We Want to Know: What Is Your Definition of An Alcoholic?

In response to an article on The Huffington Post, “Rush People Who Have 1-2 Drinks to AA?” one person wrote: “I’ve been in recovery for seven years. Zero alcohol intake. I thought complete abstinence was the point. Have I been wrong all this time?”

The author, addiction expert Stanton Peele replied:

“You need to be a critical consumer of information for your own life. But, if your decision to abstain for life was based solely, or largely, on the idea that human beings with problems that qualify them as alcoholics never reduce their drinking – you probably should consider the scientific information that this idea is false.”

Peele was referring to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA) detailed study of 43,000 drinkers nationally , which found that three-quarters of alcoholics recover without treatment, and more than half drink safely.

It seems there’s some discrepancy over the use of the word alcoholic.

I’ve always thought (and many of my friends have fought me on this) that if someone was diagnosed as an alcoholic, the only “cure” or solution was to never drink again. I also felt, based largely on my mother’s experience, that it would be nearly impossible for alcoholics to quit drinking on their own, and that they need some combination of therapy, detox, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

But I missed an important distinction. According to NIAAA, there are two forms of alcohol dependence: time-limited, and recurrent or chronic. As the writers at NIAAA put it, “In most persons affected, alcohol dependence (commonly known as alcoholism) looks less like Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas than it does your party-hardy college roommate or that hard-driving colleague in the next cubicle.”

Your party-hardy college roommate? Most likely, her drinking will ebb and flow as she goes through different ages and stages. Just because someone has a heavy-drinking stage of life does not necessarily mean they are a candidate for AA.

In my opinion, it’s confusing to label time-limited alcohol dependence as alcoholism.  I think that there should be a distinction made between heavy drinkers and alcoholics.

What do you think, readers?

We Want to Know…What Is Your Definition of An Alcoholic? Do you think alcoholics can safely drink again and/or recover without treatment? Should there be a distinction between problem drinkers and alcoholics?

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We Want to Know…What’s Your Favorite Nonalcoholic Drink to Sip at Parties?

I’m always on the lookout for a good nonalcoholic beverage; one that I can sip at a party instead of gulp in one or two slugs. I don’t know how it is for extroverts, but introverts like me can use a good cocktail “comfort object” to clutch as we navigate the crowds.

Seltzer is a good choice, but after I add the cranberry, it becomes gulp-able. Sparkling juices? Too sweet. Gingerale? It disappears too quickly.

What I really crave is a bracing nonalcoholic beverage, one that will simulate a vodka drink, which demands sipping because of its slightly medicinal edge. This is why I was intrigued when I heard about a new beverage, 12 Noon to Midnight, a fizzy, tea-based drink marketed as the “intelligent alternative for every occasion.”

Developed by chefs David Burke and Alfred Portale, 12 Noon to Midnight is created in a base of organic white, green and black teas with a mix of herbs, spice and citrus essence.

I decided to do a taste test, and bought two bottles at my local Mrs. Greens–one original, peachy apricot flavor, which looks a lot like champagne, and one Rouge, a pomegranate and red grape flavor. The bottle is beautiful, which is a plus–frosted glass instead of the usual workaday clear plastic or glass. Why should pretty bottles be reserved for alcoholic beverages? The festive bottle and packaging enhanced its special-occasion feel, and when I opened it, bubbles shot up to the top, just like when you open champagne.

And the taste? Pretty good, especially since there was only a hint of sweetness. I preferred the Rouge, but I liked the original, too. Both taste slightly spicy, almost like nonalcoholic Jagermeister, and demand to be sipped instead of gulped. The calorie content—60 calories per 8 oz. serving—is less than half that of a glass of red wine (which has 150 calories per 8 oz.). So you can avoid the hangover and drink up.

Not ready to give up your buzz? You can always add booze, and make a creative cocktail out of it, but that’s another story.

We want to know…what’s your favorite nonalcoholic drink to sip at parties? Why?

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We Want to Know: Have You Ever Been Cornered By a Drunken Relative (Or Anyone Else) Over the Holidays?

Recently, New York magazine posed the question to comedian Jim Carrey, “Any relatives you dread seeing over the holidays?” His answer seemed tailor-made to spark discussion here on Drinking Diaries:

Well, my grandfather was a major drunk. And my grandmother, too! It was hilarious on a certain level, but then they would corner my parents and make them feel like crap for about three hours, and when my father was red-faced and ready to leave, I would start doing impressions of them. And that’s how I turned to comedy, as relief.

We want to know: Have you ever been cornered by a drunken relative (or anyone else) over the holidays? Have you witnessed another family member or friend being cornered? How have you coped?

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We Want to Know: Do You Think Smaller Wine Bottles Will Reduce Alcohol Consumption?

Here’s a quiz for you: Say you’re sharing a bottle of wine with a friend, or your spouse, after dinner. A glass and a half later, you feel you’ve had enough—you’re pleasantly buzzed, and any more might leave you sleepy or fuzzy in the morning. Still, there’s more wine in the bottle. Do you A) finish what’s left—what the hey, it’s not that much, plus you hate to waste, B) re-cork it and put it in the fridge for tomorrow, or C) forget it about it altogether, leave it uncorked on the counter and dump it down the drain the next morning.

A supermarket in the U.K., Morrisons, seeks to end the drink-it-or-dump-it dilemma by introducing smaller bottles of wine, in the hope that people will actually drink less. During a recession, particularly, people are hesitant to waste, and will tend to drink all the wine in a bottle rather than dump it.

Sainsbury’s introduced the smaller bottles last year, but Morrisons is the first retailer to use the smaller-size bottles to promote responsible drinking.

The new bottles will hold 50cl—or 6 units of alcohol–as opposed to 75 cls,–which contain nine units–making it easier for people to keep to the government’s recommended limit of 14 units a week for women and 21 units a week for men.

Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK says, “People grossly underestimate what they drink at home, particularly during holidays…On holiday, most people drink more in two weeks than they usually do in three months and this seems a good way to start tackling that consumption.”

We want to know…do you think smaller wine bottles can actually reduce alcohol consumption?

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We Want to Know: What Do You Think of Liquor Being Sold on Sundays?

Here in the U.S., it’s getting easier to buy alcohol on Sundays, with more states allowing Sunday liquor sales and more communities starting to sell booze as early as 6 a.m.

Thirty-six states now allow Sunday sales of distilled spirits, up by 14 from 2002.

Why the change? Economists cite the downturn. In an article in USA Today, Lisa Hawkins of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said “blue laws…simply don’t make sense in today’s economy. They inconvenience consumers and deprive states of much-needed tax revenue.”

Some communities have opted to compromise—agreeing to allow the sale of liquor on Sundays, but voting for later opening times for the stores—say, noon, instead of first thing in the morning.

When it comes to the blue laws, I’m of two minds. On one hand, it’s a little depressing for people to buy liquor at six in the morning. Can’t one day be sacred? On the other hand, Sunday seems a bit arbitrary, and tied to religion. Not everyone holds Sunday as a day of rest, and some religions include wine or other liquor as part of their rituals and meals.

We want to know: what do you think of liquor stores being open on Sundays?

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