Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, but anyone whose life is negatively affected by alcohol on a consistent basis is considered to have an alcohol use disorder. Any addiction has two basic qualities. 1) You often use it more than you would like to use. 2) You continue to use despite negative consequences.
People use drugs or alcohol to escape, relax, or to reward themselves. But over time, drugs and alcohol make you believe that you can’t cope without them, or that you can’t enjoy life without using. People usually think of the physical and economic consequences of addiction. “I don’t have a serious addiction because my health is fine, and I haven’t lost my job.” But those are very late stage consequences. The greatest damage is to your self-esteem.
Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol’s effects, even after drinking smaller amounts. Women are as likely as men to recover from alcohol dependence, but women may have more difficulty gaining access to treatment
Historically, women have tended to feel a greater sense of shame about drinking and getting drunk than men, but it appears that among younger women, this stigma may be fading. While men are still more likely to drink—and to binge—women are drinking more, and more often, than they did in the past
There is a specific class of alcoholism known as high-functioning alcoholism. People who are high-functioning alcoholics are capable of keeping their alcoholism from interfering in their professional and personal lives. A New York Times article estimated that as many as half of all alcoholics are high-functioning alcoholics. Professional like lawyers, doctors, high performing corporate managers etc make up a large portion of these individuals. High-functioning alcoholics rarely recognize they have a problem until they face severe alcohol-related consequences. The danger of high-functioning alcoholism is that it can continue for years without a person ever recognizing they have a problem.
Taking into consideration above mentioned facts and special factors associated with alcohol addiction, I would like to share one case vignette.
Aradhana Negi , comes from a very affluent class , with schooling from India’s best boarding schools and college education from ivy league colleges . Her father was a very successful civil servant and lived in Europe and the Americas for the most of his career. Aradhana was a very sensitive girl, from her very young days- says her father. Whenever they used to move from one city to another, she was the first one to make new friends. However she used to always complain her father about the instability in their life. She used to miss her friends and family from the previous cities, and used to try hard to be in touch with them.
As she grew into a fine young lady, she was the social butterfly in all the social gatherings, with her beauty and wit by her side. She trained to become a fashion designer and started her fashion lines and boutique soon. She was quite an independent woman. Soon she was becoming the talk of the town among the fashionesta circle.
She used to be invited to parties like on a daily basis. Initially she did not drink at all, but started drinking her occasional beer and wine once in a while just to not sound very prude . However she never used to enjoy late night parties and would excuse her from the hosts and move back home to her solitude, her books and the ghazals. Those days she met a musician, in one of the parties. She could sense, that he was the one for her. She will feel extra coy around him and would start blushing for no reason. She fell in love with him in no time. When her father asked her, how sure she was about him, she told “I know he is my soul mate and nothing else matters”.
They got married in the most extravagant and grandeur marriage of their city. Life was like a cake walk; everything seemed to be just perfect. She will be still called to those parties and she will have a drink or two, never more, but it was just that, she used to be invited to one party or another on most days of the week. After marriage, the real struggle began, her husband’s quirky artistic ways and temperament pissed her to no end. She loved him, a lot but his distant ways broke her heart completely. She would often come back home to an empty house. She never used to get drunk in any of the parties, but now she will occasionally open her own bottle of beer, when loneliness hit hard. Soon it became a pattern. Often she will pick fight with her husband and would say things to him, when drinking, which she would never say otherwise. Quarrels became regular, she forgot when was the last time they spent one evening without arguing with each other. Romance dwindled, sex became ceremonial and everything else followed later. He cheated her first, with a young student of him, she cheated him soon after with a dashing divorcee businessman, who would visit her boutique often. Marriage was symbolic only. Her drinking became an issue, however she still never got really drunk, but there was always a bottle of a pint with her in the evening, when she was lost in her creative perusal or just being with herself. They filed for a divorce and it came without much fuss. She found what real loneliness felt like after that. Days would turn into night and night would give way to days and there would be no one, just no one to talk to. She poured all her energy into work and on such a work related tour, she met a middle aged man, who was living a bachelor life and maturity seemed to have missed him by yards. She liked his manly looks but boyish charm. She fell in love again. This man adored her and admired her for her professional success. She wanted to get married, but he chose to remain single. At last they decided to live together. She sold her business, he sold his business and with all the money, they bought a big farm in the mountains. They built a house together, a beautiful one and started doing organic farming. Life was quiet, life was smooth. Everything seemed to be going just perfect once again except her drinking, which will never leave her, wherever she went. Her partner will often ask her to just leave the bottle aside , but she would often find it as intrusive , as she was never drunk and was absolutely sober .She had hardly any social life , but she would never mind . Rather she would wait for the days when her partner would leave the house to go to the town for some work or another. As on those days, she could drink in peace. She would absolutely love those nights, alone, with a bottle in her hand and book to give her company. Later she would feel guilty and would throwaway the bottles before her partner comes. Drinking seemed to be the only thing that would give her any happiness she used to hate being called to any social event, as that would make her uncomfortable, and she would rush home, so that she could drink in solitude. She had started writing a memoir and would find it difficult to put words on paper without her favorite brew. If her partner would speak about her drinking, she would become defensive and often irritable. So many times she would drive her car herself to the nearby market after drinking a bottle or two , to bring her supplies, lest it gets over.
However in spite of all this nobody could guess there is anything wrong .she was a perfect cook, managed the house like a pro, was respected socially, did all that is required for the organic farm and her memoir was about to finish , with a publisher waiting by her door.
Last year, her father retired from his job, and shifted to their parental house, which was not far from her settlement either. She was invited by them to come and spend some days. She did not want her father to know about her drinking habits and decided not to drink at all, when she is with him. After a day going without alcohol, next day she felt, so edgy, she could hardly sleep and was shaking with anxiety. Next day she could not control herself and sneaked from the house to bring her favorite beer, she felt so embarrassed doing it , as it was a small town and everybody knew her family very well. However, she felt helpless and helped herself to one carton of beer in just a few hours. Next day by afternoon , she started having shakiness all over her body, she was feeling very anxious, she tried to control her symptoms and locked herself in her room without any dinner , after some time she felt sleepy but the moment she closed her eyes, she started having the most weird dreams, she woke up in panic, and was sweating profusely , she felt someone is calling her name from outside, she was so scared, but she did not want to disturb anyone in the house , this continued almost the whole night, in the wee hours she felt sleepy , and does not remember anything till 2 days later when she gained her senses in a hospital bed. Her father told the treating doctor, that they heard loud bang and woke up startled, later they realized some screeching sound coming from her room, luckily the door was open and they rushed inside, to find her convulsing. They immediately called an ambulance; on the way to the hospital she had many such episodes of fits. In the hospital her convulsions stopped after the initial treatment, but she behaved in a confused manner, would not recognize any one, would try to remove her cloths, shout, and cry and bang her head. This continued for 2 days , before finally after the treatment she came into her complete senses. For her it was like a long nightmare. The doctor briefed her and told her, it’s her favorite friend (beer) that has to be blamed for this and diagnosed her with Alcohol Dependence Syndrome. She was put on medications and extensive sessions of psychotherapies. It has been 6 month since then now. she has lapsed a few times and drank , but with the support of her father , partner and the treating team , now she is way better and realizes , how happy and contented she feels now , often repenting the years she lost to this so called “party drink”
(Disclaimer: To hide the identity, the names have been changed)