Every day, millions of people drink a beer or two with friends or enjoy a glass of wine with a good meal. For more than 30 percent of these drinkers, alcohol has begun to have a negative impact on their everyday lives. Yet, only a small number are true alcoholics—people who have completely lost control over their drinking and who need alcohol to function. The great majority are what Dr. Doyle and Dr. Nowinski call “Almost Alcoholics,” a growing number of people whose excessive drinking contributes to a variety of problems in their lives. The difference between the “almost alcoholic” and the true alcoholic is a matter of degree, according to Dr. Robert L. Doyle, professor of behavioral health at Harvard University and psychologist Dr. Joseph Nowinski.
The true alcoholic is physically dependent on alcohol, and will experience symptoms of withdrawal if he or she stops. The true alcoholic will answer “yes” and “always” or “almost always” to most or all of the following statements. Men and women who are somewhere in the almost alcoholic zone, however, will be able to identify with some of these statements as describing their drinking behavior. Are you an almost alcoholic? How many of the following statements describe your drinking?
- You have come to rely on a drink or two to “unwind” or “de-stress.”
- You Drink Alone
- Your drinking may be related to one or more health problems
- You drink to relieve boredom or loneliness
- You drive after drinking
- You drink to maintain a “buzz”
- Your performance at work is not what it used to be
- You aren’t comfortable in social situations where there is no drinking
- You find that drinking helps you overcome your shyness