HE says it's under control. YOU know it's not. But a new book reveals how a little love can help him beat the bottle
Your partner staggers home worse for wear after a night out with colleagues several times a week ... but, then, socialising with co-workers and clients is vital to most people’s careers, isn’t it?
He always manages to upset friends, family and you when he’s tipsy ... and you hate the way he never seems to know when to stop when there’s alcohol around. But he’s not got a drink problem, has he?
If you’ve found yourself asking questions like this — and perhaps taken refuge in these same evasive, self-deceiving replies — you’re not alone.
The knock-on effect of the economic crisis has been a dramatic increase in drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, according to a recent NHS report, one in three men and one in six women can be classified as ‘hazardous’ drinkers.
Recent statistics suggest that in the UK, one in 13 people could be diagnosed as alcoholic with the knock-on effect that 3.7 million people are affected by parental alcoholism and one million by their partner’s alcoholism.
In a new book, Bottled Up, counsellor Lou Lewis (who lived with an alcoholic husband for 20 years, until his death from cancer in 2007) and her partner and co-author Dr John McMahon (himself a recovering alcoholic who gave up drinking in 1984 after a serious health scare) explain how you can pinpoint when a partner, friend or family member’s drinking is becoming a serious problem . . . and how you can tackle it.
Lewis and McMahon say there’s a very simple test to see if you need help. If you’re reading this, hoping the person you’re concerned about doesn’t catch you; if you’ve ever typed ‘Is my partner/friend an alcoholic’ into a search engine; if you can’t trust the person you care about to turn up to anything on time and sober, it’s likely alcohol is starting to take a hold.
For convenience, we’ll stick with calling the person you might be concerned about ‘he’ — but ‘he’ could be anyone. Women are catching men up in the alcohol dependency stakes.
You may be worried that you’re over-reacting. As ‘he’ no doubt keeps pointing out, there are times when he can drink and not get drunk. But you’re always on tenterhooks waiting for the next time he’s had one too many.
According to standard textbooks, someone can be categorised as an alcohol abuser if, in the past 12 months, one or more of the following has occurred:
* His recurrent alcohol use has resulted in failure to fulfil major obligations at work, school or home.
* The person has been drunk in physically hazardous situations, such as driving.
* There’s been alcohol-related trouble with the law.
* He’s continued his alcohol use despite recurrent social or personal problems (for example, physical fights).
His problem with alcohol is likely to be spiralling into alcohol dependence if three or more of the following criteria have been met in the past 12 months:
* There’s a need for increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication.
* The person drinking experiences withdrawal symptoms.
* Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
* There are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
* A great deal of time is spent in obtaining alcohol, using alcohol or recovering from its effects.
* Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
* Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol (for example, drinking despite having a stomach ulcer that has been made worse by alcohol).
So if the person you care about does fit these criteria, what can you do?
Well, remember the last conversation you had about the issue. It probably started because he was drunk again and you had suggested that he might have a problem.
He immediately became hurt and defensive, and denied any problem. He stormed off to nurse his wounded pride and you were left frustrated.
Lewis and McMahon devised their Bottled Up approach as a result of years of experience on both sides of alcohol abuse. It suggests that a gentle, positive attitude is always going to work better than bullying or browbeating.
You may feel like shouting, crying, pleading, pouring the booze down the sink — even threatening to walk out. But if you want your circumstances to change for the better (and Lewis and McMahon insist they can), it is time to learn some new behaviours and go against all your instincts.