Saturday, January 14, 2006


Charlie maybe not an alcoholic?

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian today questions whether Kennedy is really an alcoholic. It's a good question. The definition of an alcoholic is quite wide and often covers anyone who cannot control his/her drinking or the effects therefrom. So in one meeting of concerned people I heard of, a woman reported her 'aloholic husband' as not drinking daily but only about once every three months. Someone else said they thought such occasional bingeing did not constitute alcoholism-rather, an acceptable pattern of imbibing. Those who were older hands in the group smiled looked at each other knowingly; one explained it was not how often or how much one drank which was crucial but how one handled it.

I've always been a bit worried about this kind of elastic definition as loads of my friends -and even my good self- would possibly be caught in such a definition. Charles was clearly not a 'constant drinker' but it was also clearly true that his drinking affected his work and that he was not fully in control of it. The truth maybe is that there are many categories of alcolholic. If the key criterion is the impact it has on being able to live and work normally, then Charles is maybe an 'alcoholic' but it's via the wider definition, not the more familiar narrow one of hidden bottles and daily comatose states.

Alcoholism is a self diagnoses. Nobody else can tell you or your friend if he or she is an alcoholic. Rather, if you can honestly admit that you are powerless over alcohol and your life has become unmanageable then you are probably an alcoholic.
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