UH-OH, I Think We're All "Almost Alcoholics"

Please explain normal drinking behavior to me, because apparently I don't get it.
Publish date:
June 5, 2012
alcoholism, almost alcoholics, problem drinkers

I'm so glad I had the foresight to take a photograph of myself drinking to illustrate articles like this.

I am an "actual" alcoholic who used to hide beers under my skirt at parties just in case they ran out, so it's possible that my conception of what's normal is as skewed as my slowly burgeoning concept of a normal childhood. (But everybody's dad talked about their boobs a lot!)

In my mind, the line between alcoholic and nonalcoholic is pretty firmly drawn. I've already told you about a bunch of stuff that alcoholics do; here are a few strange, foreign behaviors that I have identified as definitively not alcoholic:

Being sometimes satisfied with one or two drinks.

And I'm not talking about the giant MASON JAR of practically-straight-vodka we alcoholics use to convince ourselves we're only having "one drink."

Basically, my alcoholism is sort of like a switch inside of me that gets thrown whenever I have a drink and keeps me from being able to stop. The idea of drinking without getting wasted is incomprehensible to me -- what would be the point? If I wanted to drink "for the taste," I'd have a milkshake.

Leaving alcohol in the bottom of your glass and walking away.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE who drink half a beer or leave the last few sips of wine on the restaurant table? I used to wander around parties swigging other people's half-empties, and you can't even finish your own drink?

Not ordering alcohol at a place that serves it.

Why not? It's there. You can have a drink, why aren't you?

Alternately, having rules about drinking that you actually follow like my boyfriend, who just doesn't drink on weekdays or during the daytime. Just doesn't care for it. He recently went away on a camping weekend and didn't drink (even though everyone else was) just because he hates getting up early with a hangover.

So as you can see, there are two types of people: alcoholics and you other weirdos. (In recovery, we call you "normies" or "civilians.")

But now clinical psychologist Joseph Nowinski claims he has identified another murky shadowland he calls the "almost alcoholic zone," which is a "middle ground between normal social drinkers and alcoholics." And they seem just like, slightly less aggressively normal than the aforementioned "non-alcoholics."

Here are the warning signs of an almost alcoholic:

"Looking forward to drinking. They eagerly anticipate their wine, beer or cocktails."

Um, obviously you look forward to it, right? Otherwise, why would you do it? "Oh, God, I've been dreading drinking all day, but now that I'm here I guess I'll have a cocktail." I mean, I look forward to french fries, but I'm not a French Fry addict. (I might be a French fry addict.)

But, I mean, it's OK to like drinking. Drinking is really fun! That's why there's a bar on every corner in NYC.

"Drinking alone. They enjoy drinking not only in company, but when they are by themselves."

I never really saw the big deal about drinking alone, if you live alone. I mean, even kooky single ladies in romantic comedies have a glass of wine with dinner.

"Drinking to control emotional and/or physical symptoms. They have come to rely on a drink (or two or three) to “unwind” most days of the week."

The "most days of the week" part might be the issue here, but once you get sober, you can't help but notice how often someone says something like "I need a drink!" after a rough day. A lot of people use alcohol to unwind -- it works like a million times better than meditation or bubble baths or any of the other dumb things I do to try to relax now.

"Continued drinking despite at least some negative consequences. These may include insomnia, fatigue, depression or problems at work or within one's family."

Problems at work or home, OK. But insomnia, fatigue and depression? That's called a hangover, son!

Am I an alcoholism apologist or does some of the above fit into the scope of normal drinking? And if not, please explain to me what the fuck normal drinking is, because I obviously have no idea.