(NYT) Nancy Wartik–What Does It Mean to Have a Serious Drinking Problem?

The longer I abstained, the better I felt, in ways that spilled into marriage, work, parenting, friendships. Recently, someone unaware I’d quit told me I looked years younger. I’m more patient. My headaches are infrequent, my energy up.

Those results fit with a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, among the first focused on moderate drinkers’ mental health. Researchers studying cohorts of people in Hong Kong and the United States found even “safe” drinkers, women in particular, showed improved well-being if they stopped.

Today, I can label myself. I had moderate alcohol use disorder, a “chronic relapsing brain disease” marked by loss of control over alcohol. The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse says 6.2 percent of American adults, more than 15 million people, are on the alcohol use disorder spectrum. (Other research puts the numbers higher.) I’d guess many, like me, drink modestly enough that they don’t believe they have a problem. I feel lucky I quit before anything worse happened.

Sobriety can still be a challenge. If all goes according to plan, I’ll never again experience the soft scrim that drops between me and reality, as wine drains from my glass. It seems sad, until I remember that three times since quitting, I’ve tried a celebratory drink. Most recently, in Peru, I had one of the country’s famous pisco sours. It gave me a mild buzz and a hangover. I haven’t had a drop since.

These days, I awaken clearheaded. I’m closer than ever to being the mother, wife, relative and friend I want to be. It feels good. Really good. I get up the next morning. I do it again.

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Posted in Alcohol/Drinking, Alcoholism, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine