Am I an Alcoholic? Understanding the Difference Between Drinking and Disease

We all know that not everyone who drinks has a problem. But how do you know if you? Read here if you’re wondering, “Am I an alcoholic?”

Don’t you love having a drink during happy hour, while grilling, or when your favorite team is playing? Chances are, the answer is yes. 

Do you find yourself obsessing about these events as an excuse to drink or planning your life around whether alcohol will be involved? 

There is a fine line between drinking socially, heavy drinking, and alcoholism. If you find yourself asking, ‘am I an alcoholic?’ you may need to rethink your relationship to this substance. 

We’re going to discuss how you can decide if you are an alcoholic or simply enjoy having a few with your friends. Keep reading for more information! 

The Doctor’s Opinion

If you were to ask your doctor about moderate drinking, he would tell you the recommended amount of alcohol for women is one drink per day. For men, a ‘moderate’ amount is two drinks per day. 

When you go to dinner or out with friends, you likely have more than one or two drinks, but it’s okay because you’re not getting drunk and you don’t do so every night–right? 

The limit of one drink for women and two for men is not meant to be an average over a week. This means it’s not okay to drink all seven or fourteen drinks in one day and simply not drink the rest of the week. This practice is called binge drinking. 

Even if you do have more drinks than what is considered ‘moderate’ use, it still may not mean you are an alcoholic. 

Psychiatrists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. There is a series of 11 questions that include topics such as the impact alcohol has had on your relationships, health, legal standing, and work. 

The questions also take into account what happens after you drink: Can you stop? Do you drink more, or for longer than intended; Do you have withdrawals?

‘I Only Drink on the Weekends’

If you are a weekend warrior and pride yourself on the fact you don’t drink during the week, alcoholism isn’t ruled out. Drinking so much on the weekends that you experience blackouts or have to take an entire day to recover is still problematic. 

If you do drink moderately on the weekends, there isn’t much to worry about. When you wait until the weekend simply to avoid going to work hungover or because you know you can’t control how much you consume after you start, these are signs of trouble.

Alcohol & Your Life

Although a doctor can tell you that you are consuming too much alcohol, defining you as an alcoholic can be difficult. If you can walk away from alcoholic beverages and not think about it, you probably don’t have a problem. 

However, if you are obsessing over when you might be able to have another drink or thinking about trying to ‘sneak’ one or two, you may have already answered your question. 

Even if you can answer all of the doctor’s questions in a satisfactory manner, you still may not be in the clear. A huge question that doesn’t often get asked is, ‘what happens when you drink,’ and ‘what happens when you don’t drink.’

The response to each of these questions is worth some introspection. If you ask yourself these two questions and you realize that every time you drink, you get drunk; and you tend to be in a bad mood or preoccupied without alcohol, alcoholism may be a problem in your life. 

What About Alcoholics Anonymous? 

After doing some self-reflection, you still may not be sure of the answer to your question of, ‘am I an alcoholic?’ 

It may be time for you to try a 12-step meeting. Of course, the best-known support group for alcoholics is Alcoholics Anonymous. In these meetings, you will hear stories of ‘what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.’ 

People will openly discuss how alcohol affected their lives, what their rock bottom or turning point was, and how their lives are now that they are sober. The purpose of this is to allow new people the chance to relate their experiences.

Also during the meeting, someone will give out chips for varying lengths of sobriety. This system works to give each member of the group some accountability and offer hope to newcomers that long-term sobriety is possible.

You will probably notice that each medallion has different colors. AA chip colors have significant meaning and symbolize the new direction your life is taking. 

Should you attend a meeting, you still may not have an answer to whether you’re an alcoholic as AA allows each person to make that decision for themselves.

Attending a meeting may give you an idea of whether your drinking matches that of admitted alcoholics or make you want to do a bit more research on the subject.

Only You Can Answer “Am I An Alcoholic?”

Some people may consider themselves an alcoholic because once they start drinking they can’t stop. Other people may believe they are alcoholic because they can’t cope with daily life without a drink. 

When you are asking yourself, ‘am I an alcoholic?’ you should also consider why you are questioning it. Most non-alcoholics never ponder this question, never have to research whether their drinking is normal, and don’t attempt to impose limits on their drinking. 

If you are truly concerned about the amount of alcohol you consume, try talking honestly with a medical professional–preferably a therapist or counselor who specializes in substance abuse & dependence. 

We hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to read about similar topics, check out the rest of our website!