This book is for those who are worried that they may be becoming alcoholic. It's an easy-to-follow tool kit that could likely turn-around lives...if allowed to. (Why wait till you're at the bottom of the hole to dig out?) This book offers a hopeful alternate detour away from a personal landslide. In addition to potential alcoholics, the book is for people who are concerned that someone they care about may be on the path to possibly becoming an alcoholic.
The book sheds light on common perplexing questions: "How many drinks a night are too many?" Or, "What if I never drink alone, can I be alcoholic?" Or, "He came home drunk last night, and doesn't remember a thing. Should I worry?" Usually, it's the other person wondering this, not the problem drinker (if only one could be just a tad more self-aware while developing a drinking problem.)
A hidden benefit to this book is that it may help un-diagnose someone who's worried they are becoming an alcoholic, but aren't. There are so many self-investigation jumping-off points in this book, that anyone will be hard pressed to finish it without discovering that another substance, or activity, plays a role in one's life much like alcohol does for the almost alcoholic (like sugary treats).
Part 1 focuses on explaining what an "almost alcoholic" is, with chapters called:
What is Almost Alcoholic?
Becoming an Almost Alcoholic
Your Relationship with Alcohol
Making the Decision to Change
These chapters cover concepts like drinking to relieve stress, drinking alone, and the looking forward to a drink/drinking as indicators of being in the midst of developing a problem with alcohol. They contain illustrative stories of people (made-up and/or real composites of clients) that bring the ideas of the chapters to life, showing how issues with alcohol can play out in relationships. For example: Betsy drinks out of sheer loneliness after her sons move away and her husband dies. Another example: Ann drank with her husband to "decompress" after work and had extra drinks after their kids went to bed; then she began having a hard time sleeping, got deeply fatigued and lost interest in sex. Those are just two examples; throughout the book there are likely enough for almost everyone to relate to.
Part 2, which is twice as long, focuses on solutions, which chapters called:
Looking at the Man (or Woman) in the Mirror
Building a Support System
Developing Refusal Skills
Coping with Loneliness and Boredom
Dealing with Anger
Overcoming Shame and Guilt
When Self-Help Isn't Enough: Other Drugs and Other Disorders
Is Abstinence the Better Choice?
Kudos to these guys for offering practicalities, for focusing on how to get the heck off the dismal, almost alcoholic path; so often books like this (that diagnose) focus on the diagnosis, then tack on a couple practical chapters about how to help yourself, but never enough. I admire the authors for giving such focus to what their readers would need most: tools.
I have two criticisms of this book. One aspect that was problematic for me (and quite possibly will not bug others) was the unending use of the phrase "almost alcoholic" throughout the book, which I found distracting and overbearing. It seemed to be used so often throughout each chapter that I found it practically becomes a diagnostic convention--a slippery slope in the domain of un-diagnosable, `potential' alcoholism. Since "almost alcoholic" isn't a diagnosis, I'd have preferred it if instead a variety of words, terms, and phrases had been used throughout the book rather than something so branding. My second criticism is that in many instances the case examples (Sally, Ann, Jamal, etc.) dominated chapters and I would have liked more balance between client stories and direct advice and explanations given from the authors to their readers.
Full disclosure: the publisher sent me an advance copy of this book. I do plan to recommend it to people who are questioning their use of alcohol or who are concerned about a loved one. The book shares important truths about human behavior, and is a worthwhile tool for self-evaluation. The concept that someone can be "almost" alcoholic is certainly fascinating.