As an alcoholic I find myself feeling that I abused alcohol when I first started drinking and I also abused it in the final few years of my drinking life. I attended college in Arizona and was a fraternity member which in the early sixties drinking was one of the requirements for membership. I knew no fraternity brothers who did not drink, but to be sure, some drank more than others. I won many of the chug-a -lug contests and was proud of my drinking ability. After college I continued drinking but in retrospect I don’t remember any drinking contests or games related to my drinking. I just drank alcohol and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the way I felt when I drank and I enjoyed the people with whom I associated when I was drinking. This went on for over forty years.
I never felt for at least thirty of the ensuing years after I got out of college that I was an alcoholic; in fact I don’t even remember hearing the word “alcoholic” until the late eighties. I sure that the word was used around me, but it meant nothing to me. It was not until the nineties that the words alcoholic and alcoholism entered my life. I got sober in late 1996 and began going to Alcoholics Anonymous in early 1997. The reason I am going through this history of my drinking is just to let my reader realize how and when I began to form my opinions about alcohol and the abuse of it. Until I got sober in 1996 I never had any opinions about alcohol and the reasons that we drank and how we drank. The one thing that I was sure of from my first AA meeting was that I had picked up the drink and that no one had forced or convinced me to drink alcohol. I knew that It was my choice and that the only way that I would be able to quit was to not drink. Many of the people that I met in AA were a great support. I had stopped drinking before I attended AA and listening to the people in AA helped to solidify my desire to stay that way.
All of the above information makes me feel that there is no difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. They both involve drinking and both of them involve uncontrolled drinking. The decision is made by the drinker. In the early years of the professional drinker, it seems that fun and partying are the primary concerns and in the later years maintaining is the priority. As we progress in our use of alcohol we all seem to lose control. Not only control of how much we drink but also how we act when drinking. Neither alcohol abuse or alcoholism should be considered a disease. They are both choices of the individual. No one forced me to drink alcohol. I made that decision each day that I awakened with a hangover. I could fix the hangover by starting drinking again or I could suffer through it and not drink until the evening. That was my decision and my decision only. To consider alcohol abuse or alcoholism diseases is nothing more than enabling. The line must be drawn by the individual drinker. I am going to control my drinking or not.
I have not drank for many years and I honestly believe that I could have one drink and then stop. But why? The question of whether an ex-drinker can drink again is a moot point. Why bother? So you see, the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is also a moot point to me. To me as an “alcoholic” drinking is drinking is drinking and when you step over that imaginary line of going too far with your drinking, well then you either stop or you don’t. Most of us don’t and we go on to really punish ourselves until we reach that point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Then WE make or don’t make the choice to stop……….or we die.