @JenRN The Sinclair is not something available in the US. But you can ask your doctor for the drug that is at the heart of the method, NALTREXONE. (There is another drug the program uses but it is not available in the US) If you need help quitting, it will most certainly help you get there. Ask your doctor.

  187. I did it and it was the only way I successfully stopped drinking (Daily drinker). I have no more desire for alcohol, can have a few sips a couple times a year if at a social gathering and be done with it. Was difficult to take the leap to ask dr for naltrexone. Followed the method and very quickly had results that just got stronger over time.

  188. "Brutal honesty" is the foundation for sobriety. Most alcoholics loathe the truth.. For most heavy drinkers there comes a point of "enough is enough" or "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." Self-revelation is a far better starting point than being unwillingly dragged into an AA meeting or family intervention. Not to say the latter two methods haven't succeeded. True strength comes from within. And although, we aren't supposed to talk about AA outside the rooms, I will say the program is in serious need of a makeover- the big book written in the 1940's is antiquated and peppered with misogynistic vignettes, which could intimidate a woman trying to become sober. Today's meetings are rampant with cross addicted members [there was no crystal meth or oxycontin epidemic in the 40's]* and the entire point of AA is to treat what the first "A" stands for! *Before people chime in and say, "Yes there were, soldiers from the war were coming home addicted to morphine!" .. yeah yeah I hear you .. but those in AA know what I'm talking about.

  189. I had my "hit bottom" moment on New Years Day, 1999, after a night I wished I could forget, and alcohol poisoning so severe I wished it would just kill me so I wouldn't feel so terrible anymore. I did relapse briefly around 2004, but got over it quickly enough, and avoid alcohol like the plague now. I can't speak for everyone, but it brought out the absolute worst in me, weekend after weekend after weekend. I'm so glad I was able to put it behind me, although it did cost me some friends. Ever been the only sober person in a room full of drunks? You quickly realize how obnoxious drunks are. It's depressing.

  190. Alcohol is the only addictive drug that has a high that's no fun.

  191. @William I disagree. Music sounds better when I drink. Personally, I don't understand the opioid thing, having taken them after knee surgery and dental work. Feels like you slept too long and can't wake up. Opiates I can understand.

  192. I drank too much for 20 years. Quit at 35. Relapsed on prescription drugs at 65. After long rehab joined A. A. Now 83 I have 13 years sober and drug free. For me it has benn a Godsend.

  193. Hey Nancy, good for you for quitting the drinking, it sounds like it was a great decision. However, I feel that you (and lots of other drinkers) put episodes of bad judgement on the alcohol and not on yourself. It wasn't YOUR fault that you were argumentative with friends, or slept with people you didn't want to, or 'roused your demons' as you put it. My experience with such things is that it amplifies something already inside you, it doesn't create some new persona. Do yourself a favor and take some ownership of this. Be empowered by that ownership!

  194. @Mark I agree. I was a complete drunk for years. I never got into physical confrontations because that was not in me. As an attorney, I represented a guy who shot and killed his best friend while drunk because he mistakenly thought his friend had borrowed his car for longer than he had. They argued, and he shot him. I didn't even argue when I was drunk. I just got quiet.

  195. I read this with bloodshot eyes and a pounding headache after drinking myself to oblivion last night. What made me do that? Maybe it was the complete and total despair I felt while watching our democracy die on national TV.

  196. How about you turn off the tv? Just a thought. I have seen people around me get addicted to the outrage and despair engendered by the 24 hour news cycle. It then triggers stress, sleeplessness, and the temptation to turn to substances for comfort. You may feel like you are doing something by sitting on the couch feeling outraged and depressed, but you are not. Turn the tv off. Go for a walk. Join a political action group where you can be with other people. There is comfort in solidarity. Social media and the news can be just as addicting as other substances that trigger our brains.

