Like pretty much every mother I know – heck, like pretty much every adult I know – I quite often like to partake of a nice cocktail, glass of wine, or beer at the end of a hard day’s work. It’s always seemed like a fairly common and acceptable thing to do, and so I’ve never given that behavior much serious thought, to be perfectly honest.
Well, not until now, at least.
You see, my dear friend (and, full disclosure, fellow Babble writer) Monica of The Girl Who wrote a post the other day about her own drinking that I’ve been turning over and over in my mind ever since. Her words, and those of her commenters, forced me to begin reevaluating my own behavior and use of alcohol. Silly as it sounds, I went so far as to peek at some Symptoms of Alcoholism online, trying to secure some sort of objective and unbiased confirmation that I am, indeed, in the clear relative to booze.
Signs of alcohol abuse
You have problems at work or school because of your drinking, such as being late or not going at all.
You drink in risky situations, such as before or while driving a car.
After drinking, you can’t remember what happened while you were drinking (blackouts).
You have legal problems because of your drinking, such as being arrested for harming someone or driving while drunk (intoxicated).
You get hurt or you hurt someone else when you are drinking.
You keep drinking even though you have health problems that are caused or made worse by alcohol use, such as liver disease (cirrhosis).
Your friends or family members are worried about your drinking.
Signs of alcohol dependence or addiction
You cannot quit drinking or control how much you drink.
You need to drink more to get the same effect.
You have withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These include feeling sick to your stomach, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
You spend a lot of time drinking and recovering.
You have given up other activities so you can drink.
You keep drinking even though it harms your relationships and causes health problems.
Other signs include:
You drink in the morning, are often drunk for long periods of time, or drink alone.
You change what you drink, such as switching from beer to wine because you think that doing this will help you drink less or keep you from getting drunk.
You feel guilty after drinking.
You make excuses for your drinking or do things to hide your drinking, such as buying alcohol at different stores.
You worry that you won’t get enough alcohol for an evening or weekend.
You have physical signs of alcohol dependence, such as weight loss, a sore or upset stomach (gastritis), or redness of the nose and cheeks.
[Source: Web MD]
I guess I should feel reassured that none of these symptoms ring a bell for me or mirror my own experience. And to a degree I am. But then again, these signs exist at the extreme end of a continuum, right? They exist at the dark, shadowy end where rehab and 12 step programs live. And so it’s relatively easy to look at that list and dismiss it as irrelevant to you and your own behavior, when you read it. But is it?
A ‘couple’ of glasses of wine or beer after work (‘couple’ of course meaning two, or, you know, FIVE). A few cocktails, maybe. A bloody mary or mimosa or two on a Sunday morning. Where precisely is the line drawn between casual, social drinking and something resembling a problem? Is there a line? Because correct me if I’m wrong, but using the Alcoholism Signs and Symptoms outlined above, would it not be entirely possible for a person to drink a whole bottle of wine every night and – provided that none of the above-listed symptomology were manifest – actually not have a drinking problem? Because there is no reference anywhere to quantity. No admonition that, say, three or four or even five drinks in an evening may be too many. No, the barometer seems almost wholly centered on results from and behavior relative to drinking. In other words, on how badly is your life and your relationships screwed up as a direct result of drinking? And so if you’re a wholly functional and nondestructive drunk you’re fine, one supposes? Y/N?
I see people going around and around about this, and it seems there really is no definitive answer. That it’s all subjective and in the eyes and judgment of the beholder. For some parents, daily drinking is Standard Operating Procedure, while for others drinking is wholly unacceptable in any amount when kids are around. In her post, Monica wrote, “Drinking and parenting go hand-in-hand in my play book.” To many parents ears, that just sounds like honest straight talk. To others, it likely sounds like irresponsible – and possibly dangerous – behavior. What does it sound like to you? How much is too much, in your opinion? Where do you draw the line?
Read more from Tracey Gaughran-Perez at her personal blog Sweetney.com