From The New York Times, May 4th, 2009:
"As Dr. Mark L. Willenbring of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism put it in Ms. Benton's book: "People can be dependent and not have abuse problems at all. They're successful students. They're good parents, good workers. They watch their weight. They go to the gym. Then they go home and have four martinis or two bottles of wine. Are they alcoholics? You bet."
I interrupt this article to say: oh shit. Now, back to the article.
"In the interview, Ms. Benton listed several characteristics that can help people recognize themselves as high-functioning alcoholics:
¶They have trouble controlling their intake even after deciding that they will drink no more alcohol than a given amount.
¶They find themselves thinking obsessively about drinking -- when and where and with whom they will drink next.
¶When they drink, they behave in ways that are uncharacteristic of their sober self."
Well, it's official. I'm a functioning alcoholic. At least according to Ms. Benton, Dr. Mark L. Willenbring, and the NY Times. I certainly behave "uncharacteristically" of my sober self when I drink (which is, in fact, why I drink in the first place). I often consider when and where and with whom I will drink next (which is, in fact, the sole reason I ever have for leaving my house). I definitely have trouble controlling my intake, although, who exactly sets a pre-given amount of alcohol to drink before they go out and drink? Do they bring a scale with them to the bar? A measuring cup? Remind me not to drink with these people.
So, I'm a functioning alcoholic. Before continuing, let's break down that phrase.
Am I functioning? Well, apparently, yes, I am. If I were a non-functioning alcoholic, would I even be able to write this blog? No. I'd either be too interested in drinking to write, too drunk too write, or too drunk to pay rent on the apartment I'd need to write from. And why is the idea of functioning at anything bad? Like what about a "functioning construction worker"? A "functioning dolphin"? A "functioning popsicle "? I'd gladly hire a functioning construction worker to work on my functioning kitchen. But then they throw out this negative word after the positive word, to fuck up the original word and push you into double-entendres.
As far as the alcoholic part, I had to dig a little deeper to determine exactly what that meant. Fortunately, the NY Times provides more insight. From another article we learn the following:
"12 ounces of regular beer = 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor = 5 ounces of table wine = 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor. Thus, one bottle of wine equals five drinks. Forty ounces of malt liquor or a half-pint of hard liquor equals four and a half drinks. Also, many light beers have nearly as much alcohol as regular beer, and a single mixed drink can contain three or more standard drinks.
The institute defines low-risk drinking, for men, as consuming no more than 4 drinks on any day and no more than 14 drinks a week. For women, the limit is three drinks on any day and no more than seven drinks a week. Drinking more than these amounts in a day or during a week is considered at-risk or heavy drinking. "
This is problematic considering on Saturday night alone, I exceeded their definition of 14 drinks a week. Which I think, according to other sources, makes me a binge drinker in addition to being a functional alcoholic, although I'm not sure how many nights a week of drinking are required to make me functioning. I may have two bottles of wine on occasion, but not every night.
Here's the problem: so what? According the aforementioned asshole's definition, we are successful students, good workers, good parents. We watch our weight and we go to the gym. We go to church. We pay taxes. SO WHAT THE FUCK IS THE PROBLEM! How perfect would you have me be? What would you have me do after two hours at knee rehab, ten hours writing copy for a Roth IRA Rollover ad, and forty minutes on a subway? Watch Everybody Loves Raymond episodes while eating carrots and reading the Bible on my Kindle before sipping some tea and turning in early? And what, exactly, is the consequence of my alcoholism if I am functioning? The harshest consequence for you all thus far is disruptive phone calls at 3:22 A.M. or paying witness to bad dancing.
This gets back to the core argument against vegetarianism, abstinence, temperance, early bedtimes, and every other extreme argument Puritan America throws at me: My goal isn't only to extend life, it is to enjoy it. Watching TiVo while eating carrots is more enjoyable with an Old-Fashioned in my hand than it is with a Lime Spritzer. This holds true every day of the week (at least for me). Drinking helps minimize stress. It helps me meet new friends. It has directly helped me get promotions. It has helped me tell the truth. It has helped me see a side of people I never would have otherwise. It helps me enjoy life. Yes, sometimes it also helps me throw up and throw remote controls. If that makes me a functional alcoholic, then so it does. However, that definition must reconcile the fact that of the past year at work, my fondest memories are of the going away parties and happy hours and lunches that turned into dinners, not the work itself. Puritan America seems content to preach to value of modest living, without preaching the reasons. If 14 drinks a week makes functioning alcoholics, then the entire country of the Czech Republic is comprised of functioning alcoholics, as they have two half-litres of beer with lunch, and a minimum of two with dinner. They are also twice as happy as any American I've ever met, but apparently that is besides the point. According to Puritan America, life is for extension, not enjoyment. In Puritan America, eighty-eight years of boring life with boring meals and boring conversations is worth more than seventy-nine years of exciting life with unexpected experiences and new friends and nights that melt away into mornings and, eventually, hangovers.
I may even call Dr. Mark L. Willenbring later tonight to tell him what I think of his definition. I may be a functional alcoholic, but I find that preferable to being a functional asshole. And let me end with a quote from the great Winston Churchill (who drank every morning and every night and lived well into his eighties):
"He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire".