Every now and then when I meet a woman new to recovery, I pause and give my Higher Power thanks for giving me that moment of clarity I needed to begin this journey. I am always struck at this particular time because I never can nor will forget when I was only 24 hours old. I wonder where I would be today if I had not followed the 12 Steps and did everything I was told. That leads me to think about all of those women who are still out there struggling, ashamed, depressed, and denying that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
It is difficult to say how many women alcoholics and drug addicts there are unless you base the statistics on the health industry. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) believes there are roughly about 7 million women who abuse alcohol and approximately 10% of these who actually receive treatment. So the conclusion is that there are 6 million women out there who have a problem with alcohol. Some of these may be in a recovery program without the benefit of hospitals or treatment centers and some are out there enveloped in their disease.
When we are drinking we can read the statistics over and over again and nod our heads as if they mean something to us. We can read that women do not tolerate alcohol as well as men; that differences in metabolism between men and women put women more at risk for disease and addiction; and now we even read that red wine could be good for us! The honest truth is that if we are in denial that we drink too much, we will not see ourselves as any type of statistic. What we do know is that we are depressed, victimized, lonely, stressed, and unhappy and a few drinks will make us feel better. Family and friends may recognize drinking as a problem but for some of us, friends and family may be in as much denial and may even enable.
So how do you know if you need help? How do you know if you have a drinking problem? Personally, I think deep down inside each of us know, but if we admit it we might have to do something about it. It is easier to blame the world and everyone in it for our misery. How many questionnaires have you read to decide how serious your drinking was? If you are like me, you avoided these at all costs. Today, I would like to give you one that I read after I entered recovery and only then was I able to answer it honestly. It is taken from “AA for the Woman” (A.A. World Services, Inc.).
1. Do you buy liquor at different places so no one will know how much you purchase?
2. Do you hide the empties and dispose of them secretly?
3. Do you plan in advance to “reward” yourself with a little drinking bout after you’ve worked very hard in the house?
4. Are you often permissive with your children because you feel guilty about the way you behaved when you were drinking?
5. Do you have “blackouts,” periods about which you remember nothing?
6. Do you ever phone the hostess of a party of a party the next day and ask of you hurt anyone’s feelings or made a fool of yourself?
7. Do you take an extra drink or two before leaving for a party when you know liquor will be served there?
8. Do you feel wittier or more charming when you are drinking?
9. Do you feel panicky when faced with non-drinking days, such as a visit to relatives?
10. Do you invent social occasions for drinking, such as inviting friends for lunch, cocktails, or dinner?
11. When others are present do you avoid reading articles or seeing movies or TV shows about women alcoholics, but read and watch when no one is around?
12. Do you ever carry liquor in your purse?
13. Do you become defensive when someone mentions your drinking?
14. Do you drink when under pressure or after an argument?
15. Do you drive even though you’ve been drinking, but feel certain you are in complete control of yourself?
Perhaps each one of us could add even more to this list. I know I could and as I answer each of these questions again, I can still tell a “story” about each one of these. Some of these evoke sadness and yet others can be told with that “frivolity” that only another alcoholic could understand.
Many of you are well past the point where you need to survey your drinking problem but I think these questions continue to serve as reminders to us. If you are amongst this group, then pass it on. This is an excellent, real-world list of questions for newcomers and especially for those who are still struggling with the alcohol problem. If you are one of these then perhaps something as simple as this list is your moment of clarity!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.