We use this term to describe the alcoholic who must drink every day. His daily consumption may be considerable but he is not forced to finish all his supplies or to exhaust the money he has with him. To this extent, therefore, he is able to regulate his excessive drinking, and under the pressure of extraordinary social demands he may be able to take less than his normal wont. Nevertheless, he will not go for as long as a day without a drink and, as his condition progresses, he will always take a drink first thing in the morning. He cannot tolerate being sober but he rarely needs to drink to drunkenness. It is characteristic of this type of drinker that he can control the amount he takes in at any one time. This variety of alcoholism has been called by Jellinek inability to abstain’.
If he stops drinking, voluntarily or because he is obliged to, he will suifer craving and it is almost certain that withdrawal symptoms will appear. There is not only psychological dependence, therefore, but physical dependence also, the result of long continued excessive drinking. The patient has acquired tissue tolerance.
People who drink regularly in a group in a bar, with the same bunch of friends are a well-recognized variant. They compensate in this way for deficiencies in their social relationships. Everywhere else they feel inferior; only here, surrounded by trusted and uncritical companions, increasingly so as the evening proceeds, are they able to feel at ease, inspired by the fellow-feeling which the group engenders. Drinks succeed each other, round after round; each drinker orders in his turn, not only for the satisfaction of his own drink but also for the pleasure he gets from treating the friends he holds in such regard. Here, at least, he is somebody’s peer.
Some who drink in this way are basically isolated, friendless people. Passive, good-natured, unambitious, they have never learned to form mature relationships and in the undemanding, casual camaraderie of the bar they are never taxed intellectually or emotionally; they are in their element.
These drinkers regularly consume a considerable quantity of alcohol in the course of an evening, yet because they do not hurry over it, and because they have had many years to acquire tolerance, they rarely show gross intoxication.
Gregarious drinkers are there for all to see. Equally so are some solitary drinkers. It is common in public houses to find men sitting by themselves at a table or at a corner of the bar steadily drinking hour after hour and clearly disinclined to engage or be engaged in any social intercourse. Morose, unheeding of their surroundings, they are conducting the business of drinking without the interference of conversation. They choose to drink in the pub rather than at home because they escape the family’s antagonism and because the pub is geared to dispense their supplies with the minimum of inconvenience.
Other solitary drinkers drink at home. If they are women they will generally do this in secret. The woman alcoholic finds that social conventions do not allow her to obtain the drink she needs without some subterfuge. That is why she hoards and, indeed, why she drinks alone. Home drinkers generally drink every day. They cannot abstain longer. But the quantity stays under control. They do not get drunk. Women often make a pathetic attempt each evening to hide the evidence of drinking, both upon themselves and in the neglect of their homes, before their husbands return from work.