When are you an alcoholic?

Does "functional alcoholism" even exist? Lili Radloff is looking for advice.

My friends and I are a rowdy bunch. A loud, jolly group of hedonists who believe in sticking it to the man and trying to milk as much worth and fun and life out of every week as we possibly can.

Tuesday night margaritas? Why the hell not. Sunday morning picnics that morph into crazy eighties dance offs? You bet your sweet drunken ass. Late nights, early mornings and chilled white at lunch-time? Check, check and double check.

And yet we all manage to hold down jobs (although only recently in my case) run companies (in quite a few cases) and save lives (suffice to say I know a whole lot of doctors…) On top of that we raise kids, support charities, have hobbies and manage to live within the limits of the law. Well... give or take a few, maybe.

So when some kill-joy came up with the term "functional alcoholism" a few years ago I was rather taken aback at first. I mean, come on – it does kind of take the fun out of functional, don't you think? Being a very optimistic person I swallowed the functional alcoholic tag with a good dose of bile and another good dose of Holy-crap-I-should-drink-less. Because, you know, once there's a name and a cure for something...

Yet there we were – fitting all the symptoms perfectly. Guzzling happily past our daily recommended allowances (which, incidentally, seem to be getting less and less every year) and not ending up in the poorhouse/rehab/chookie. So functional right? Phew.

Of course there are other drawbacks besides the whole FA tag. Especially when your twenties are a thing of the past. The old liver being a spoilsport is the first thing that springs to mind. Kids waking you up at 6 when you only crawled into bed at 2 is another.

Realising that you might be an enabler for someone whose drinking has become dysfunctional.

Because not everyone can keep up. It's a slippery slope and what happens if your friend goes tumbling?

My friend – let's just call her Sue – is a case in point. Sue's always been a huge instigator. The life and soul of the party. The one who gets the dancing going, the last woman standing, the Oros girl (and no, it isn't her svelte body that earned her the title.)

But sometime, somehow Sue started slipping. It began with her phoning in sick to work. And sleeping with strangers whom she didn't find attractive. And forgetting where she parked her car.

I mean we all have our indiscretions – who hasn't accidentally flirted with a married man or did Tequila bodyshots with their boss? But you have to draw the line somewhere – and that somewhere should probably be before you wake up on a stranger's balcony lying in your own urine.

The problem with drawing a line is that it's crystal clear where it should be drawn if you're still functional. Before your drinking problem actually becomes a problem. But from the other side, from Sue's side, that line is blurry. And that's why it's difficult to confront a friend on Monday with whom you had three bottles of wine on Friday. You went to bed afterwards, she didn't. But does that mean you share no responsibility for what happened to her later that evening?

How does one deal with this situation? Sue must stop drinking, but does that mean we all have to?

Please share your views on this subject by commenting in the box below. I'd like to know what you think...

- Women24

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