prescriptions for the soul

Friday, November 11, 2005

My Drink, Drank, Drunk Boyfriend

Dear George:

I have been seeing a terrific guy for five months now. He's perfect in many ways, except he drinks too much. He's a lawyer by day, and after work he's at the bar drinking with friends or clients. He's said he knows that he drinks too much and there have been times when he's sober for a week or two. My friends tell me to leave him because they say he's a drunk. Am I wasting my time thinking he's going to change? I've never told him to get help or I'm gone. I love him and don't want him to feel like he's alone in this battle to stop drinking.

-- Susan, Chicago

Dear Susan:

Would you leave this man if he was diagnosed with diabetes? Probably not. But what if he continues to eat unhealthy foods that threatened his insulin levels and his life?

Alcoholism is also a disease, and one in which your boyfriend may have acquired. Below is the criteria for Alcohol Dependence as listed in the DSM-IV; the bible for psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose different mental health problems.

  1. Alcohol Dependence (3 criteria for over 1 year)
    1. Tolerance (increased drinking to achieve same effect)
    2. Alcohol withdrawal signs or symptoms
    3. Drinking more than intended
    4. Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use
    5. Excessive time related to alcohol (obtaining, hangover)
    6. Impaired social or work activities due to alcohol
    7. Use despite physical or psychological consequences

It's important that your boyfriend be professionally diagnosed as an alcoholic. Then, like diabetes, it's how he manages this disease that determines your future with him. Will he continue to drink and slowly kill himself? Or submit to AA and manage his alcoholism?

Tell him you believe he's an alcoholic and needs help for this disease. Have him call 1-800 Alcohol to find the nearest treatment center or facility. Give him a set time in which he must call the number. If he fails, set another time. If by your third attempt, he doesn't call or seek help, then he's not recognizing his disease. I would then sadly consider leaving him. If he does recognize and manage his disease, your support and love will be very important.

The road to recovery is bumpy and long, but the blessings for the alcoholic and his loved ones are enormous.

--- George

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