A "periodic" is an alcoholic who is able to put together some dry time -- sometimes for considerable periods -- in between bouts of uncontrolled drinking.
The challenge for a periodic alcoholic is that these "dry times" (understandably) confuse the issue as to whether or not they are powerless over alcohol.
I once heard someone at a meeting sum up his process in sorting this out this way:
"I didn't think I had a problem drinking -- until I finally realized that virtually every time I drank I had a problem."
As I'm fond of observing, Alcoholics Anonymous is not selling anything. As a whole we have no investment in convincing someone that they are alcoholic. Each person must make this diagnosis on their own -- if they don't there is actually very little -- nothing, really -- that the AA program can do to help them.
Thus, in the case of a periodic drinker, while individual AA members may offer their own experience (direct or observational) on the matter, if a person eventually decides that their extended dry periods prove that they are not, in fact, powerless over alcohol ... well then, "our hats are off to them."
That is one of AA's great strengths; its welcoming spirit coupled with a policy of attraction rather than promotion.
And if they're wrong, and they are in fact an alcoholic, well then, I guess if they survive their next drinking episode (and I mean that literally), they'll know where to come for help.
reprinted from a file on my computer (this means I don't know where it came from, but I like it)