T Nation

Should I Seek Treatment for an Alcohol Problem?


#1

Well... I'm back after a few months off.

Right now, I'm feeling rather pensive. And slightly drunk. My current girlfriend thinks I have an alcohol problem and wants me to get some treatment/counseling. Her friends (even some who haven't even met me yet!) have very mixed opinions of me and some have told her that she should leave me. I do have it really good. She is the younger, hot, popular cheerleader (i.e. the type who would've never paid the slightest bit of attention to me in high school) who you want to hate but can't because she's so damn nice. She's also surprisingly intelligent and also spends a lot of money on me (I'm broke as hell) and cooks me delicious food all the time. I'm not saying she's perfect by any means, but I do have to admit that I have it pretty damn good and I do care about what she thinks (though wouldn't consider it a big deal to replace her if I needed to).

Here's the situation:

-I don't drink consistently. I've gone weeks without touching alcohol in the past, but also have had weeks that would put some alcoholics to shame.
-I'm in a highly respected medical school right now. I'm doing really well (above average), but not top of the class. I probably could be if I actually gave a shit. Alcohol has never interfered with my ability to perform in school/work or in personal obligations.
-I drink alone and sometimes in weird places.
-I drink when I'm unhappy to escape from my problems.
-I drink more than the other people I'm with.
-I drink on weeknights at times.
-I'm incredibly functional when I'm drunk. In fact, I'm drunk right now though I should be studying. Is my syntax suffering? I didn't think so...
-I'm still making fairly consistent gains in the gym. They're slow as hell, but I don't really care so long as I'm not regressing.
-I've had alcohol poisoning a couple of times before, requiring admission to the hospital once.
-I have a family history of depression and alcoholism. Both have affected me in the past, but I consider them to be fairly well controlled at present.
-The ol' ball and chain has been hurt by an abusive alcoholic family in the past. I think she's a little too sensitive to perceived alcoholism.
-My close friends drink, and a good bit more than average.
-I've never been abusive to those I care about because of alcohol, though I have been in some sticky situations with randoms (I tend to be a rather soppy drunk around people I truly care about).
-I've had a lot of blackouts and a few exceedingly probable/guaranteed hookups with randoms while trashed, including cheating (though not on this girl... yet).
-I've only ever driven while completely fucked up once, and it was something I felt terrible about and plan to never do again.
-I've never had financial problems because of alcohol.
-My family really doesn't like how much I drink, though they have begrudgingly admitted that I seem to have an incredible level of control.
-I do go about my day to day activities drunk sometimes (although rarely). I never do it completely trashed and I'm always highly functional. Only those who know me VERY well can tell I'm drunk.
-I've never had acute withdrawals, though I do crave alcohol a fair bit. I only give in if I have the time to do so.
-My liver enzymes are doing great, even though I wasn't able to keep myself off of the bottle while taking hepatotoxic prescription drugs. I'm still fairly young though, so maybe this is meaningless.
-Sometimes I hide my drinking so my girl/family doesn't give me a hard time about it.
-I really don't want to imagine a completely sober life. The idea actually pains me greatly.

I realize that while I am very high functioning and have not suffered much in the way of negative consequences, there are a few red flags. Is it worth seeking treatment for (even if only to give the girlfriend some piece of mind)? What would you do if you were in my shoes?


#2

Usually if you need to ask then the answer is probably always yes. You definitely want to nip something like this in the bud as soon as possible, the longer term issues with alcoholism will destroy lives of the person abusing it, and everyone around them.


#3

Your drinking more likely than not isn't going to get better on its own; more likely its going to get worse. There are more than just a few red flags on your list. But you and you alone need to decide whether its a problem and whether you want to do something about it.


#4

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#5

Just keep doing what you're doing and you'll find out sooner or later ya egotistical fuck.


#6

Personally I just wouldn't drink alone, nor during the week unless it's a special occasion (and no, Tuesdays aren't a special occasion). I like a drink but eventually you reach the point of diminishing returns.


#7

I think you know the answer to your question, re read your list a couple of times objectively, as if it was a friend's list.
I have been there - got sober 22 years ago at the age of 42. Your drinking and the problems involved will get worse if you continue, that I can promise you.
Are you planning to be a drunk/hung over doctor? that's scary.
Get some help - AA is free


#8

Sounds kinda borderline to me. Like someone up there said, if you have to ask, the answer is probably yes. But the bottom line is this: do YOU control alcohol, or does alcohol control YOU?

Given your situation with the girl, perhaps if you cut back a bit it would shut her and her friends up - why fuck up a good thing?

If you DID let her take you to a few meetings, it WOULD let her think she's "fixing you" and it will make her feel more invested. Once she's invested, and you "slip", no matter what her friends say, she won't leave. Chicks are stupid like that.

My advice.

