Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's in a name? Alcoholic, dipsomaniac, boozehound, alcy, drunk, wino, trashbag...

Hello, my name is Vanessa and I'm a recovering alcoholic.


Hello, my name is Vanessa and I'm a recovering dipsomaniac.

International dipsomaniac: Beer in Berlin, Vienna, New York City, Dublin, Copenhagen.

I'm not sure which one fits.

I think the difference between an alcoholic and dipsomaniac is slim:

An alcoholic, or someone suffering alcohol dependence syndrome, has a physical dependence on booze. They must drink continually otherwise they start suffering alcoholic withdrawal syndrome if they quit drinking, or even just go an extended period of time between drinks. Withdrawing is like a hangover, but 100 times worse, and the only way to avoid it is to start drinking again.

Alcoholics feel powerless over their dependence to booze. Alcoholics constantly crave alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease that is suffered.

I've been to AA meetings. The word powerless is used a lot there. When I was an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital for drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, depression and anxiety just before Noo was conceived we were made to go to six Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week. I found them to be very sad but pretty boring. Listening to people get up and tell their story of despair was harrowing, but it got repetitive which it is kind of meant to be I think. I understood why retelling their story over and over helped these people stay clean, but I always felt my story didn't really match up. I felt like an impostor, like I didn't deserve to be there.

A dipsomaniac is basically a binge drinker. Someone who doesn't need a drink first thing in the morning but they like to get wasted every weekend or they only drink heavily in the evening but can take a few days off here and there if they want to. Dipsos function: get up in the morning, go to work, socialise, have families. You know what I mean, they drink more than the average person but they seem normal. Ben at Year of Living Sober describes dipsomania perfectly over at his blog.

I definitely think I am a recovering dipsomaniac and not an alcoholic. I never had a physical dependence on alcohol. Even the doctors in rehab said that. But I probably had an emotional addiction to alcohol up until I first gave it up in mid 2007.

Is being a dipsomaniac any less of a problem than being a full blown alcoholic? 

The Australian Guidelines For Drinking Alcohol state that both men and women should have no more than two standard drinks a day and no more than four standard drinks on one occasion. Four. That's not that many for a Friday night out with the girls from work or at your best mate's wedding. But that is what is recommended to keep safe from any harm from alcohol.

By saying I believe I'm a recovering dipsomaniac rather than an alcoholic I'm not saying I didn't have a problem. I definitely had a problem. A serious drinking problem. When I drank booze I pretty much always drank to get drunk. But I could go days and even weeks at a time without drinking. Occasionally I could have one beer or a glass of wine and leave it at that but mostly I didn't want to. I loved getting hammered. I loved partying and getting high. I loved the escape and the adventure a night on the tiles would bring.

After 12 years of heavy drinking I had a pretty large capacity to hold a lot of liquor and I was proud of it. I never vomited, passed out or blacked out. I did do things I wished I hadn't. I behaved inappropriately at work functions. I spent more money on alcohol than anyone really should. I woke up with bad hangovers, anxiety and often felt depressed about my drinking. I felt guilty about the amount and frequency that I drank. I would often get sick and had more sick days than anyone should.

In the final few years of drinking I was out of control. I was living in London where drinking is practically a national sport. You can find a busy pub and people to drink with Monday through Sunday. In an English pub a bottle of wine only contains three large glasses, but a 250 ml glass of plonk is almost three standard drinks here.

In London I had an office job in financial services during the boom before the Global Financial Crisis hit. At work functions Verve Clicquot and Taittinger were standard. We had a drinks trolley that came around on Friday afternoons at 4pm with beer, wine and bubbly. It was standard practice to knock back a stack of free booze before hitting the bars situated conveniently on the ground floor of the same building.

Now I'm not blaming the city I lived in or the company I worked at for my drinking problem. But the culture within which I lived and worked made it very difficult to quit. Couple that with some serious undiagnosed mental health issues, followed by a violent assault and boom! The perfect cocktail mix to create an out of control dipsomaniac.

