Find out if your Husband is a Functioning Alcoholic
Alcoholism Test for the Alcoholic Marriage
most problem drinkers.”
Why do we need yet another test for alcoholism? The answer is simple: You will find that most such tests aren’t very practical because they are aimed at the wrong person. They are designed for someone who is wondering, “Do I have an alcohol problem?”
The Alcoholism Test is designed for anyone who suspects their partner is a functioning alcoholic. It is aimed, not at the partner with the drinking problem, but at you who cares for him.
The irony is that serious problem drinkers probably won’t take the test because they don’t want to have their suspicions confirmed. The typical functioning alcoholic isn’t interested in questioning his alcohol abuse or seeking rehab. And if the signs of alcoholism are more advanced, no test is necessary to recognize the alcoholism.
I have added my comments after each item so that you can understand why I included the statement or group of statements. Most other tests don’t tell you why the statement or question is included. You decide what is useful to you and what is not. If it resonates with you, great! If a question doesn’t fit, just be curious about it and then move on. The references are to chapters in my book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman’s Survival Guide
1. Your husband sometimes admits he has a drinking problem. He quipped about being a functioning alcoholic.
Neill: If he sometimes thinks he has a drinking problem, he probably has. Intuition is usually right. See Chapter 4.
2. He has sought help for his drinking at least once that you know of. He may have even joked about going to an alcohol addiction treatment center. He has sought professional help for emotional problems where drinking was probably part of the problem. He has attended an AA meeting. He has tried to quit more than once.
Neill: If he has gone beyond talk and has sought help or tried to quit, he knows he has a problem. The extent of the problem is the big question. See Chapter 4.
3. You sometimes think he has a drinking problem. You have asked someone for advice about his drinking.
Neill: Your intuition about the drinking may be dead on, just like his. Pay attention, but don’t jump to conclusions just yet. See Chapter 4.
4. He comes from an alcoholic family.
Neill: Growing up in an alcoholic environment does a lot of emotional damage. Some children grow up to be total abstainers; others become drinkers. Alcohol helps to mask the memories of abuse. However, sometimes using only a little bit of alcohol can bring up such fearful memories that he thinks he is becoming an alcoholic. So just because someone comes from an alcoholic family, it doesn’t mean he has an alcohol problem. See Chapter 18.
5. He often has a drink in the morning. Sometimes you find him drinking by himself. He sometimes gets drunk without meaning to. He sometimes can’t remember what he did or said during the previous evening of drinking.
Neill: These are very tell-tale signs of alcoholism. The first three statements suggest that drinking has become a compulsion. That is to say, there is a loss of control, and that is suggestive of addictive drinking. The last item describes alcoholic blackout, again characteristic of longer-term alcohol abuse. See Chapters 4 and 7.
6. He has sometimes denied drinking when he obviously was drinking. You know that he hides alcohol so others won’t see it. He gets resentful, defensive and angry if anyone comments on his drinking.
Neill: Denial is the major line of defense for most problem drinkers. The reality of his alcoholism is not changed by his denial. See Chapters 11, 17 and 21.
7. Your husband has lost days at work or school because of drinking. He has gotten into fights when drinking. He has lost friends over his drinking. There has been a charge of driving under the influence.
Neill: These and many other negative things begin to happen when the drinking has become a compulsion. Often there are accompanying financial and marital strains. Judgment deteriorates. What counts is not so much the individual incident, but whether there is a pattern of such events. See Chapter 5.
8. He says he needs alcohol to reduce tension or stress, and a drink helps him build his self-confidence.
Neill: Many high-functioning alcoholics have low self-esteem. Perhaps most do. The real issue is whether or not your husband has become dependent on the alcohol to overcome another mental health problem, low self-esteem. See Chapters 6 and 14.
9. He has accused you or others of “making him drink.” He drinks more heavily after a quarrel. He sometimes becomes verbally or physically abusive when drinking.
Neill: Blaming others or justifying his behavior, rather than taking responsibility, is a common emotional problem in relationships, but it can be especially exaggerated in alcoholic families. If his drinking is accompanied by abuse, verbal or physical, you are not in a safe place. Take it seriously. See Chapter 24.
10. You often worry about his drinking and lose sleep over it. You feel responsible for his actions. You make threats that you don’t follow through on. You get him to make promises he will likely break. You sometimes make excuses for him or cover for him when he has been drinking.
Neill: These behaviors on your part strongly suggest you have entered into the “alcoholic dance.” Your partner may well be a functioning alcoholic, but you have become codependent. All of these behaviors, no matter how well-intentioned, do more to support his alcoholism than to remedy it. See Chapter 16.
11. You feel alone, fearful and anxious a lot of the time. You are beginning to lose self-respect and hate yourself. You sometimes question your own sanity.
Neill: These are the normal consequences of staying a long time in a codependent relationship, with or without alcohol abuse. Codependence helps no one. As long as you are safe from violence, you may not need to leave the relationship to break out of the codependence. You may be able to break the cycle of codependence with self-help strategies, but you could need professional life coaching. See Chapters 22 and 23.
As I hope you have concluded from going through this exercise, understanding whether or not your partner is an alcoholic is not simply a matter of counting drinks or counting answers to a questionnaire. The issue is quite complex. My hope is, however, that the exercise has helped you to see more clearly what you are dealing with.
Help is available when you are ready. Help is also available for him when he is ready. Reading my book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic-A Woman’s Survival Guide will help you to help him, and at the same time care for yourself, and maintain hope for yourself and your family. Read more about mybook on alcoholism.
Copyright © Neill Neill. All rights reserved. Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active life-coaching practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. He was a member of the treatment team at Sunshine Coast Health Centre , a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center for men. To read articles by Dr. Neill on alcoholism, click here. To read about his Book, click here.