Ask Amy

Monday, May 10, 2010; 12:00 AM

DEAR AMY: Is there a difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic?

My husband goes through two cases of beer and two to four bottles of liquor every month (by himself) and usually has a minimum of three drinks every day. As soon as he walks in the door, he heads for the liquor cabinet.

In his favor, he always stops drinking once dinner is on the table (unless we are eating out, in which case he drinks a bottle of wine).

He rarely gets drunk; I can count the number of times I've seen him drunk in our 15 years together. He doesn't pass out, and it hasn't affected his ability to work. But he does get loud and can be argumentative after a few drinks.

I am very worried, frustrated and irritated by his drinking. I've asked him to quit -- or at least cut back -- many, many times. Sometimes he will go a day or two without drinking, but in no time, he's back to his usual routine.

Is he the one with the drinking problem, or am I? -- Worried Wife

DEAR WIFE: Your husband's drinking is causing problems in your relationship, and I venture that you spend more time worrying about and compensating for his drinking than you even realize.

It's evident that you are counting his drinks, carefully marking his consumption, watching his reactions and monitoring his behavior. No doubt you avoid some social situations, don't make after-dinner plans and always drive after a night out.

Now that you've inventoried his drinking, take an honest inventory of the impact his alcohol use has on you and your relationship.

Then take yourself to an Al-Anon meeting. You'll learn that distinctions between being a heavy drinker and an alcoholic don't really matter. What matters are the choices you make for yourself. Check for a local meeting.

DEAR AMY: I am a college graduate working in a professional department with five other women. My work stress has increased over the past four years.

I'm not sure why I'm treated with so little respect. I have a strong work ethic, which my co-workers tell me "makes them look bad." They are increasingly finding ways to exclude me. At first it was just exclusion from social gatherings that they would make sure to tell me about.

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