  197. Lots of us are experiencing that despair, without drinking like that. Sounds like another excuse to me ...

  198. Thank you LL, your advice means a lot.

  199. Nancy, congratulations. I've been sober for 34 years and still salivate if I smell whiskey. Those quizzes can be useful but denial is a hallmark of the disease and can defy all reason. I gave a similar quiz once to a man who was in active withdrawal from alcohol ( I worked for 3 years as a drug counselor in a homeless shelter). Guess what? At the end of the quiz he had a perfect score. He NEVER drank to excess, he NEVER had a hangover, he NEVER had more than one drink. Soooo.... lucky for you that you quit. I did when I was 28. Life has been sweet since.

  200. I had my last drink on April 5th 1973. This is the night I went(was taken) to my first AA meeting and had my epiphany . O MY GOD...I'm an alcoholic. I have never had another drink. With AA and my AA friends I have lived without alcohol. For me, it was easy. If you know you are a drunk why would you ever drink again. with AA, you never have to. Tony

  201. Congratulations on your sobriety. I have one concern, though. Two drinks a day doesn't create the kind of havoc that the author describes. Might I suggest that she was minimizing her drinking? It's very common for us to do that, especially in the first months of sobriety. We don't want people to think we were too bad of a drunk. Also, if you tells yourself you weren't that bad, you can also justify the odd "celebratory drink" which, as most of us know, can lead to relapse (been there, drank the wine). Moderate drinkers don't bray loudly about a friend's secret to a group of other friends. They don't pick senseless drunken quarrels with bereaved friends. These are the acts of a person whose inhibitions and good sense have been drowned in alcohol. People who drink moderately don't wake up with massive hangovers. They don't have trouble skipping a few nights of drinking. Sorry, Nancy, but your drinking was a lot farther along than you care to admit. In order to stay sober you have to face up to that. You're probably a full-blown alcoholic. Don't minimize that. That way lies defeat.

  202. @LauraF That may be true for you or me, but are you aware of the magnified effects of alcohol in longtime drinkers with liver damage? After years, even one drink can get you tipsy. My brother can get that glassy look in his eye after only two drinks, when he starts being slightly obnoxious. I don't mean to shoot you down, but I'm not exaggerating.

  203. I’ve seen women pour a half a bottle of wine into a huge goblet and say they only had “one drink.” People don’t know how small “one drink” really is. 3-4 ounces of wine is a very small glass. And if her drinks are huge and she is a smaller woman, it can hit hard.

  204. @Boaz Boaz, if Nancy was in the category you describe -- severe liver damage from decades of drinking -- my point is proved, 100%. That's full-blown alcoholism, and so far along that death is just around the corner. So if the writer was in that category, there would be no doubt about the status of her drinking, would there? But you don't need to fall that far down the rabbit hole to be a serious alcoholic. Anyone who gets so drunk that they betray confidences and offend their friends on a regular basis, who acts like a "shrew" and experiences embarrassing faux pas on a regular basis, who tries to control their drinking unsuccessfully on multiple occasions, has a severe problem. It's that simple.

  205. Drinking is a symptom. Treat the cause if you want a better life.

  206. I come from a family with many alcoholics. There was nothing fun about growing up not knowing if the old man would be in one of his rages or whether a brother would be staggering up the steps and throwing up all night. Fast forward to adulthood and see the efforts and failures of quite a few to stay sober, see the human toll in bitter or abused spouses, troubled children. Alcohol is everywhere and the 6.2% statistic is fantasyland. If you need or take a drink every night - beer, wine, whatever, you have a problem in my opinion. This op-ed columnist has been masking her addiction for years and she has millions and millions of fellow travelers.

  207. Ms Wartik: Here’s my advice to you, for what it’s worth. First, re your alcohol envy. Consider that those drinking don’t get out of it what you did. Otherwise, they would have your problem. Social drinkers, unless they’re headed for trouble, don’t get drunk. So where’s the fun in that? Also, I suspect your elation over drinking amounted to release from one or two things that your sober mind could not accept. If you want serenity, you have to just accept things that are beyond your control. Finally, if you can’t stop permanently, get help. It’s hard to stop by yourself. And the help doesn’t have to be AA.

  208. My father was a closet drinker, my mother a judgmental teetotaler. She had two married cousins, both of those couples being the kind of social drinkers who were high functioning but constantly celebrating or self-medicating. My mother, at 93, is the only survivor. All five of the drinkers passed on in their 70s or 80s. Yes, alcohol will rob you of your health and cause all manner of misery as you decline. If you cannot comfortably limit drinks to truly occasional levels, then it is better to totally abstain. Your body will thank you for it.

  209. AA meetings are full of people who had 5-10 years even 20 years of sobriety and astonishingly decided to drink again and end up ruining their lives again. By far the most common reason is that they stopped going to meetings. In other words they stopped doing what got them sober in the first place. Nancy please keep doing what got you sober in the first place like "I devoured others’ stories, watching movies about alcoholics, reading memoirs, lurking in sub-Reddits for people struggling to quit." Also DO NOT stop talking to your family about how bad things were and how good they are now. We have built in 'forgeters' that tell us things weren't that bad in addition we tend to only remember the good times we had drinking. Congratulations on your sobriety and thank you for reminding me why sobriety is so important to me.

  210. Want to take the romance out of alcohol? Work as an ICU nurse for a couple of years.

  211. 40 years of sobriety after a nudge from a judge after my third DUI- six months in rehab or a year on the road gang- even my addled brain could do the math. In the recovery house I learned I might get an early discharge if I appeared to be motivated, so I sat prominantly hear the director's office reading the AA Big Book. It didn't take long for me to come across the passages relating to alcoholism as a disease. That did it for me, relieving me from the guilt and shame and sense of weakness that fueled my denial. So, "fake it til you make it' was a motto that worked for me.

  212. Congratulations on sorting this out on your own. About 75% of people who meet criteria for "alcohol use disorder" find sobriety on their own without help from physicians or AA, or perhaps in spite of. Family and friends are described as the most important factors for maintaining sobriety. A major issue is the criteria in the DSM versus what is an "alcoholic." I know persons who consider themselves to an alcoholic, but have never had a drop in their lives. They grew up in a family rendered dysfunctional due to alcohol and have chosen to never drink. Their children will not have seen the chaos, have the genes and are at high risk. The failure of the DSM to recognize that alcohol use and abuse comes in different flavors and the biological bases has destroyed the research on this disease. Or as I tell the medical students, "You need to know the DSM in order to get paid and not much else."

  213. @Profbam You claim that "about 75% of people who meet criteria for "alcohol use disorder" find sobriety on their own without help from physicians or AA." I find that hard to believe. What are your sources for that?

  214. Been there, done all of that and worse. Best of luck to you...and me.

  215. "Alcohol was also medication. I drank to quiet angst or because I was lonesome. I drank, it took years to realize, because I had clinical depression. Eventually I treated the depression but kept drinking. Alcohol was my stress-reducer, my reality fighter, the conferrer of artificial joys." This is one of the best descriptions of alcohol dependence I've read, aside from an excellent book by deceased author Carolyn Knapp, "Drinking: A Love Story." In the course of my nondrinking life, now approaching 40 years, I've heard it said, in its total simplicity, "If you have to control you're drinking, you're already out of control." Stopping drinking for a period of time doesn't equal staying stopped--most active alcholics can do the former. For me, staying stopped demands acceptance, admitting there's no magic formula for "safe drinking" except avoiding that first drink.

  216. @ChristineMcM ah yes, admit you have a problem always a first step alcohol dependence and denial they are kissin' cousins

  217. @ChristineMcM - congrats on your upcoming anniversary! Mine’s April 24th. Ain’t life grand? I KNEW we had things in common other than anger and frustration about The Occupant!

  218. @ChristineMcM I picked up Knapp's book and, hiding it from my husband, read it during my last two drinking days almost ten years ago. It was such a blessing. I hope your mention of it helps others.

  219. Alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are the death industries in the US, and all are thriving. Their profits are high, their lobbyists are well paid, and they have enough friends in elected offices to assure a rosy future without too much government interference. They are happy that the spotlight has shifted to opiates, the newest addition to the now four greatest killers of young people. Ms. Wartik is strong enough, smart enough, and lucky enough to have saved herself--so far. Too many others do not have those resources. But, the death industries will march on undeterred.

