Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Belly Up to the Bar, Boys!

Is someone who stays out until four in the morning drinking an alcoholic? Anon.

I assume you're either talking about yourself or a gay friend of yours, as all sorts of people enjoy drinking until the wee hours. And no, it doesn't automatically mean that someone is an alcoholic just because they close the bar on occasion, especially on weekends and special occasions. Even being a heavy drinker doesn't necessarily mean that someone is addicted to alcohol, which is basically what being an alcoholic means. The question is: how often does a person party? If a person is getting legally drunk every or most nights in the week, it is not a healthy situation. In excess, alcohol is essentially a poison.

Let's face it -- some people like to party, and in the bar scene, alcohol is part of the equation. Staying out late [unless you're constantly late for work and get fired] isn't a problem. The problem is exactly how much alcohol a person is consuming, and how it affects their behavior. In my opinion, a person doesn't have to be an alcoholic to have a "drinking problem" if he: a.) gets arrested on a fairly regular basis whenever he gets drunk; b.) turns hostile and is always getting thrown out of bars when he's drunk; c.) just can't handle his liquor and never knows when to stop; d.) drinks and drives; e.) mixes alcohol with illegal and or prescription drugs for a very bad combination and reaction, and f.) indulges in seriously unsafe sex due to alcohol consumption. [It also has to be said that many alcoholics are not obviously so. That is, they don't go out to bars and come home shit-faced. They can be closet, secretive drinkers. And there are different stages to alcoholism.]

Then there's the question of black outs. If a person never remembers how they got home or who they talked to [or had sex with!!!], they are clearly drinking too much.

I suggest that anyone who thinks they may be over-indulging try this test. Go out one night and make up your mind not to get so wasted that you won't remember the entire evening [not that you have to remember every single detail or half-witticism]. You may get a buzz, feel a little light-headed and happy, but basically -- stay in control. If it's absolutely impossible for you to do this, even if you try it more than once, there may be some reason for concern.

Some people drink too much not because they're alcoholic but because they are going through a particularly difficult period, and they use alcohol to wipe away the stress and temporarily forget what ails them. Of course, this can sometimes lead to additional problems.

But bar-hopping, drinking [moderately], and staying out late isn't of itself a problem unless the other factors I mentioned above are present.

Also remember that some people are unapologetic drinkers, and as long as they're not consuming volumes of alcohol every day, it isn't necessarily a problem. When it was recently said that having more than three drinks at a time was considered a binge, it engendered laughter in many quarters. As one fellow put it: "Three drinks? Hell, I'm just getting started!"

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