10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Heavy Drinker vs. Alcoholic in Expat Circles Abroad - Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

           Are You an Alcoholic or just a Heavy Drinker?

The heavy drinkers think they’re fooling people and maybe they are fooling some people, but they’ll say things like “Yeah, I can drink a lot but I’m not an alcoholic because I can stop at anytime".  That’s an interesting deduction but not entirely accurate. So, if you’re not an alcoholic, why drink at all? Why do you have to drink if you’re not addicted to alcohol?

Being marriage encouragers for over 25 years, we’ve heard the old song and dance many times before.  One of the major causes of divorce in the world is alcoholism by one or both spouses. We have heard all the drunken stories and have even lived inside the stories as an alcoholic and enabler, so no one can pull the wool over our eyes when it comes to addiction.  Please scroll below the video to read the rest of the article.

Alcoholics may say things like, “I only have a couple glasses of wine, sometimes three”.  But what the person forgets to mention is how they drink every single night and their glasses of wine are filled up more than the usual amount a non-alcoholic would consume with a meal.  

Alcoholism is an extremely serious health issue that affects not just you but all of the people you love and even those you don’t love but may interact with on a daily basis.  In the United States alone, 14 million adults have an alcohol problem or 1 in every 13 adults.  It goes without saying then that some of these adult alcoholics, who are still somewhat functioning, will be taking vacations abroad or moving abroad.

In the 7 plus years we have lived in Cuenca Ecuador and had occasion to meet gringos, several of them had drinking problems. When it’s only 10:00 am in the morning and their breath already smells like alcohol, which their trying to cover up with breath mints, you know there is a problem. And then there is the lady who actually got inebriated in front of us, and let’s not forget the older couple who couldn’t wait for their highballs in the evening, foregoing looking at good-priced rentals for their evening booze binge.  There’s more but we’ll spare you the details. 


Addiction by alcohol is one of the most sought out treatments in the addiction arena and yet it is also the most swept under the rug health problem world-wide.   That tells you something; it tells you how enormous the problem of alcoholism really is; and while many seek help, many prefer to keep it the family secret. Good luck with that.

           Americans Heavy Drinking Reputation Abroad

It’s well known in the expat circles and by the locals that many Americans from the U.S who come to these countries to set up house are ‘heavy drinkers”. Locals never use the term “alcoholic” because they do not really know what it means to be an alcoholic.  They think the alcoholics are people who pass out on the streets at night.

It’s quite amazing really, even if an expat humiliates himself because of his drinking, locals do not realize the guy cannot handle his alcohol.  They just think the guy is having a good time, after all, a real drunk wouldn’t be walking around wearing fancy clothing, jewelry  or have all that money he’s waving around to buy drinks for everyone.  People with drinking problems are bums, street hoodlums, thieves, right? NOT…very much NOT.

We all remain ignorant to issues in life if we do not get the education we need to understand them and alcoholism is one misunderstood problem in most developing countries and even in developed countries. Only in the last decades have developed countries started looking at heavy drinking as an addiction or what some folks call, a disease.

     Heavy Drinker vs. Alcoholic – What is the Difference

It’s ironic how some alcoholics like to say their only “heavy drinkers” and not alcoholics; but think about this for a moment:  Why does the heavy drinker NEED to consume so much alcohol and what constitutes heavy drinking?  Ironically, the heavy drinkers will be the first ones to speak up and tell you, heavy drinking is not addiction. Why do they have to even tell you this?

The truth is heavy drinkers are what they call “functioning alcoholics”.  We know functioning alcoholics very well. They can get up in the morning (they hide the hangovers well), go to work, interact with the colleagues in a normal way, stay sober all day, come back home and start the drinking process all over again.  They can live like this for years until one day, something triggers or changes and he bottoms out and at that moment he/she admits to him/herself he has been an alcoholic all along.

