DR. WALLACE: Jimmy and I are both 19. We have been together for more than three years. He is a great guy, treats me with ultimate respect 100 percent of the time, and we have talked about marriage. At times, he does drink too much and, when that happens, I do the driving if we are together. It seems like he doesn't drink often, but when he does drink, he drinks too much. This bothers my parents very much. In fact, they consider him to have a drinking problem, and even to be an alcoholic. I keep telling them that he doesn't drink often. Sometimes he abstains from alcohol for several weeks or longer. It's not like he is drinking alcohol every day. What is the meaning of alcoholism.
Doesn't this mean that he enjoys alcohol, but that he doesn't require having alcohol regularly? Of course, I wish he abstained from alcohol 100 percent of the time, but I honestly think he can control when and where he drinks. Please tell me if someone who drinks only occasionally can be classified as an alcoholic. I'm sure the answer will be "No," but I want to show your answer to my mom and dad. Also, can you tell me exactly what an alcoholic is defined as? &mdash,Betsy, Carson City, Nev.
BETSY: According to "The Teenage Alcoholic," an article by Life Skills Education, being an alcoholic does not mean that you drink every day or once a week. To be an alcoholic is to regularly lose control of your drinking when you do decide to drink, you are no longer in control of the amount of alcohol you consume.
For example, If a person drinks only once a week, but on each occasion this person can't drive a car, gets into a fight, verbally abuses friends and loved ones or blacks out, and then continues this drinking pattern on future occasions, this person is an alcoholic. Eventually, an alcoholic's drinking damages his family, his friends and himself.
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When people drink to excess, it's basically for two different reasons. One is that they are unhappy. They may feel inadequate, worthless or mad at the world. Another reason is that they consume alcohol to lose their anxiety, self-doubts and fears.
Alcoholism is an illness that drinkers don't choose to have. But, like any illness, it will become worse if not treated professionally. Alcoholism can be arrested and go into remission and stay that way as long as the alcoholic remains free of alcohol.
It's not for me to comment on Jimmy's drinking habit, but I hope you have been educated on this subject so that you can make an educated evaluation. Please don't consider marriage until you can be 100 percent sure that Jimmy's drinking won't hinder the oath, "Till death do we part."
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email ,protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.