Thursday, March 8, 2012

Series: Addiction: The Weekend Addict

One of the most common misconceptions about any type of addict is that as an addict, you have to have your fix every day. Although for the most part this is true, it is not a universal truth. I want to bring your attention to a type of addict which largely goes unnoticed: the weekend addict (that's just my term for it as you will see.). The reason I have used the title weekend addict, is because this type of addict does not use every day. No, this type of addict binges two or three times a week (usually on the weekend).

The most common form of weekend addict is the alcoholic. Alcohol is such a socially accepted form of inebriation that we oftentimes forget the dangers and consequences of it. We not only find it acceptable, but in most areas of media or advertising it is glorified. We celebrate the idea of gathering together as a group to engage in social drinking in order to relax. You do not need any type of substance to relax, there are many ways to do this without alcohol or drugs but that is not what we're here to talk about.

You most likely know someone like this. They spend their weekdays sober and are usually fairly productive or even excel at their work. However, once the weekend hits you know that their only priority is drinking or using. It is easy to see how we could miss this sort of substance abuser but they are indeed addicts. It is easy to dismiss this form of addiction because it is not something one might see occurring daily but regular and consistent substance abuse is still addiction.

As you're reading this, I am sure some of you are dismissing this idea. If you are I can offer you two probable (not concrete) reasons for this. The first is that you yourself fall into this category and believe that you don't have a problem. You might. The second is that you may know someone close to you who you think could be a weekend addict. In both cases, your denial of this as a possibility is a warning sign to those of us who have been faced with our own addictions. Denial is one of the red flags of the addict.

So what is the difference between a weekend addict and someone who has control over their social drinking? Quantity. The weekend addict will develop the same form of tolerance to their drug of choice in the same way that a daily user will. That friend, the one who will drink an extremely excessive amount of booze on the weekend, to the point of drinking themselves out cold most likely has a problem that they don't recognize.

Am I just making this stuff up? No. I have a really close friend who has gone through this. When I was in my recovery I didn't talk to many people, including her. I lost contact with many people and then one day I got a random phone call from this friend. She was in a panic, crying and upset. The previous night she had drank herself so sick that she had passed out on her kitchen floor. One of her friends came in and found her lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of vomit and bile. Her friend told her the next morning she was going to call the paramedics but didn't because my friend's mother lived across the road and she didn't want to cause trouble. Imagine?

When my friend realized just how bad her drinking was becoming (and yes, she only drank on weekends) she started seeking help from her friends because she knew she had a problem. Their responses varied but essentially they all came back to: You just had a little too much. You don't have a problem because you don't drink every day. My friend realized that she did in fact have a problem; that, no, she did not drink every day but her drinking was getting worse and worse and she was now endangering her life. I don't know why or what compelled her, but she called me. When I heard her I did not tell her she was an addict. She told me. I listened and I gave her the options she had: seek help or await death. 

It has been several years since then and only recently have we reconnected after this event. She is still in control of her recovery, is now married and happier than ever. What you should take from this is the understanding that just because you can rationalize in your head that only drinking on the weekends is safe and not a problem (which it can be for many people) does not make it so. I am not trying to scare you into thinking you have a problem; I am not claiming to have a professional accreditation in addiction services; what I am saying and claiming is that I have the experience and the knowledge to represent these ideas.

Addiction is a dangerous and lonely affliction; made more so as many times the beginning is a personal choice. Addiction is not limited to drugs and alcohol; it can come in many forms as in shopping for an example. Being an addict does not mean you use or abuse every day; you can still be a weekend addict. Earlier I said that if you thought I was talking nonsense that it might be because you or someone you care for deeply is an addict of this sorts and is in denial. I don't know that for certain; I don't know you or perhaps them and nor do I know the circumstances. I am not accusing or labeling you, just informing you that denial is a red flag for addiction.

It's hard to think about the fact that you or someone you love might be an addict and it is especially easy to block this out. Addiction is terrifying; as an addict or an addict by proxy. It is no surprise that people do not want to admit to their addiction; but don't be afraid. There are literally hundreds of thousands, or more, people who have shared, are sharing and will share what you are going through. They understand; I understand; and the ones you love, well, they will come to understand. You are not alone; you just need but ask.