Just because an alcoholic can stop drinking after 10 beers or not pass out on the floor, doesn’t mean they are not alcoholics.  Calling oneself a “heavy drinker” is a form of denial from the addiction. You see, as long as he is just a “heavy drinker” he can continue to drink but if he is an “alcoholic” then he would be expected to quit drinking by everyone he knows.  It’s flat out denial. 

The thing an alcoholic fears the most is having his drink taken away from him and is exactly why the first step of denial is difficult to overcome.

                     Alcoholics Moving Abroad

So, whether you’re still in denial or the person that goes to AA, you have a few things to consider before moving abroad. Moving abroad will not necessarily help you to get sober or to remain sober, unless you are a long time sober person who does not need AA anymore.  If you still need AA for staying sober, it’s probably not a good idea to move abroad and go outside of your familiar surroundings and that is the person we’re talking about in this situation. Long-timers will do fine, usually.

In fact, for the newly sober (2 years or less) or for those who still need to go to AA, quite the opposite will happen; going abroad and all the things that go with such a move will exacerbate drinking.  Single, newly sober people are especially at risk of drinking when moving abroad because they tend to go out more and do not have anyone at home to be accountable to.

10 “I Need a Drink” Triggers Abroad

AA people know all the triggers that tempt them to drink, but what are the triggers when you go abroad?

1. Being stressed from the move and unwinding with drinks

2. Unable to speak the language and feeling frustrated and disconnected

3. Being around other expat drinkers at restaurants and bars

4. Being retired or semi retired and not staying busy with work anymore (idleness)

5. Not needing to be accountable to anyone but self

6. Being outside of usual AA meetings and familiar faces at the meetings

7. Feeling homesick or alone

8. Going out with friends that drink

9. Having a quarrel with your spouse or other

10. Going thru a bad experience with the local people
    11 Unintended Consequences that Can Happen
                          to an Alcoholic Abroad

1.  Suffering a health problem related to alcohol addiction

2.  Affairs and abusive marriages abroad (we know of one couple who separated because of this exact thing happening in their marriage when they moved abroad)

3.  Making a fool out of yourself in front of your new friends

4.  Becoming too trusting with strangers and

5.  Getting robbed or pick pocketed while inebriated

6.  Getting assaulted (raped, date rape) while inebriated

7.  Getting robbed by so called friends who take advantage of you while drinking

8.   Becoming hostile and abusive while drunk and going to 
jail in a foreign country

9.  Getting robbed of your important documents (passport)

10.  Drowning or other serious injury while drinking abroad

11.  Suicidal thoughts and depression when living abroad (alcohol really messes with your emotions and can cause depression and negative thoughts.

NOTE: In all of these problems, they are only exacerbated by being outside of your familiar surroundings and moving to unfamiliar territory. 

This is a very serious subject: Travelers to foreign countries are scammed, ripped off, abused, and assaulted every day in these places abroad because of their drinking in public.  And especially when they can’t speak the language, look and act like a newbie and are too trusting.  Bad things happen to foreigners who are not drinking and so how much more will it be compounded for a foreigner who is drinking and doesn’t have their primary senses on guard?

Do you seriously think moving abroad is a good idea after knowing this? Bottom line: For the alcoholic and or newly sober alcoholic (less than two years) moving abroad can end up being a nightmare in hell. Why compound dependency problem?

In our experience and in the experience of thousands of others, the addicted person needs to come out of himself and receive the spiritual healing he needs for total sobriety to take place.

For those people who actually recognize their alcohol dependency and are trying to quit drinking or if you are still patronizing AA meetings back home, we strongly advise not to move abroad until you have stopped attending AA Meetings and have been sober for at least 2 years!

Long time sobers should have no problem traveling or moving abroad and there are English-speaking AA meetings in Cuenca Ecuador for travelers and residents who need it. 

Project Know - https://www.projectknow.com/

1 comment:

  1. I agree with a lot of the points you made in this article. If you are looking for the Alcohol addiction counselling, then visit Edmonton Counselling Servcies. I appreciate the work you have put into this and hope you continue writing on this subject.


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