According to AA lingo, my boyfriend is a “normie.” He takes at least an hour to finish a 12oz. beer and rarely wants a second when he’s through. Sometimes, he turns down a drink because it will make him “sleepy.” This is amazing to my own brain, which gets revved up by the first drink. There was a time when one drink had a somnolent effect on me, but I killed that by using alcohol as a sleeping aid one time too many. My boyfriend doesn’t come from an alcoholic family, and his parents didn’t drink when he was growing up. Not because they made a conscious decision to abstain but because buying alcohol didn’t occur to them. It’s like they forgot it existed.
So my boyfriend isn’t an alcoholic. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call him normal. There are alcoholic events outside his range of experience (the biggest being, he’s never had a blackout) but there are also many ways in which our hangups intersect. Just because alcohol doesn’t trigger an omnipotent pleasure response in his brain doesn’t mean he’s free from anxiety and depression. Just because he’s never had a blackout doesn’t mean he never numbs out. He’s more inclined to spend four hours playing the new Sim City than to down two bottles of wine, but he’s no stranger to the negative thought patterns that addicts sometimes view as unique to their disease.