One of the scariest questions we find ourselves asking is am I an alcoholic? In fact, the very idea that we might need to label ourselves as an alcoholic can send us into a spiral of drinking even more just to avoid those thoughts. We start comparing, looking up questionnaires, and looking for reassurance that our drinking is within normal limits. For most of us the question does not need to be am I an alcoholic.
Am I An Alcoholic?
Culturally, I feel like we’ve stopped asking the same questions, like, “Would I be happier drinking a bit less, or drinking nothing at all?” Instead, the question that looms is, “Am I an alcoholic?” It’s not cool to question our drinking like we would question our sugar intake or cigarette smoking, and because of that, we live in fear. When we feel we might be drinking a bit too much, the fear grows, because the question, again, that looms is, “Am I an alcoholic,” and so we start to feel really uncomfortable with this question. As drinkers, we often drink to dull these uncomfortable feelings, so this very question not only causes us to drink more but can create this rock bottom type experience. A true wake-up call stemming from something awful happening with our drinking before the fear of the question becomes less than the fear of continuing to drink as we do.
The Scary Question
The question is terrifying. Why is it terrifying? Because we’ve been told that alcoholism is a lifelong, incurable disease that plagues a select few people, and we sure don’t want to be one of those people. We’ve divided our culture into two people. People who can drink normally, and alcoholics. This gives us this false sense of security. I believe it obscures the naturally addictive nature of alcohol. When rats were given alcohol in a study, 100 percent of rats that were force-fed alcohol became addicted to alcohol. Alcohol is biologically addicting to human beings, and we don’t treat it with the caution it deserves because we believe if we’re not an alcoholic, then bring it on, pour the wine. According to some more research, only 10 percent of excessive drinkers are clinically dependent, and alcohol is still causing massive problems for the 90 percent, and most interestingly, alcohol use and drinking has skyrocketed in our culture, especially among women.
Alcohol is Addictive
It’s literally insane. Alcohol is addictive not just to alcoholics, but to human beings. The way our society poses this question and when we start to question our own drinking, we jump to this question, means that we almost protect alcohol, and we disguise its addictive nature. But enough about the question. I just get a bit riled up about this because it seems like such a mistake. We can question our sugar. We can question all sorts of other things about our health, but we can’t question our drinking, which I think is a mistake, especially considering how much harm drinking does, but let me answer the question.
How Do I Know If I’m An Alcoholic?
First, the most simple answer to, “How do I know if I’m an alcoholic,” is you’re not. You are not an alcoholic. Guess why? Alcoholics don’t exist. In the medical and the psychiatric and scientific realms, “alcoholism” is no longer recognized. Therefore, alcoholics aren’t recognized as a thing. That’s because we’ve started to move on from that to something that encompasses the whole spectrum of drinking. The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, does not recognize the term “alcoholic” and instead, it uses the much more accurate term “alcohol use disorder.” This alcohol use disorder, unlike “alcoholic,” whether you’re in or out, is black and white, is actually a continuum of use and misuse that defines one’s relationship with alcohol and how harmful that relationship is becoming. What you should be asking is where do you fit along the continuum of alcohol use disorder?
Two of these things, if you say yes, you have alcohol use disorder. The severity of it is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, so two to three is mild. Moderate is four to five, and severe is six or more. I think this is going to be shocking because I think that most people who drink can at least answer two or three of these with a yes. Again, two means yes, you have alcohol use disorder.
Dive Deeper Into This Question
If you’re still stuck and wondering if you might be an alcoholic, I have a few resources available that can help you in further examining your relationship with alcohol. Download this free e-book where we explore the subject further and focus on the questions that are truly important.
Also tune into this video where I go through the criteria listed in the DSM-5 screening and really break down what the questions mean:
The Real Question To Ask
When it comes down to it, the importance doesn’t lie in the answer to whether or not you’re an alcoholic. What is important is how you feel about your relationship with alcohol. How does it make you feel? How does it make you act? What impact does it have on your health? Your relationships? Your job? If you’re ready to take a break and reevaluate your relationship with alcohol, join us in the Alcohol Experiment! It is free and has helped over 250,000 take a break from alcohol to find their clarity and freedom.