Allow her to talk you into getting help.
Go to a few meetings or whatever
Do whatever the fuck you want and encourage her codependency by creating emotional highs and lows
Continue to fuck the hot cheerleader who cooks for you
Who knows? The meetings might be useful
Profit

The caveat is that you say you are in medical school. If you EVER thought you were good enough to do a medical procedure while under the influence of alcohol, think again. If you actually PERFORM a medical procedure while under the influence of alcohol, then I hope you die a miserable death.


#9

I've been cutting down lately but we do go through a lot of beer at my house. I probably went through a 30-pack last week myself, which is down from my usual 40 or so. My son got hired full time where he works, so he's cut down as well. His 110 lb girlfriend does her share too, wonder why she doesn't pack on the lbs... but she doesn't eat as much as we do and probably has a high metabolism..

I have a 10 & 10 rule that works most of the time, 10 beers max for the day and stop by 10 PM. For me to have a drink at all, everything has to be in order in the house and no driving if I had more than 3 beers.


#10

Don't you have a son? Is this ^ the kind of man you want him to be looking up to?


#11

I think you have a problem but why not just quit instead of seeking treatment? Then in you can't quit on your own you can pull the treatment card.


#12

Assuming at some point in the future you want to be a practicing doctor and would like a romantic relationship as well, your current drinking habits are in conflict with your future goals.

Decide what's more important to you. If it's your drinking, have the decency to let your GF know. Likewise, you could also save yourself hundreds of thousands by leaving med school now and choosing a career that is more accommodating of your burgeoning alcoholism.


#13

Unfortunately doctors have access to the medicine chest which can help enable them to function longer and prolong the problem, although when the shit finally hits the fan it usually really hits the fan.


#14

Yes


#15

I personally don't get why people get addicted to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc... In my day, I've done just about everything under the sun. I've never had a craving for any of it. I can go years without drinking (and have) without missing it. I have done an eight ball of coke three weekends in a row and not touched if for years... Same with tobacco - I can smoke a pack a day for a weekend and then put it down for six months or six years... It's just about making a decision about what you want to do. These days, I don't drink, smoke or do any drugs and I'm feeling pretty good, so I'm likely to keep it that way.


#16

At one point I was pretty living the Mad Men Don Draper lifestyle, the hard working, hard drinking professional. I have some fond memories, and I never ran into trouble professionally, I was a 3-7/night gin martini professional. Certain things in your life will cue a behavioral habit like drinking. As I smartened up, and began to notice them I got control. There was an in-between period when I knew what was driving me but I wouldn't resist it, and sometimes I have a "stop-gap" night and cut loose, but I started practicing some simple rules.

My main one was "no more than 3 drinks per night, no excuses," then I started limiting the nights out, etc., and I started to build some healthier habits around drinking. These days I still enjoy a martini once a week or so, but I rarely go out (bought a house, growing-up) and I am brewing mead at home. I'll never be a teetotaler, but I am also much healthier and being hungover is no longer my baseline.

Based on your description, and the fact that you feel the need to ask, I'd say it is time to take a break. Dry out, notice the world again. One other important thing, NEVER DRINK BECUASE YOU ARE SAD, MAD, OR UPSET. Drink to celebrate, not to mourn.


#17

I would think the easiest thing to tell if you have a problem is to be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you could legitimately abstain from alcohol when you have the desire to drink, or stop drinking at any time after starting (ie when you're upset). If you can, then you have it under control. Though if you have it fairly well under control and it bothers your gf, then tampering it down a little to make her happier (especially given her past) would seem like a good thing to do.

I 2nd the opinion not to drink when you're upset, it's my main rule with alcohol/drugs. Seems to become much more of a dangerous coping strategy that way. Then again, I'm the type of person who doesn't seem to get addicted to things and can go months without something just because I decide that's what I'm going to do, so I realize I'm not the average person in this regard.


#18

This is a general post--and not meant as a knock on anyone--but if you don't understand or can't relate with the significance of the last bullet point on the list then you won't understand why consumption-limiting strategies are much, much more likely than not going to fail in the long run.


#19

your Gf is probably right, OP~

as much as it pains me to say so.


#20

It doesn't sound so bad to me... in fact, it pretty much describes my mid-20s.

However, if I felt the need to ask, I would probably take some steps just to prove it to myself, but that's me... in fact, I would often quit for 4-6 weeks just to prove it to myself at the time. I hardly ever drink now, but I do miss it.

Alcoholism runs in my family and I LOVE to get drunk, as do my siblings. My grandma and uncle died because of it, and I also never met either because of it. My sister is borderline and left her fiance because he was full-blown. My brother was forced into rehab (driving too much) and it opened his eyes and he cut back for a few months (preferred stimulants anyway), but having a child did a better good job of limiting him to beers during football and a few other social events; I imagine the income effects of children also had their fair share of influence, which you may not encounter as a doctor.

That being said, it sounds like you enjoy your current situation, but wouldn't mind being a bit sober. Going to a few classes certainly wouldn't hurt... though, I'm pretty sure you'll hear from others and it will confirm it for you. It's easy to see others as X label and when they label themselves as such and have similar experiences to your own, it's hard not to see yourself as X.