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Addiction to Alcohol/Help for Periodic Drinker

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Question
Hi,

My husband is a periodic/binge drinker.  He can go months or even a year without drinking, and then he'll decide to pick up a drink at a social event and it always ends badly.  He just can't drink without getting into trouble.

He recently tried an AA-type meeting, but had trouble relating because everyone there fights the battle daily.  He doesn't have that level of a problem, but still wants to do something to ensure he doesn't drink.  What is the most effective treatment in this situation?

Thanks.

Answer
Hi Mercedes,

What seems to happen here is that your husband responds to the opportunity to drink with drinking too much.  It's not difficult for him to justify this, as he does not have what we call alcohol dependence.

I assume the bad ending is some sort of conflict with you, or others.  

There's no question alcohol changes the tone of social events, and people end up saying and doing things they did not intend or expect.  Many will drink to a "blackout" level, and not remember what they did when drunk.  Many extreme situations occur in blackouts.

Your husband, like many others, likes alcohol at social events for its "social lubrication" properties.  People will tend to relax and mix with others more effectively, in their view, after a couple drinks.  

I don't think he realizes how much his temperament will change when he's under the influence.  

I would say your husband is bordering on some manner of psychological dependence on alcohol.  I say that because 1) he cannot successfully make the decision to not drink in social settings (knowing what will happen if he does) and 2) the quantity he drinks affects his reasoning, leading him toward conflicts with others, and 3) he doesn't seem to be able to limit his use to one or two drinks.

If he doesn't think he has a problem with alcohol, AA will not work for him.  If the consequences of his drinking increase, as sometimes is the case, he will be forced to take a more formal approach to addressing the problem.  For now, though, he may not see the need.

There is nothing that can ensure he doesn't drink in social settings.  He will be "triggered" by seeing alcohol at these events, and usually give in to the urge.  

I would say that if you can communicate clearly what you have seen are the dangers for him drinking socially, you can assist him on the spot in these settings.  See if you can agree that you will advise him not to drink, at those times, especially if you've set the ground rules reflecting his agreed on and accepted no-drink policy.  He might benefit from some conversations with an alcohol and drug counselor.

I hope this is useful.

Thank you for your question,
Peter  

Addiction to Alcohol

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Peter L.

Expertise

Any questions regarding addictive behavior, withdrawal symptoms, selecting treatment options, relapse prevention, defining abuse vs. dependence, self-help groups, denial and resistance, building motivation, physical health effects of alcohol, substitution of other addictive substances; holistic approaches to addiction recovery.

Experience

I have been a counselor, educator, and supervisor in the addiction field for 28 years. I hold alcohol and drug counselor certification and licenses in three states. I have experience with adolescents and adults, ranging from those who are experimental/casual users of alcohol to those with very progressed addictive disorders.

Education/Credentials
Masters Degree - Behavioral Science CADAC, LADC, LADC1

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