Are you trying to decide if your partner is an alcoholic as well as narcissistic? Of course, the experts engage in a diagnostic process before they ever label someone as suffering from alcoholism—or a pathological level of narcissism, for that matter. There are certain criteria that must be met for alcoholism that the mental health community has agreed upon. These are listed in a diagnostic manual of mental disorders that psychiatrists and psychotherapists use. But there is a way that you can determine if it’s likely your partner is an alcoholic or not. It is through asking your loved one some specific questions.
There are four questions you should ask. And while I can’t promise that he’ll answer them, I’ve tried to write them out in such a way that I think he might. That said, you will need to ask them when he’s in a calm frame of mind. And certainly, strive to have a relaxed manner when you do so. What you most certainly do not want to do is to try and ask them of you’ve just finished confronting him about his drinking. Try to do it when he’s sober. You may find first thing in the morning works best. If he is never sober, he is likely to have less alcohol in his system in the morning—so this still is probably the best time.
These questions are modified versions of four questions that are part of a clinical test called the CAGE. This is the most widely used test in clinical practice to assess if someone might indeed have a drinking problem. While it certainly won’t provide a definitive answer, it is a good place to start. If your husband answers two or more of these questions in the affirmative, he probably does have a problem with alcohol; he could prove diagnosable as an alcoholic. But of course, you’ll want to seek the help of a professional to make that determination.
Here are the questions:
1. “I know you don’t think you have a drinking problem, but I’m just curious if you’ve ever secretly asked yourself whether you should cut down on your drinking? Or, do you ever think it might be beneficial if you did?”
2. “It seems to annoy you when I criticize your drinking. Have other people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking, too?”
3. “Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking? (If he tells you that he does, ask him to share examples of when he has, or what he actually felt guilty about).
4. “Do you ever feel you have to have a drink first thing in the morning as an eye opener, to steady you nerves, or to get rid of a hangover?”
Again, if he answers two or more questions in the affirmative, perhaps it is time to encourage him to seek professional help. If he won’t, and things continue to decline as they undoubtedly will, you might have to intervene. That doesn’t mean the situation warrants an intervention and putting him in a treatment center, however. Then again, it could.
Before you decide to proceed with a formal intervention, seek out the advice of your family’s primary care physician. Or, if you do contact a treatment center, reputable and well-run facilities will ask you questions about your spouse’s drinking and associated behaviors. Your honest answers will help staff decide if such treatment is likely warranted. Therefore, knowing the answers to these questions could prove helpful some day.
Also consider writing down notes about your partner’s drinking on a calendar that you keep especially for this purpose. Give specific examples of how his drinking has affected his behavior on a given day—citing the most extreme or troublesome incidents, not all of them. Again, include just the facts, not how you felt about his behavior. After all, if things get to the point where they’re really bad and you’re seeking a divorce, this type of documentation may be admissible in court. Anything that is mixed in with your feelings—or appointments which are on the calendar—will not be. You don’t want that to happen.