25 Signs Your Partner is an Alcoholic – Part 2
This is the continuation of the 25 signs your partner is an alcoholic. If you have come to this post first, we suggest starting with the first part of the blog post before reading this one.
Behaves inappropriately at social gatherings
Many, maybe even most, social occasions have alcohol as an integral ingredient. Why, simply because alcohol is a social lubricant that helps to make parties more relaxed events. Alcohol releases our inhibitions and allows us to say or do things that we would find difficult, or even impossible, to say or do when we are sober.
Alcohol interferes with the processes of the frontal lobes of the brain, the area where decision making occurs. And, of course, judging how appropriate certain behaviours or remarks would be in any given situation would be one of those decisions.
Most people do not usually drink enough that they are not in control. They usually retain some semblance of judgement. However, when anyone drinks excessive amounts it becomes increasingly difficult for them to distinguish what might be appropriate for the situation and what is not. One of the tell-tale signs used for diagnosing dependence is that a person tends to drink and behave the same way in all situations; for example, would drink and behave at a formal dinner, the same way they might behave at a stag or hen party.
Organises outings around drinking
For a dependent drinker, access to alcohol is very important. If they are in the habit of topping up their alcohol level regularly then a long break between drinks can result in them displaying withdrawal symptoms.
Another reason may be the drinker’s increasing reliance on alcohol to help them interact in social situations. So, the thought that alcohol might not be available could increase their social anxiety.
Tries to downplay the amount and impact of his/her drinking
If your drinker is not ready to admit a problem or to look at changing their behaviour, they will avoid situations that could lead to tension or arguments about the extent of their drinking. One way to do this is to minimise the amount they drink or the effects that it has. The strategy is to deflect attention away from alcohol and prevent arguments about it. Most of the time, rather than have the desired effect, this avoidance will actually make the partner even angrier.
One rather half-baked strategy they often use is to divert the blame to something or someone else. For example, on Friday they go on a bender and spend much of Saturday being sick. Many drinkers, find it difficult to say, “Yeah, I have a huge hangover because I drank far too much last night”, which is probably the truth. Instead they offer a much less believable explanation such as “I’m being sick because of the meal we had last night, I think I had a bad curry”.
Sometimes uncharacteristically offers to go shopping
When dependent drinkers need a drink they seldom come right out and say, “Do you know what, I’m craving for a drink at the moment. You wouldn’t mind if I just popped down to the store and got myself a bottle, would you?” They know that is not something that is going to be well received.
No, they are much more likely to hide their true motive as they believe that this would likely lead to an argument. So, they offer to go shopping in order to get out the house and get what they need under the guise of being helpful.
Increases the frequency of meetings with friends in the bar
There are two aspects to this. The first is that they may have found a friend that also drinks heavily, a kindred spirit, and so arranges to meet that person more regularly.
The second is that this is the excuse that they give for drinking heavily or coming home late, as in “I would have been home a lot earlier, but I met … and you know what they are like.
This was an excuse that I used many, many times. What I did not always say was that I had tried about half a dozen pubs before I had met … And sometimes I had had to persuade … to stay and drink more than he had intended. I could see the scene at his house as he told his wife “I would have been home much earlier if …”
Frequently comes back later than planned / even skips meals altogether
This one fits with the previous one. Often a drinker starts out not intending to go drinking or at least not drinking very much. They may plan to be back home at the time agreed, but when they have a drink their resolve just evaporates.
I know that, for me, I often went for ‘one drink’, and I really meant it when I was going into the pub, that I would only have one drink. But as soon as I got one, the thought would come into my head “just one more wouldn’t hurt, would it”. And then I would continue, sometimes for days or even weeks.
There is an old saying about problem drinkers that that sums up this situation perfectly it says – The man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.
Shows obvious signs of drinking, slurring speech and unsteady on her/his feet
These are the main signs of intoxication. We may believe that alcohol makes us happy, sad, amorous or whatever but alcohol, as a drug, has actually only 4 effects. These effects are sometimes called the 4 S’s. They are:-
- Slurring, affects our speech
- Staggering affects our balance
- Sight affects our vision, blurred or double vision
- Sleep affects our consciousness
Alcohol intoxication affects the brain which is why we exhibit these signs when we are drunk. Usually these symptoms will disappear when we sober up. However, in someone who is drunk frequently may start to show some of these signs even without drinking, suggesting that there may be some damage to the brain. Fortunately, our brains are amazing organs that, provided the damage is not too extensive, can recover well with a period of abstinence.
There are at least three possible reasons behind this one. The first is similar to the explanation given in 18 above. The intention to keep the appointment may be there but once the drinker goes for a drink, they become side tracked.
Rather than admit that drinking actually interfered with them keeping the appointment, which would probably raise questions about their drinking, it is much easier to say they forgot the appointment. That takes the focus off the drinking, which is often a goal with the drinker.
