The question sounds like a real no-brainer. Am I an alcoholic? Yet it is deceptively difficult to know for sure when you are first teetering on the brink of the disease.
For most of the world, it is painfully obvious to us when someone is a drug addict or an alcoholic. We all know the classic signs and symptoms, and we (unfortunately) get to shamelessly follow along as different celebrities deal with the disease of addiction. If you are anything like I was, then you initially chalked up the phenomenon of addiction and alcoholism to weak-willed individuals who are either lazy or stupid. What a slap in the face it was when I finally had to face my own demons and admit that I had a problem.
But addiction can creep up on anyone. Many people go their whole lives with no sign of it, and they are able to drink “normally,” and then suddenly develop alcoholism after they retire. In addition to the “late blooming alcoholics” out there, virtually anyone and everyone is open to the possible danger of opiate addiction through a simple slip-and-fall accident. There are also people who have developed wicked insomnia, and have quickly become addicted to sleeping medication. In short, no one is immune to the potential for addiction, so a bit of direction in the art of self diagnosis might be helpful to some people out there.
Keep in mind that self-diagnosis is the only way. No one can tell you if you are an addict or not. There have been plenty of college students, for example, who drank and used drugs very heavily for a period of their lives, and were able to successfully return to a normal life of moderation and social drinking. They are not “true” alcoholics and addicts. Others might have told them that they were addicts, but clearly they were not. Therefore, you will have to diagnosis yourself.
Diagnosis via The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous has a suggestion for those who are questioning themselves at this point: go try some controlled drinking. Set limits on your intake and stick to them no matter what. Have a 3 drink maximum for yourself. If you happen to use other substances, then set similar limits for those (relatively low amounts). Then, see how you feel when you are actively trying to control your intake. Notice if there is any hint of resentment at having to control and limit your using. Watch yourself and have an awareness about how content you are. If you are an alcoholic or a drug addict, chances are that you will be restless and irritable when trying to limit and control your using. If you are out at the bar with friends, or having drinks over dinner, then you will be more worried about how much you are drinking and not able to enjoy yourself. If this is the case, then what is that really telling you?
“Normal” people (those who are NOT alcoholic) do not obsess over drinking in any way, nor do they become irritated if you make them limit their intake. “Normal” people are perfectly fine with a single glass of wine at dinner, or having no alcohol at all. Notice that any alcoholic can actually control and limit their drinking, but not for any considerable length of time. That is why the disease is so cunning. An alcoholic can fool themselves into thinking that they can control it, simply because they manage to drink moderately and responsibly in the short run. But the true alcoholic or addict who continues to attempt moderation will always return to their full blown level of use at some point. So give it some time. If you are gritting your teeth while trying to limit your use, and you eventually go off the deep end and drink or use very heavily when you hadn’t planned on it, then you are probably addicted.
There is another saying that can help shed some light here. “I didn’t get into trouble every time I drank, but every time I got into trouble, I had been drinking.” In other words, don’t fool yourself just because you don’t land in jail every time you get drunk. Again, this goes back to the idea of control. Almost any alcoholic can control their consumption in the short run. Sooner or later–for real alcoholics–it always catches up with them.
You’re reading this, aren’t you?
The simple fact that you’ve landed on this website and you’re reading this article is already tipping the balance towards an alcoholic diagnosis. Meaning that if you have to ask, chances are good that you are an alcoholic. “Normal” people don’t wonder if they are addicted. “Normal” people don’t question whether or not they might be an alcoholic. Simply questioning yourself is a strong indication that you might be addicted.
Problem drinker versus Alcoholic
There is a revealing saying in AA: “If you give someone booze and they have a problem, that’s a problem drinker. On the other hand, an alcoholic has a problem when you take the booze away.” In other words, true alcoholics have a problem with living sober. Without a program of recovery, they will tend to be “restless, irritable, and discontent.”
So ask yourself: do you tend to have problems when you drink or use drugs, or do you have a paralyzing fear when you imagine your life without any chemicals? If you’re leaning towards the second answer more than the first, then chances are good that you’re an addict.
If you’ve decided that you are addicted, please explore this website further, or contact me directly through email and I will respond within 24 hours.
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