Fast forward five and a half years since I left London and I'm in a totally different world. I am the most stable I've ever been and I have a beautiful son. I'm happy, content and working for myself. Could I now have a glass of wine and leave it at one? Or would I be powerless to stop?  My psychologist thinks, given how well I am today, I could drink just one or two glasses of wine or beer. But I just don't want to drink.

I love being sober.

I don't crave alcohol and I don't really miss it. Except maybe on a hot summer's day when I see people drinking an ice cold beer out the front of the pub down the street. This apartment that I share with my parents is full of beer, wine and spirits but I'm never tempted to have some. I don't even think about it - except when dad's beer takes up space in the fridge where my Diet Coke should be!

For now I think I'll leave it at that.

Alcoholic or dipsomaniac?

How about non-drinker, coffee addict, Diet Coke lover, teetotaler?

I'll take one of those labels instead.

Are you a big drinker? Or can you take or leave it? Have you considered giving up for a while to see what it feels like to have a break?

Maybe 28 days alcohol free is just the tonic for you.

As an official blogger I'm proud to support febfast in 2013, a challenge and a tonic for all drinkers, to see if you can take a break from alcohol for 28 days this February.

After the celebrations of Christmas, summer holidays and the Australia Day long weekend coming up, febfast is a great opportunity for people to take stock and put a focus on health in the New Year while at the same time raising some money for a worthy cause.

febfast is aiming to raise $1m to help vulnerable families and teenagers tackle serious alcohol and drug issues. Let’s band together and make a change—not only in our own lives and for our own health—but also for those who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Check out the febfast website here.


Disclaimer: I am working with febfast as an official blogger. I am not receiving any payment for any posts I might publish about febfast. I am participating because addiction is an issue I deal with every day and my sobriety is something I love and encourage any person to give it a go, even for just 28 days. 


Alicia O'Brien said...

It's a fantastic cause for you to get involved with. I can say, after giving up cigs and being a tea toteller since I fell pregnant with my last, that I have been worried about replacing cigs for grog in the evenings. Thanks for making me aware of the 'dipsomaniac', never heard of that one before. Although I have never been to a AA meeting, I can relate to some of what you talk about here. Sadly I know of some friends that have been taken by alcohol and are regular members. I wish things were different for them.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hi Alicia. My drinking definitely ramped up when I tried to give up ciggies when I first moved to London. Whenever I craved a fag at night I'd have a glass of wine instead. Bad news. Now my addictions are shopping and sugar. This year I'm going to try to control those two and find myself a healthy habit to get into. Thanks for stopping by.

Kathryn OHalloran said...

It really shocks me how hard it is for people to do these quit drinking months. I mean people who'd considered themselves light drinkers, then they are on facebook for the whole month freaking out about not being able to have a glass of wine because they can't relax after work. I'd consider if you can't go for a night without a drink (even if it is only one glass) then you have a problem - but I've really got people's backs up saying that!

I'm a heavy drinker but I've also never needed to drink. I can go months without even thinking about it. I kinda don't get the point of drinking at home either. NYE we were going to get some bubbly but ended up with virgin mojitos instead. I'd love to be able to drink at a slower pace when I go out but it's so infrequently anyway.

The Babbling Bandit said...

I think that's the issue, a lot of people think if they don't wake up with DTs and a desperate need for alcohol then they don't have a problem. I think anyone who needs to drink more than a couple every night, or nearly every night and then binges on the weekend really can benefit from the challenge of something like febfast. If they struggle to make it through the month then maybe a closer look at their habits and how they affect their lives needs to be had. Let's face it, overdoing it is causing damage to our health, both mentally and physically no matter how much control we think we have. Thanks for dropping by!

Good Golly Miss Holly! said...

I struggle with emotional dependence to food, after an emotional dependence on marijuana when I was younger. I don't feel physical cravings, but the psychological need is completely and utterly overwhelming. You are doing a good thing by speaking about this kind of stuff openly, there should be no stigma xx

Deborah Cook said...

I'd never heard of a dipsomaniac either!

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