  220. One problem for me a person who enjoys drinking in the evenings is that although it causes no problems right now, according to the health data I am drinking more than I should. To make it clear the recommendation for women is one-none per day. One drink is defined as 5ounces of wine. A single 5-ounce glass of wine because of my tolerance level has virtually no effect on me. Even when I haven't drunk for long periods of time(ranging from months to years), my tolerance level goes back up after one or two days. I'm genetically Scottish and German. I metabolize it very quickly even if I do feel a single glass and the effects wear off. So, I can quit or limit to say only weekends. But I find this challenging because I enjoy the relaxing effect and like I said my life is otherwise unaffected. I don't drink when I have to drive somewhere, feel no compulsion to drink during the day even when others are because it makes me tired. I don't drink to mask my feelings or cope. I don't get drunk or act differently towards others. I have zero interest in partying. But I may be impacting my long term health. So, right now it's just that right now the motivation is hard to come up with. Also, I eat healthily and exercise regularly. Maybe in a few years when we become empty nesters, I can relax by reading in the evenings instead. But right now I'm working 10-12 hour days and managing two middle schoolers.

  221. thank you for the great article and your insights. I spent most of my life fighting the bottle and opioids. my father was an alcoholic. so were other members of my family. one night i found myself in jail for DUI. i'm sober, have not attended AA since i got out (over a year ago) and was lucky enough not to take the anti alcohol drugs. what keeps me sober is the knowledge i have a disease. my brain and the absence of certain chemicals makes me a prime target for alcohol abuse on a grand scale. everyone has their path to sobriety. thank you for sharing yours

  222. @stephen rhymer I’m glad for you for your recovery. Apropos “anti alcohol drugs,” readers should be reminded that multiple studies have shown that in general, alcohol use disorder treatment is more likely to successsful with assistance from such anti- craving medications ( e.g., naltrexone , acamprosate.)

  223. @Michael I’m glad for you for your recovery. Apropos “anti alcohol drugs,” readers should be reminded that multiple studies have shown that in general, alcohol use disorder treatment is more likely to be successsful with assistance from such anti- craving medications ( e.g., naltrexone , acamprosate.)

  224. @stephen rhymer I stopped drinking without AA but after three years, a friend said to me, "You'd love AA. It's people just like us only they're not drunk, but don't go unless you're willing to open a can of worms." Of course I went that night, just to check it out, and I instantly knew I was where real help was to be found - help with understanding alcoholism itself and help with understanding, really understanding, myself. ACOA is another wonderful 12-step program for those of us who grew up in alcoholic homes. I'm now 75; I haven't had a drink in almost 46 years.

  225. I'm not a drinker. I did drink in college. I passed out, embarrassed myself, vomited once in the lobby of a sorority, and decided I was a good metabolic match for routine drinking. I can have a beer or two, a glass of wine or a hard liquor drink and then not have one for weeks or longer. It's not a problem. But I know lot's of people who drink moderately (daily) as well as at time excessively. And I now people who cannot function without alcohol by their side or knowing they have plenty on hand. Dependence, I learned early is on a continuum...from low to high use of alcohol. My friends are all educated, brilliant, professionals...some retired and some still at work. They are warm, funny and caring people and inexplicably more so when drinking. None of them would ever think they had a problem. They are not loud, abusive or combative. They love to argue but intelligently. But, having said that, they look older than me, are carrying extra weight in their middle sections, are tired all the time, don't exercise, have healthcare ins but never go to doctors. Drinking is an integral part of their lives...and on the spectrum they are right up there with the best. But, the "problem" is not readily apparent to them. When I mention cutting back they all just smile.

  226. Great article. Congratulations on your personal insights. I'd add that alcohol use can have a really bad effect on sleep. Whenever I drink, about twice a month, even that one glass of wine inhibits my sleep thus making my next day almost as bad as a regular hangover. It's a social thing for me but I'm beginning to think it's just not worth it...ever.

  227. @Ann Exactly! There are many, many good reasons to quit drinking (more reasons to quit than to continue), and this rang especially true for me. The really good thing about this reason is that I can decline a drink at a social gathering, say "it interferes with my sleep," and not get the push-back from imbibers that can otherwise happen. Go figure.

