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|Written by Miss Smartypants|
|Monday, 12 July 2010 06:56|
Dear Miss Smartypants,
How can you tell if someone has a drinking problem? I've been friends with this guy since college. He drank a lot then, but I didn't think much of it. It was college, we all did. Okay, "drank a lot" isn't exactly right. He doesn't drink a lot now. Most of the time he doesn't drink at all. If it's just a few people hanging out, no matter where, he's fine. Maybe, maybe one or two drinks, but nothing out of control. But if we go to a party or get together with a big group (maybe 10?), he gets drunk. Really, really drunk. This happens once, maybe twice a month, so I never think of him as an alcoholic. It's not like I go over there and find him dead drunk in the middle of the day. But it does happen every time. Is this something to worry about? Does he need an intervention?
Problem drinking comes in many forms, and it's often as much why you drink as how much or how frequently you drink. Your friend only drinks a lot sometimes. We've all had more to drink than we should from time to time. But you say that he's established a pattern: every time you get together in a larger social setting, he over-drinks. If I had to guess (and I do), your friend is using alcohol to self-medicate some kind of social anxiety disorder. It's not time just yet for an intervention, though. Sit him down one and one and ask questions. That's right. Don't tell him what you think he's doing or what I think he's doing. Start with something simply like how many drinks did he have last night anyway? Let him do the talking, and see how he reacts when you ask him why he thinks he drinks so much when you guys go out. A lot of people do things, form habits, without realizing just what they are doing. Other people consciously do what your friend is doing to "take the edge off." Whatever information you get out of this conversation, don't expect it to be a one-and-done deal. He might come right out and confess that he's got a drinking problem, but he might also feel completely blindsided by your line of inquiry. Be gentle and kind. All you need to do is plant the seed. Make him think twice about that second (or third or fourth or fifth) drink.
Of course, if this drinking extends beyond once or twice monthly excursions in which he presents no danger to himself or others and as a result of which he does not drive drunk, you may need to move more quickly. Confront him with another caring friend, or, yes, move up to a full-on intervention. Again, this might take more than one try, so don't give up. With this particular issue, he might not hit rock bottom in the same way that another alcoholic would. As such, you have to approach things differently.
Best of luck,