I think telling someone they will always be an alcoholic is so negative, it is sufficient to make then unwilling to admit to being an alcoholic in the first place. I know that if someone had said to me, ‘you need to admit to being an alcoholic Julian, but beware, it means you will always be one!’ that would have put me off going anywhere near admitting to being an alcoholic - which I was.
So after two and a half years of having consumed no alcohol, am I still an alcoholic?
Twenty three years ago I gave up smoking. Before that I was smoking twenty or more cigarettes per day, and had been for twenty years. I was certainly addicted to nicotine, I enjoyed smoking, and I couldn’t imagine life without cigarettes. I didn’t even want to give up, and it was only when using her new camera from Santa, my daughter took a photograph of her drunken father asleep on her bed one Christmas day with a lighted fag still in hand, and I saw what a slob I had become I gave up there and then - forever. So am I still a smoker? No. Am I in danger of being tempted to have a cigarette if I go near one? No. If the sky was falling down and the world was due to end tomorrow, would I rush out and buy a packet of fags? Certainly not. I hate the things, I have no interest in ever smoking again and even the thought of putting a disgusting fag in my mouth is enough to make me retch. And like most ex-smokers (note the expression), I am more likely than anyone to moan about secondary smoking, fag ends, the mess, the smell etc.
Well believe it or not I now feel that way about drink. My simple methodology has given me such a ‘forever’ perspective on my not drinking, I really have grown to hate the stuff and nothing could tempt me to want to have an alcoholic drink again. I even hate smelling booze on people’s breath, especially that rancid cheap spirit aroma that generally accompanies the stink of cheap cigarettes.
This is not something that happened from day one mind you. Not that I was ever tempted to have a drink once I had given up, but there were times when I reminisced and thought a nice cold beer would have been nice if I still drank, or a nice glass of cold white wine. But now nearly three years on, I am not the slightest bit interested. Just yesterday I was at a local book event and there was a raffle with the proceeds going to charity. Being a Good Samaritan (and being bullied by a rather large lady) I bought a strip of tickets, but then saw that all the prizes were bottles of booze. This really irked me, and although it didn’t really matter and after all it was for a good cause, I did feel somewhat cheated, and put out by the fact it is assumed everyone would love to win some alcohol. Yes of course, once upon a time that everyone would have been me, but not anymore.
So with my zero interest in having a drink ever again, am I still an alcoholic? If I was to have one glass of wine would I go back on the booze and become once again the drunk I used to be? Perhaps. But I have no intention of having that one glass of wine because ‘I don’t drink!’ so I will never know. Just like if I sat and worked my way through a packet of cigarettes and got used to the taste once again, I might become addicted to smoking once more, but I have no intention of doing anything so stupid because, ‘I don’t smoke!’ so I will never know.
So to conclude, it takes time, and only you will know when you have reached that milestone, but I am no longer an alcoholic. I am happy to admit that I was one, and I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t see why I should carry the stigma of being an alcoholic for the rest of my life, and there is no reason you should always be an alcoholic either – like me you will just become someone who finds it perfectly natural to say, ‘I don’t drink!’