  228. @Ann Agree about the lack of sleep. Wine particularly (at least with my body) wakes me up at 1 am or so every night. I decided it's as if I'm allergic to it and so I stopped. If I ever think I'd like a glass of wine, I think, no, I won't sleep. I love a good night's sleep and a glass of wine isn't worth the loss of that.

  229. @Ann When I drink alcohol, I stop at 6 p.m. so it doesn't affect my sleep. Unfortunately, even a 9 a.m. espresso will affect my sleep. (I must metabolize caffeine extremely slowly.) For some dumb reason I feel the need to check my alcohol consumption more than my caffeine consumption, although caffeine undoubtedly has had a worse effect on me over the years. I run a lab. The cost of my trainees' caffeine dependency is high.

  230. I found two very helpful resources on YouTube: Alcohol Mastery and the Stop Drinking Expert. I changed the way I think about alcohol. I understood I needed to deal with both the physical and mental parts of the cycle - I didn't realize that, as much as I wanted to stay away, physical cravings were influencing me. After three decades of use and twenty years of private hell, I was able to walk away after a week focused on breaking the cycle. Alcohol is a diluted poison, and I would never touch it now. I have a lot of neglected life issues and friendships to address and that has been challenging but at least it's possible now. Nothing really was before. I'm so grateful I changed. Seek out support, learn to eat well and to care for your body and mind and you will not struggle in giving up this poison. You will feel so much better! You deserve to be happy and well. Good luck.

  231. I can relate. Alcohol is very addictive, and oddly is the only drug one feels they need to justify to not consume. I was plagued for years by the low moods, the morning after grumpys, the tick of the 5pm wine time. I was moderate, but it still ended up sucking, and worsening my autoimmune condition. I'm happy to be alcohol free now, able to rise early and be present throughout the day.

  232. Thank you for this article. I needed it and hope that I can make the same change you did.

  233. Anyone-I repeat ANYONE- who drinks regularly during the workday (e.g., one drink at lunch) has an alcohol deep dame nyc. So that could be as few as five drinks a week. Lets face it . There is NO metabolic, nutritional etc reasons for drinking during the day. Most these self test indices (WHO etc) allow for thsi and thus our national alcohol dependency is way under rated. Ask yourself, why the hell do I need this drink with munch everyday ? Its self medication pure and simple.

  234. @John Wesleyi I ask that question about coffee.

  235. In my 22-year career as a psychotherapist, I have worked with many people struggling with substance abuse. I have found that that labels such as "alcoholic" or "addict" are unhelpful and actually impede the process of recognizing help is needed. It's easy to distance oneself from these damning labels. Instead, I use this simple question: "Is this substance causing problems in your relationships, your sleep, your health, your work, your ability to be present in your own life?" If the answers is yes, then clients can start their recovery process from a stance of choice and empowerment, rather than shame.

  236. Judith--Thanks for mentioning that labels meant to shame and blame are unhelpful to those struggling with substance use disorders. The science-based, non-profit, SmartRecovery.org demonstrates real leadership by avoiding those labels while teaching life-skills to address the underlying destructive assumptions that drive addiction.

  237. @Judith Avoiding labels like "alcoholic" or "addict" is quite enticing... to alcoholics and addicts. The avoidance of these labels (actually diagnoses) fits right into the addict's denial, and postpones recovery. Small wonder, then, that the first step of all 12-step programs-- which has allowed more addicts to recover than any method in the history of this planet- is an admission of powerlessness.

  238. @Judith - there’s no one size fits all! When I understood that my problem was that I was an alcoholic, I was greatly relieved. I had a name that was so enlightening. I was not mentally ill or weak of character. It’s the stigma that shames people, not the diagnosis! Call it a sensitivity, an allergy to alcohol if you want. Bottomline you must not drink. There’s no turn-off button for an alcoholic. We don’t shame epileptics or diabetics. Alcoholism should be the same. And, it’s often genetically passed on. Once people understand what’s “wrong” with them, they can begin the process of stopping and staying stopped.