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Asperger's and Alcoholism

Book: Asperger Syndrome and Alcohol: Drinking to Cope

by Matthew Tinsley, Sarah Hendrickx


Asperger Syndrome and Alcohol exposes the unexplored problem of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) using alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with everyday life.

Alcohol can relieve the anxiety of social situations and make those with ASDs feel as though they can fit in. Ultimately, however, reliance on alcohol can lead the user down a path of self-destruction and exacerbate existing problems.

Utilizing their professional and personal experience, the authors provide an overview of ASDs and of alcohol abuse, and explore current knowledge about where the two overlap.

Tinsley explores his own personal history as someone with an ASD who has experienced and beaten alcohol addiction.

He discusses how the impact of his diagnosis and his understanding of the condition played a huge part in his recovery, and how by viewing his life through the prism of autism, his confusion has been replaced by a greater understanding of himself and the world around him.

This inspiring book on an under-researched area will be of interest to professionals working with people with ASDs, as well as individuals with ASDs who may be dealing with alcohol or substance misuse, and their families.

About the Author

Matthew Tinsley has a degree in Modern Languages and spent his entire professional life working in the sphere of specialist bookshops.

After many years struggling with alcoholism and two failed marriages, he overcame his addiction.

Matthew believes this is largely due to his self-awareness of his autistic condition, together with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

He is currently living in Brighton, where he aims to help spread awareness of the problems faced by those with Asperger's Syndrome.

Sarah Hendrickx is Training Manager of an adult AS support project and a freelance consultant in AS in the UK. She is author of Love, Sex and Long-Term Relationships and together, she and her partner Keith, who is self-diagnosed with AS, are authors of Asperger Syndrome - A Love Story. Both books are published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Table of contents

  • Foreword by Temple Grandin.
  • Introduction.
  • 1. Asperger Syndrome and Alcohol - Why Should There Be a Link?
  • 2. Childhood and Adolescence - Where Does it Start?
  • 3. The Adult Social World - Friendships, Relationships and Other People.
  • 4. Employment - Drinking and the Workplace.
  • 5.Beginning of the End - A Failing Strategy.
  • 6. Drying Out - Support and Rehabilitation.
  • 7. Life Beyond the Booze - Recovering Autistic Alcoholic.
  • Conclusion.
  • References.
  • Resources.
  • Appendix - Thoughts from Friends and Family.


From Review by: Dick Cady, ForeWord Magazine

Autism is one of the great medical mysteries of our day: Is it caused by genetics, environment, vaccines, or a combination of things? Science as yet can't say, and thus it is also one of the great human tragedies. Millions of people enter the world lacking the tools to cope, with little hope of any immediate cure.

Yet not all of those diagnosed with autism have the severe learning disabilities, physical limitations, or inability to understand social interaction. In recent years much has been learned about the milder Asperger Syndrome, which is characterized by difficulty communicating and interacting with the external world.

To a growing body of literature on AS, add Asperger Syndrome and Alcohol: Drinking To Cope, by Matthew Tinsley and Sarah Hendrickx. The book attempts to break new ground on the relationship between alcoholism and persons who have or probably have AS, but haven't necessarily been diagnosed.

Tinsley is not just the co-author; he's a living, breathing laboratory specimen. That he survived until age forty-three before discovering he had the classic AS symptoms is something of a medical mystery in itself. Toward the end, he was consuming up to three large bottles of gin a day. He should have been comatose, or dead.

But he lived to tell his tale, and it's a compelling story, even for others coping merely with alcoholism. Hendrickx provides the clinical overview. She's the training manager on an AS support project in England and the co-author of two earlier AS-related books.

This book intersperses Tinsley's story with commentary by Hendrickx, supplemented by relevant quotes from other, anonymous persons with AS and drinking problems. There's no attempt, or need, to dramatize. Information is compiled and presented without sweeping pronouncements. It is clear, though, that an alcoholic person with AS stands a better chance of rehabilitation once the AS is diagnosed.

And what is the relationship between the one and the other? To her credit, Hendrickx makes no bold claims. "The possibility that someone can be both alcoholic and autistic needs to be recognized in both autism and substance misuse services, and a greater understanding of both fields established," she writes.

As for Tinsley, his is a message of hope. "It is never too late to change your life if you are unhappy with your addiction and wish to gain self-knowledge," he says. "From being lost in the depths of addiction and depression, I am now living a life I couldn't have imagined."


PsychForum on asperger's and alcoholism.

Related article: Timothy Kowalski, MA on Asperger's Disorder.