Tag Archives: definitions

Binge drinker, or alcoholic?

2 Jul

6:46 pm

I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately that are asking that same pesky question: Am I really an alcoholic?

I’ve written about it here, and there. And, like a lot of things, my idea of what the answer to that question is has changed over the course of getting sober. One thing, however, has remained consistent in my mind: It doesn’t matter. If you were running around town with a bleeding abscess on your leg, would you spend your last hours trying to figure out what it is, or would you stop running around and bandage it up?

If I only binge drink, am I truly an alcoholic?, I used to ask myself. I know plenty of binge drinkers, and I’m sure you do, too. Not all binge drinkers are the same, though. I was a binge drinker who blacked out and did and said crazy-belligerent things. Did I ever drink more than two bottles of wine? No. I’d drink a full bottle, and was blacked out either before or no later than the end of the second. Might someone consider me a “binge drinker” but not a “full-blown alcoholic?” Probably.

I remember feeling like a fraud at AA, when I’d leave meetings after conversations with men who drank like, WAY MORE than I did (one guy said he could drink 40-something shots and still be standing). However, whether or not I binged, sipped, skipped days, never drank before or after this, that, and the other–I used wine. I drank it compulsively (with a powerful, distracting psychological “need”), and it turned me into a crazy bitch with hangovers from the veritable Pit of Satan.

It was only after I left the rooms, after I cleared out the noise–the steps, the labels, the comparisons–that I was able to see a glaring fact: I drank alcoholically. Maybe I was a binge drinker, or an alcoholic, no matter. I drank alcoholically. Maybe I’ve simply been a lightweight my whole life? Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, I was drinking to blackout almost every night, and I needed to make a change.

That’s not to say that binge drinking isn’t a common thing. Most–or at least, many–people simply GET TO THE POINT QUICKER, as the comments in this story at Jezebel suggest. They realize that the tradeoff for getting buzzed simply gets to be too much, unbearable, and/or unmanageable. How is that different for any of “us?” We’re not that different from others, actually. We use booze to fix shit, just like them. We bounce around finding the best ways to not have hangovers, or to avoid debilitating ones after we turn 30. The difference seems to be, we don’t stop using booze even when the tradeoff gets to be too much.

I am a binge drinker and therefore, I binge drink. I am an alcoholic, and therefore… What? The closest I’ve come is: and, therefore, I DRINK ALCOHOLICALLY. Each and every one of us, however, has to define exactly what *drinking alcoholically* means. For me, it means that I drink to fix, to numb, to avoid. To excite, sure, but it’s become more of a psychological crutch than a way to get high. At some point, the fact that I was using wine instead of food, or whatever, stopped being as important as my growing need to start living better, stronger, freer.

Here’s the thing, though: at 100-some days, and, minus a few slips, over a year of sobriety; I no longer give a shit to define “what I am.” Who cares? Drinking makes me feel “good” for about an hour, and then it makes me feel tired, fat, unhealthy, hungover, remorseful, etc. Drinking almost always leads to me blacking out, which is not uncommon, but which is cause for concern for anyone, whether a once-in-a-while drinker, binge drinker, or “alcoholic.”

I don’t have any apologies left, which is why when I’m around people who are drinking, I don’t care who’s got questions. I’ve got answers, though. Why don’t I drink? I don’t want to feel like ass the next day. I can’t drink AND go running. I literally don’t have the time. Why should I consider these excuses rather than simply pretty good answers? And, should I turn it around and ask, Why are you drinking? It’d be interesting to sit back and watch most people find it difficult to avoid the obvious: we’ve all been socially indoctrinated with the idea that it’s not only encouraged, but advised to drink to fix, to celebrate, to numb, to have “fun.”

I think what I’m saying is, it just doesn’t matter what you “are.” You don’t have to “be an alcoholic” to stop drinking alcoholically, or, to stop drinking, period.

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