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October 22, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Is this an alcohol problem?


I am a 44-year-old woman, married, with one kid in college. I have a husband and a home in semi-rural Ohio, a lovely area. I am college educated and always worked full-time until recently. I used to work in the computer field up until 2 years ago - I am not working anymore due to epilepsy and hydrocephalus.

I have to take pills for seizures, which I've had for a long time. Since I have not been working or driving, life has become a big drag. I noticed that my taste for red wine has increased, but I also noticed that these pills make me feel like I'm on speed and drinking stops that awful feeling. I don't care if I shouldn't drink - nobody should, but I do it anyway. In the last couple of days, I've been thinking that I might be an alcoholic. Am I? People make such a huge deal of my epilepsy, but frankly, I've had it for a while and I don't care. Please don't say that I should tell my doctors how I feel, because they don't care unless I have a seizure. The seizures are caused by the multiple brain surgeries for the hydrocephalus, not caused by alcohol.

Kelly, 44-year-old woman


Dear Kelly,

You have done amazingly well with your life, haven't you? You have achieved what eludes most people, despite the handicap you were born with, and the results of the operations that gave you normal intelligence. And yet, I hear that you have no self-pity. Indeed, I think you need to be proud of yourself and pat yourself on the shoulder.

As a general rule, using alcohol for self-medication, whatever the cause, is a very dangerous thing. Let me tell you a story.

I was writing a novel in which AA figured in, so I went along to a couple of meetings. At one, this big, beefy man stood up. He said, "I am John, and actually, I am not an alcoholic, but I am here all the same. For many years, I ran a small liquor store, and it was part of my marketing strategy that when a customer came in, I offered him a tiny sip of this and that and of course, I had a sip of the same. And, you know, in all those years, I never got drunk once. But, one day, I was walking down the street when I suddenly collapsed. They took me to the hospital, where it was found that I had advanced cirrhosis of the liver."

A second fact about alcohol, as with most other substances, is that people will habituate to it. That means that the quantity that has a given effect will cease to do so, and you need to take more to achieve the same feeling.

Kelly, I don't know your doctors. They may be as unfeeling and unethical as you say. But if I were a doctor who prescribed a drug and the patient came in saying it has an unpleasant side effect, then I would do everything in my power to change the drug regime: try out a different medication, vary the dosage, or prescribe something else to make things better.

If your current doctors won't do this, then shop around and find one who does.

A second possibility is to go to a naturopath, who may be able to give you something to get rid of the unpleasant side effects without risking harm to you.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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