Monday, 16 March 2009

My Name is Anna and I'm an Alcoholic

When I first joined LawCare, I did a test to find out whether I was an alcoholic. We had several variations of these in various heaps of paper round the office, and I thought it would be an interesting exercise. And it was. According to the results of the questionnaire, I can stand up in a forlorn group of people in a dingy church hall somewhere and declare “My name is Anna, and I’m an alcoholic.”

It’s quite a challenge, being able to do that. Especially when I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in about ten years. (Apart from one accidental occasion at a function where someone had ruined what I took to be perfectly good orange juice by adding champagne to it. Bleaugh!) Before that I had the occasional rum and coke (Essex girl, you understand) and sometimes a Baileys or an Irish coffee after a good curry. All told, my intake was probably two units a week. And ten years ago I gave up alcohol altogether for religious, moral and professional reasons. So why did this test show me to be an alcoholic?

The first question was “Do other people consider the amount of alcohol you drink to be normal?” Naturally I answered No. Most people think it is decidedly abnormal not to drink any alcohol at all. Another question was “Have you ever attended a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous?” When I first began working with alcoholics I attended an open meeting for the purposes of better understanding the programme. My “Yes” to that question, added to the “No” to the first question, netted me sufficient points to score in the range which indicated I had a drink problem.

But I’m not the only person who hasn’t touched a drop in years, and yet can still declare “My name is ____, and I’m an alcoholic.” Many people who have had an alcohol problem in the past but have overcome it will still refer to themselves as alcoholic. They might have been sober for 30 years, but they will still attend the occasional AA meeting and make that statement. Neither will they qualify it by saying that they have “recovered”. Instead, they “are recovering.” These people recognise that alcoholism, like diabetes, is lifelong and incurable and their “insulin” is never to drink alcohol again.

At LawCare we’ve mostly given up trying to define who is and isn’t alcoholic by means of complex questionnaires. Instead we prefer to speak of people who have “a drink problem” and that’s quite easy to define. If drinking is causing problems for you, and yet you continue to drink alcohol, you have a drink problem. Or, if you have a problem controlling your drinking, you have a drink problem. And if you have a drink problem, the first thing you need to do is to admit it. Try it now. “My name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic”. And try it on the phone to LawCare.

LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
0800 279 6869 (Solicitors, Advocates and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man)
0800 018 4299 (Barristers, Barristers Clerks and Judges in England and Wales)
1800 991801 (Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland)

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