How To Identify An Alcoholic
May 21, 2012 Alcoholic Partners
So how can you tell if a loved one or co-worker is an alcoholic? Where is the line between someone who enjoys a few drinks after work or who just likes to have a good time and someone who has a serious substance abuse problem? It can be hard to tell.
Either one is likely to reassure you that their behaviour is normal and acceptable. Either one could say that they just had a long day, week, or year and just needed a night out. Either one could say that they went too far just this once and will never do it again. Part of your question becomes, will they do it again?
First, you want to consider the ramifications of posing this possibility to someone. If you do suspect that someone is an alcoholic, do you confront them? Will this encourage a genuine alcoholic to get help, or will it merely inform them that they need to put more effort into covering their tracks?
Many people do not wish to intervene if they suspect that someone they know is an alcoholic. It is easier to tell yourself that your friend, co-worker, or lover is not really an alcoholic. They do not really have a problem. They just felt bad last night, or maybe they were celebrating.
Maybe they have always been a drinker and the slide into alcoholism was slow and subtle. Maybe you do not want to admit it. Why would anyone not want to admit that there is a problem? Maybe this denial feels more comfortable because if someone you know has a problem with drinking then you have a problem too.
You know that you cannot have a healthy relationship with an alcoholic. It does not matter if this person is a spouse, family member, friend, or co-worker. You cannot escape the fact that alcoholism will affect your relationship. If your relationship with this person is limited then you may be able to ignore the shifts in personality and the inconsistencies in behaviour. If the person is closer to you then you cannot avoid the alcoholism. You can shut your eyes and pretend that nothing has changed or that this is temporary but you know better. This is a disease that spreads though everything the alcoholic touches.
Again, part of the problem is that not every alcoholic has a life that is falling apart. Many do, but many do not. The term is functioning alcoholic. Many alcoholics can get through the days without any problems. They can do their work, spend time with family and friends, and still maintain excessive drinking patterns. So how do you know if someone is an alcoholic when they have a life that, other than their excessive consumption of alcohol, looks fine?
Identifying an alcoholic is about more than just going down a checklist. This can be a helpful tool, but first you have to be willing to face the possibly ugly truth. Someone you know may be an alcoholic. They may have a disease that could very well kill them. They may have a disease and they might not want your help.
You have to start somewhere. A good place to start is your suspicion that someone may be an alcoholic. You know this person and you know what typical behavior for this person. If you have been around to witness the descent or to witness the differences in this person then you can tell when that person is no longer acting like they used to act.
You can tell when this person started putting the consumption of alcohol above his or her own best interests. You want to begin here, with your own intimate knowledge of the individual's life. The next thing you want to look for is the presence of the common symptoms. These hallmarks of alcoholism will help you to support your sense that something could be very wrong.