I don’t know. Are you?
One of the things I learned pretty quickly in AA is that only you can decide if you’re an alcoholic. The people you’re close to will probably let you know if they think your drinking is a problem, but just imagine Smokie the Bear soberly reminding you “only you can decide if you’re an alcoholic“.
This image is either comforting or terrifying. Or maybe both.
If you’re comforted by this, you’re probably a “normal” drinker, which is to say someone who can take or leave a glass of wine, and certainly never alters their morning routine to sneak a little wine into a travel mug.
If you’re terrified, you might have a problematic relationship with alcohol, or you might already be an alcoholic. And you know that better than I do.
I’m not going to attempt to explain the difference between a problem drinker and an alcoholic because 1) I am not a scientist or medical professional, and I don’t have much sobriety under my belt, and 2) because I’m not sure I understand the difference anyway. I believe it’s more about an invisible line you can’t cross.
I was a problem drinker pretty much from the start. I had my first drink at a sleepover in the 7th grade and my first drunk in the 9th grade. It was a knock-down, fall out drunk too, and there were plenty more throughout high school and even more in college.
My drinking leveled out in early adulthood because in desperation to keep drinking, I realized I needed to cut back. To moderate. And it worked for a long time. I was not a moderate drinker by medical standards, but I was not blacking out, I wasn’t falling down, I wasn’t loud or belligerent or reckless. (Not regularly anyway.) I held my liquor and I had hangovers, but they weren’t debilitating.
And then my problem drinking grew out of hand again and this time I was not able to control it. Though God knows I tried. I bought a book on moderate drinking and quit for 30 days and then quit drinking during the week and limited how much I drank on weekends. And I pretty quickly fell back into my old ways because moderation completely blew. And I continued to get worse, just like the experts predicted.
So I absolutely believe that alcoholism is a progressive disease, which I will write about more later because I can trace when and how it got out of control for me.
So anyway, I’m an alcoholic. I didn’t get a DUI and I didn’t lose my job and I didn’t wake up naked under a bridge or anything like that, but I am an alcoholic. And while it is a little demeaning to have to say this because “alcoholic” is a terrible word, it is also a huge relief to know I’m better off not drinking at all.
And I guess that’s how I feel about the statement that “only you can decide if you’re an alcoholic.” At first I was terrified at the thought that my drinking was out of control because I wasn’t sure where it was going to take me next, physically, mentally, or emotionally. And then I was terrified that I was an alcoholic because then I’d have to give up drinking. Forever. Which? Is pretty damn terrifying at first.
But then a funny thing happened. The thought of giving up drinking became comforting. It happened pretty much the moment I realized I am an alcoholic, though please don’t confuse this with me never wanting to drink again. I am not over the mental cravings of alcohol, but I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that I don’t have to drink anymore.
I simply know my life is much better off without alcohol. Sixty days sober, I’m already thinking clearer and feeling less depressed than I have in years…decades possibly. I’m sure my liver’s thankful, and I feel a sense of spiritual peace like the tip of a crocus poking through the snow. Certainly my children are in much better hands. And my marriage stands a better chance at pulling through than it has in years.
So I’m in a pretty good place now. I find comfort in knowing I’m on the right track and just need to remind myself the goal is progress, not perfection.
And? If you’re at all worried about your drinking, why not take this quiz? I find the questions are concise and were simple for me to answer openly and honestly.