The High-Functioning Alcoholic

Understanding this Hidden Class of Alcoholics from a Professional and Personal View

The Great Wine Myth

The Great Wine Myth...does it count?

"We JUST had a few glasses of wine at this nice restaurant."
"I know that I shouldn't be drinking again, but it is JUST wine with friends"
"I need to drink wine daily, doctors say that it is good for your heart."
"It goes down so easily, I didn't notice how many glasses of wine they poured me at the party."

Wine...there is a certain allure to it- a sophisticated image that surrounds those who drink it. For those who consider themselves "connoisseurs" there seems to be an automatic excuse for them to drink excessively and to talk about their love of "a good wine". When the medical field concluded that one glass of wine per day was "healthy for the heart" more people began to feel that they were justified in drinking daily. However, most do not realize how small an actual standard glass of wine is and they are often not stopping at just one? A standard glass of wine is 5 ounces or 4 fingers placed from the stem of the glass, which may appear like a "cheap" pour when at a restaurant. A bottle of wine equals 5 standard glasses of wine. Many times, people are drinking a full glass (or bottle) and therefore having double the amount of wine then they are reporting or even aware of.

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In fact, research indicates that purple grape juice has been found to have the same heart healthy benefits as wine.  Therefore, there is less of an arguement that one must drink wine specifically to have a healthy heart.  These articles from the Mayo Clinic and CNN.com expand on these findings:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00576

http://archives.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/alternative/03/31/wine.heart....

Most recently I have been hearing that mothers are having wine with each other while their children are on "play dates" and feeling that they deserve to "relax" after a busy day. However, are they paying attention to their children when drinking, are they drinking and driving home? Others tell me that every social function that they attend revolves around drinking, particularly wine and that they feel like they won't fit in if they are not drinking or that wine is so easily available socially. I am hearing from those struggling with alcohol problems, that their friends are encouraging them to drink wine with them at their homes or at restaurants-ignoring the fact that their individual has a drinking problem. During dinner parties, glasses are filled and re-filled without guests even noticing or being able to keep track. Remember, after all, it is JUST wine!?! For some reason many people do not think that wine "counts" as alcohol, or that a person could have an alcohol problem or be alcoholic if they ONLY drink wine. However, this is a distortion that society has fabricated- from the way that wine is portrayed in the media to the social circles that collectively justify and minimize drinking.

I am not saying that everyone should stop drinking wine. I am simply suggesting that people become more mindful of the amount that they are drinking and to take into consideration if they or the people they are drinking with have alcohol problems (there is plenty of help available). It is very easy for a glass of wine nightly at dinner or while watching TV to turn into a bottle of wine for a person with a predisposition towards having an alcohol problem. Alcohol is alcohol- it does not matter if you are sipping on Chardonnay or chugging a 40-ounce beer in a paper bag, it is all the same drug and it will give you the same effect. However, society views people and their drinking habits differently sometimes based on the type of alcohol that they drink or because of the places that they drink in. But remember... if you are frequently drinking bottles of wine at a country club or often slamming back shots at a local dive bar, you have the same problem. So be honest with yourself about how much and how often you are drinking- because every drink does count and in excess can lead to problems in many areas of one's life.

For more information about high-functioning alcoholics and/or treatment resources please visit www.highfunctioningalcoholic.com

 

Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C., LPC, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic: Professional Views and Personal Insights.

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