August 13, 2015

Ask Me Anything: Woman Wonders if She is an Alcoholic. {Weekly Advice Column}

wine tired

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected]I look forward to hearing from you! ~ Erica

Dear Erica,

What is your definition of an alcoholic? I’m trying to figure out of I need to stop drinking.

I go through most of the day without thinking about it, but when the afternoon rolls around, I start obsessing over when I can have my first glass of wine. I often don’t drink more than two glasses, but on the weekends, I drink a lot more than that.

What bothers me is how much it is on my mind. It doesn’t feel like something I am doing for pleasure, it feels compulsive and/or habitual.

Otherwise, I am a really healthy person, I have a good job, take care of my children—there is nothing happening that is potentially damaging to my life. But I feel a low grade discomfort, maybe a disappointment in myself for not having more control over my actions. When I imagine trying to stop drinking, life seems pretty dull. But when I just try to cut back, it never really works out.

What’s your opinion?

~ Am I?

Dear Am I,

My opinion is that it’s not necessarily important how you label yourself, but that you honor the discomfort your behavior is causing you.

Instead of worrying about stopping drinking permanently, try sobriety for a month and see how it feels. See if your urges get stronger or weaker, find out of sober life is really as boring as you expect, or if it has its own appeal.

Keep a daily journal. Write down your thoughts, not just about drinking, but about how differently you do or do not feel while sober, how your energy levels and mood seem to be affected, what your interactions with others are like, and anything else you may notice.

When the urge to drink hits, talk a walk, call a friend, grab that journal, or simply sit quietly and observe your feelings as they come and go.

If you find that the challenge of quitting drinking for one month is too overwhelming, it might be time to try either individual therapy or group therapy like Alcoholics Anonymous. There, you will have support as you try to root out the cause of your compulsion and hopefully free yourself from it.

fridge leftovers eat fat weight

Dear Erica,

As a woman in my mid-50s, I have suddenly begun to put on weight.

I have been slim my whole life, and have never had to worry about weight. Even after I had each of my children, my weight went right back to normal.

Now, I guess because of menopause, I’ve put on about 20 lbs in the last year. Also, I quit smoking and I think that hasn’t helped. It’s like I’m being punished for trying to be healthy!

My husband doesn’t seem bothered by the weight, but I just don’t feel like myself. The thing is, I hate to exercise. Just the thought of going to the gym and those group classes makes me cringe. And jogging? No way. It’s just not going to happen.

But I’m really concerned about my health. What if this continues on? I don’t want to let myself get so far gone I can’t come back. Outside of exercising, what can I do to help myself be healthier?

~ Gaining

Dear Gaining,

First of all, great job quitting smoking! That alone is one of the very best things you could ever do for your health.

You’re right though, between menopause and eliminating nicotine, your body is going through some serious changes.

You say you hate “working out,” but it sounds like you associate working out with gym, jogging and other stuff which I agree with you—is no fun at all. The good news is, working out can be as easy as taking a daily walk outside, and this is what I would recommend.

Gaining weight, with very few exceptions, is a matter of energy in and energy out. So, to lose weight we must either take in less energy (in the form of calories), or put out more (in the form of physical exertion), or ideally, a little bit of both.

One 30 minute walk at a moderate pace will burn about 150 calories. A one hour walk will burn about 300. If you resolve to walk between 1/2 an hour to an hour six to seven days a week, you will burn between 900 and 2,100 calories. It really adds up.

If you have the means, the desire and the ability to care for a dog, you might considering rescuing one to be your walking companion. There’s nothing quite like the expectant face and wagging tail of your best friend to motivate you to get up and move.

Also, take a look at your diet. Make sure you are eating primarily whole, unprocessed foods in reasonable portions at regular intervals throughout the day. For great healthy eating guidelines, I always recommend Michael Pollen’s excellent book Food Rules.

Finally, you don’t say when the last time you had a check up was, but it’s always a good idea to check in with our general health practitioner when we see dramatic changes in our weight, mood and appetite.




Dating an Alcoholic? Run Like Hell!


Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: JD Hancock/Flickr, Alexandra E. Rust/Flickr

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