Depressed or Drunk?

Are you sure that you are an alcoholic?

This is a question that was asked of me on more than one occasion as I began to admit what really going on in my life. In retrospect, I think it was a hard concept to grasp because I was wildly secretive about my drinking as an adult and at the same time it caused many of my friends to look at their own drinking.

It was much easier for those in my life to see unhappiness, discontentment and issues with a hot temper. All of these were identifiable traits were often blamed on personal deficiencies and wiring, as well as my history of depression. Harder still was to imagine your youth pastor, friend, family member or drinking buddy as someone whose life was so out of control that they were the taking drastic steps of admitting that at 31 they had let king alcohol rule their life.

Sure there were those that had seen me drunk. Just as any one of my college roommates can testify, they have seen ugly. But that is normal college behavior, right? What happened in my life was the pattern was set from the first drink. There was a physical and mental obsession with oblivion that was sparked at 19. And for the next 12 years, whether I was drinking or not, my mind was consumed by the desire to catch the high.

When I first got to the rooms of recovery, I spent many of the early days coming to terms with the reality of my diagnosis. For 5 years, I had come to embrace mental illness and depression. I was depressed – and one quick side note – alcohol is a horrific attempt at medicating depression. Alcohol in itself is a depressant. For years, I poured fuel on the fire of my pain. In addition to suffering from depression, I was an alcoholic. I fought with that label for years. Even when I got to the program, I tried to find ways to avoid it. And then I started reading and listening. When I read these words, it was like someone wrote them about my drinking. I thank God everyday for the people who went before me on this path and bravely put into writing these words so that I could know I was not alone.

Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums – we could increase the list ad infinitum.

We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.

Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time.

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous page 32

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