My father was a lively, warm hearted man. He was also an alcoholic, and he died far too early of advanced alcoholic cirrhosis (complete liver collapse). I see alcoholism as a big issue not only in my life but also, unfortunately, for a lot of expats and their families. I think it’s partly a disinhibition while living in a foreign land, to “burn bright” and enjoy a bit more personal excess than you would allow yourself back at home. Whatever the case, the consequences of alcohol abuse can be devastating to families and relationships.
Do You Drink Too Much?
The CAGE questionaire is a useful screening test to see how serious is your drinking. All you do is answer the following questions:
- Have you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?
- Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
- Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
If you said “yes” to 2 or more, then you may have a serious problem and should think seriously about your drinking habits, or even discuss this with a doctor.
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
This is a tricky question, because moderate alcohol actually helps cut down on heart disease! But moderate alcohol means one drink a day for a woman, two drinks a day for a man. Anything more than that starts to cause heart and liver disease. And this needs to be a steady, daily drink to be effective; binge drinking (at least 3 drinks in one sitting) is always bad for your heart and liver.
Who Can Help?
The hardest step is even admitting you may have a problem. Fortunately, there are support groups that can help. Alcoholics Anonymous certainly is the best known, and for good reason; their 12-step program really can help a lot. I think their support network and sponsor is crucial. I’m sure your local yellow pages will list a few in your area.
Can Doctors Help?
There are a couple new prescription medicines that can mildly help decrease the cravings and keep you off alcohol. But even more valuable are expat clinic psychologists and psychiatrists, who can be wonderful assets to help you cope with this issue as well as guide you — and your loved ones — through your recovery.
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