Am I an Alcoholic?

Many people who are thinking about alcohol treatment or wondering if the drinking that they engage in is problematic, often look to the internet for answers. Those answers are out there on the web if you are lucky enough to find yourself on a Mayo clinic website or trusted treatment websites in various places. I decided to put together all the information that I could find on the topic and offer it in one place. 

The clearest early signs of alcoholism might be heavy drinking more than once a week, frequent drinking until intoxication, or frequent blackouts. When defining a term such as frequent, a helpful point is that for something like blackouts, a non-problem drinker might experience that once or twice in a lifetime, or maybe only once after college. Blacking out once a week or drinking to intoxication a few times a week could certainly be indicative of a serious drinking problem. Blackouts, for those that do not know, are periods of memory loss due to intoxication, and if they become more common over time, that can be indicative of a more serious underlying medical problem. Morning or day drinking, or drinking that is hidden from loved ones, is often considered problematic.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, a program with a long history of trying to help millions of alcoholics, most people would tell you that alcoholism can be well diagnosed by looking at consequences from drinking, but without any cessation of drinking. In other words, if drinking is causing you problems, but you keep drinking, that is something almost all alcoholics have done at some point. If you drink and drive, or even get arrested for a DUI, and do not stop drinking or even slow down, that would be a great example of this phenomenon. But there are many more, drinking or drunkenness that is harming one’s personal relationships, such as causing issues in a marriage, for a non-alcoholic that realization would easily be enough to stop drinking or cut way back. AA members often call this a physical compulsion, and a mental obsession. The feeling of wanting to drink, and the inability to make sensible decisions around drinking. 

Another important example of major consequences from drinking is the devastating effects that alcohol can have on health. A simple physical examination at a doctor could offer some profoundly serious consequences to an alcoholic or problem drinker, and if those consequences do not result in a cessation of drinking or a serious cutback, that is another sign of possible alcoholism. The most important point to get across here, finally, may be that this is different for every individual. The AA program refers to the physical compulsion, and mental obsession, but that obsession and compulsion might be much worse for you than a friend who seems to drink the same amount. Alcoholics must self-diagnose, usually, to ultimately enter alcohol treatment on their own. Most all people thinking about these problems are better off exploring these issues than brushing off the consequences and possibly prolonging an alcoholic lifestyle that will eventually result in devastation, a loss of everything one cares about.

By Tim Cannon