The second reason is quite simple, they may have genuinely forgotten the appointment. Most of us forget things sometimes. However, if this happens more than sometimes and is in fact a pattern, then maybe we need to look at explanations other than it ‘slipped my mind’.
The final explanation is that there could be genuine memory issues. Heavy regular drinkers can develop problems with their memory, where their short-term memory is affected. The signs are that they cannot remember some events that happened that day or within the last few days. The problem can be that they do not record the memories, like setting the video to record a tv program but it does not switch on. Alternately, there may be retrieval problems, ie the recording may be there, but it is not possible to access it for some reason.
This memory problem is one sign of Wernicke’s Encephalopathy which is a type of brain damage that is characteristic of someone who has been drinking too much alcohol, over a long period (usually years) and eating a poor diet. The good news is that if the drinker stops drinking the brain can heal. The bad news is, if they continue drinking, they can progress to Korsakoff’s Psychosis, otherwise known as alcoholic dementia, which is usually irreversible.
Breaks promises and does not keep commitments
This can be explained by a combination of some of the reasons given above. Alcoholics are often accused of being liars. In fact, one quote that is often heard at AA meetings is “How can you tell if an alcoholic is lying – his lips are moving”. They are, of course, talking about performing alcoholics (ones who are still drinking) rather than sober ones.
One of the things that might be difficult to understand is that, in the alcoholic’s mind, they are not liars. In fact, they are hurt by this accusation. Seems a bit strange doesn’t it, they say that they will do something, not do something, or be somewhere and they don’t deliver. So, to get all hurt about not being believed seems crazy. And yet they feel victimised when confronted about it.
The explanation rests in the different points of view, it lies in the difference between intention and action. In the drinker’s mind, there was no deceit they meant to do, not do, be there, they focus on the intention. The promise was real when it left their mouth, they had every intention of following through but …… (and I’m sure you can fill in any number of excuses). In the rest of the world’s mind they did not keep their promise, that is they did not carry through the action.
When the alcoholic gets sober, they often find it really difficult to understand why people don’t trust them. For, they believe that their intentions are good and that they are telling the truth, they just find it difficult to realise the damage that so many broken promises have done and how long it takes to repair that damage.
Picks more fights or is more aggressive than before
When I needed a drink and could not think of an excuse to get out of the house to buy alcohol, I would often pick a fight. It wasn’t difficult, I could always find something that I was not happy with, real or invented. Then when my wife rose to the bait, I would storm off out of the house like the injured party, muttering something like, “my wife doesn’t understand me” (yeah cringy isn’t it) or “No wonder I drink, being married to a crazy woman like that”.
So, the fight was my ticket to get to the pub. I don’t know to this day whether my wife realised what I was doing. Come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure that I knew what I was doing at the time. Certainly, I could convince myself that I was the victim and the more I drank, the more of a victim I became.
Unfortunately, drinking heavily over a long period of time can result in personality changes. Some of these changes are alcohol induced (ie happens when drunk but reverses when sober again) or they can be more stable (ie happens while drunk or not). So, alcohol can induce brain changes, that can produce personality changes.
The other way people change is, not as a direct result of the chemical effects of alcohol but, because of the lifestyle. Hiding alcohol, lying to get alcohol, picking fights to get out the house, all these behaviours take a toll on our personality, as we feel that our medicine (alcohol) is under threat, we develop a siege mentality. And most people, when they feel threatened, adopt a flight or fight response. That is, we run away or get ready to defend ourselves. And, as the saying says, attack is the best means of defence. Most drinkers will revert to their former personality and lose the aggression when the get sober.
Is more defensive when alcohol is mentioned
By now you will, hopefully have come to realise how important alcohol is to the drinker. If they are dependent on alcohol then they need it to make them feel normal or, at least, to stop them feeling abnormal. They treat it as a medication.
Therefore, when they believe that their drinking is under threat, they will become defensive. They will try and change the subject or divert the focus on to something or someone else. Or alternately they may even become threatening and/or aggressive to avoid the issue.
Falls asleep in inappropriate and sometimes dangerous circumstances
As we said above, alcohol is a depressive drug. That does not mean that it makes people feel unhappy, although some people tended to say that about gin. It means that it ‘depresses’ the nervous system, slows it down and may even shut it down.
If someone has been drinking, they will feel drowsier than they would if they had not been drinking. However, again the brain can become affected with heavy long term drinking so that people can feel drowsy, even when they have not been drinking.
Gets drunk a lot
This one speaks for itself, doesn’t it!
You may be thinking, well nothing new there and you would be absolutely right. It does not take an eminent psychiatrist to tell if someone has a drink problem. The signs of a drinking problem/ alcoholism are almost always obvious. What is more difficult is admitting, even to yourself, that your loved one has a problem with alcohol.
If you want a medical definition of alcoholism you can get it at this link. Or join Bottled Up to start the change process now.