DEAR ABBY: My paternal grandmother and grandfather were alcoholics. My father and three of his brothers are alcoholics, and so is my maternal grandfather.
I love alcohol and the way it makes me feel. I got scared, so I stopped drinking. I no longer drink even socially. Is it possible that I could become an alcoholic? How would you define one? -- CONCERNED 24-YEAR-OLD
DEAR CONCERNED: Yes, it is possible. There may be a genetic link to alcoholism -– and for that reason you are wise to abstain. You say you "love the way it makes you feel." A specialist in addictions once told me that many alcoholics believe alcohol somehow makes them "complete."
How to define an alcoholic? It's a person who cannot control his or her drinking. An example:
DEAR ABBY: Every year for 15 years, I made the same resolution –- to curtail my drinking. I knew the only way was to stop completely and I was determined to do it on my own. I had a strong will and didn't understand why I couldn't stop. (At times I thought I really didn't want to stop.) Finally, I checked into a hospital and now attend AA meetings.
At one meeting, I heard a definition of "insanity" as doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. It was then that I realized the difficulty I had with battling alcohol was actually my strong will. On one side it was telling me I had to stop (I knew I had to and wanted to), while at the same time it was telling me I couldn't do without it. See the dilemma?
Please, Abby, let readers know that feeling you have a "weak will" or asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness. No one will think less of you for asking. For me, it was well worth it. I haven't had a drink for 39 months and am finally able to enjoy life again. -- LIVING A BETTER LIFE IN DALLAS
DEAR LIVING: Congratulations on your sobriety and your new life. And thank you for a terrific letter. Often the urge to drink isn't the only problem an alcoholic has to overcome. The following letter arrived the same day as yours. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I drink too much. My husband is an enabler with a capital E. He thinks I won't be "fun" anymore if we give up our nightly cocktail hour.
The problem is, I miss my "old self." I feel wretched in the morning. I never wanted to turn out this way. It's a lonely and shameful way to live. Our kids will surely suffer. The guilt is eating me up. Thanks for listening. Can you give me a push? -- REACHING OUT IN ILLINOIS
DEAR REACHING OUT: Here it is. You have no reason to be ashamed. Your husband is capitalizing on your illness (alcoholism IS an illness) and not helping you to be the strong person and better parent you aspire to be. It appears that he, too, has a drinking problem that shouldn't be ignored.
It's time to separate your problem from his. A program that has been extremely helpful to women alcoholics is Women for Sobriety Inc. Established in 1976, it is the first national self-help program for women with drinking problems. The address is P.O. Box 618, Quakertown, PA 18951-0618. The phone number is (215) 536-8026. The Web site is www.womenfor sobriety.org. It offers hundreds of self-help groups nationwide and abroad. Please don't wait.
Tomorrow I'll print the warning signs of alcoholism.