* When is a drinking problem not just a drinking problem?
* If it is a problem, stop drinking
* Getting feedback from others and facing denial
* What actions you should take if it is only a drinking problem
* What actions you should take if it is full blown alcoholism
When is a drinking problem not just a drinking problem?
Apparently there are people out there who just have a drinking problem. To me, this is amazing. Instead of being a true alcoholic, they simply get into trouble when they drink, but can easily put it down, and have no problem saying “no” to alcohol. Their problem is alcohol-driven. When they drink, they tend to drink too much and lose control. However, they are not experiencing major consequences, and they do not experience the phenomenon of craving. They can take it or leave it. But when they take it, they have problems. This is a drinking problem.
The problem escalates into dependency when the person starts to rely on alcohol. Remember that our definition of a “drinking problem” means that the person can either “take it or leave it.” With alcoholism, there is more of a dependency involved. Now there is a tricky aspect to all this and that is because there exists a type of alcoholic known as a “binge drinker.” The binge drinker can seemingly “take it or leave it” and will sometimes go for long periods of time without drinking. However, when they do drink, they normally will not stop for quite some time and have a tendency to get into major trouble. This sounds a lot like the “problem drinker” and so we have a real tricky area here.
The only real way to define alcoholism in this case and separate it from problem drinking is to run an experiment and observe the results.
If it is a problem, stop drinking
The experiment is to stop drinking. If the person stops and can function normally without any extra effort in managing their life, then this is a problem drinker. But if the person cannot really handle their life when they stop drinking suddenly, then this state of being sort of defines alcoholism. The difference is that the alcoholic needs help in order to stop drinking.
There is another experiment that you can do, and that is to attempt some controlled drinking. In my opinion, this does not really lead to a conclusion though. If you are even attempting to control your drinking then that is a bad sign right there that leans towards alcoholism rather than problem drinking. The program of AA suggests that you try controlled drinking in order to diagnose alcoholism if you are unsure, but I think it is more revealing to simply stop drinking altogether. With “controlled drinking” experiments, some alcoholics can fool themselves for a long, long time.
So maybe you are a problem drinker who is drinking too much lately. Or maybe you are slowly becoming alcoholic and have not yet reached the “point of no return.” In either case, a great suggestion is: stop drinking. Just stop drinking and then deal with that decision as best you can. If you can deal with it easily then you are a problem drinker. If your life falls apart, then you might be an alcoholic.
Action item: Stop drinking for 30 days and honestly assess your life during that time. If your life gets much easier without getting help from anyone, then you have a drinking problem. If your life gets chaotic and much more difficult to handle without the alcohol, then you might be an alcoholic.
Getting feedback from others and facing denial
The fact is that this type of experiment is useless unless the person can be completely honest with themselves about it. If you stop drinking just to prove to yourself that you are not an alcoholic, but then you are basically gritting your teeth just to make it through each day, then that should illustrate the scope of the problem to you. Denial is when you keep gritting your teeth and toughing it out while insisting that you can soon return to a normal life of drinking. Of course there are other forms of denial as well but if you are trying to diagnose your drinking problem or alcoholism then you have to be very careful about this. If you cannot easily handle your life sober then this is a clear indicator of something more serious than a drinking problem.
One of the hardest things for anyone to do is to take feedback from other people into account when diagnosing themselves. How would anyone else know us better than we know ourselves? That is the mindset that the alcoholic will have when others are giving them feedback and suggesting that they might have a problem with alcohol. In this case, denial is when we go with our own opinion over that of everyone else, even if it is a 10 to one argument. In other words, if you have several people in your life who suggest that you have a problem with alcohol, then that is something to take a serious look at. If just one person says it, you can dismiss it. But if several say it, then to ignore the issue is outright denial.
What actions you should take if it is only a drinking problem
If you decide that you only have a drinking problem then you should do one of two things:
1) Cut down your alcohol consumption significantly.
2) Quit drinking entirely.
If you get into trouble when you drink and tend to drink too much, then you obviously would do well to stop. Stop drinking, or stop drinking so much. If you merely have a drinking problem then this should be no problem for you to accomplish. People with a drinking problem (who are not alcoholic) have no problem with putting on the brakes in the face of real consequences. It is the true alcoholic who has to keep drinking regardless.
It is possible of course that alcoholism could develop later in life, at seemingly any given age. No one is completely immune to the possibility. Given that, do you want to risk continued drinking if you have had some problems in the past? Is it really worth it? Full blown alcoholism can be devastating and fatal so you may just want to steer clear from alcohol permanently and avoid the issue.
After all, if it is just a drinking problem, then eliminate the drinking, and the problem will go away. This is what defines a “drinking problem,” and separates it from true alcoholism and addiction.
What actions you should take if it is full blown alcoholism
If you cannot walk away from alcohol, then you have a serious issue. If you walk away from booze for months at a time, but always end up coming back to it and going on a binge that has devastating consequences, then you have a serious issue as well. This goes beyond a mere drinking problem and is full blown alcoholism.
Unfortunately, no one can tell you that you are an alcoholic. You must diagnose yourself.
This website is absolutely filled with suggestions about what an alcoholic should do and how they should try to live. If you have decided that you are a true alcoholic then you are ready to take some serious action.
That is the name of the game here: action. That is what you need if you are going to conquer your problem. You need action. Massive action.
Massive action is the key because if you only take a modest amount of action in regards to your alcoholism then you will surely relapse and continue to drink. The same is true if you take little action or no action at all. Those strategies will all lead to relapse.
Taking massive action means that you are willing to do some things in order to work on your problem. What you do is not nearly as important as the fact that you get motivated, take action, and follow through with even more action.
You can go to AA meetings if you want. But don’t just go to one. Go to several each day. Get involved. Start learning and soaking it all up. Go way overboard with the program if you are going to use it. Seriously, it is the passion and the motivation that will save your life….not the program itself.
There are other paths as well. The exact path is not important. Only your intensity and conviction to uphold your sobriety is what matters. If you have intensity and conviction and can translate that into taking massive action, then you will do great in recovery.
If you are a full blown alcoholic then you need a full blown solution to your problem. This takes huge commitment and huge amounts of action.
1) Long term treatment. Living in rehab for months or even years.
2) Full commitment to 12 step fellowship. Several meetings per day, study the literature (not read it. Study it), deep involvement with the fellowship.
3) Intense counseling and therapy sessions. Followed up with major decisions, actually taking advice, and following through with the required actions.
4) A long term commitment to holistic health and continuous growth.
These are just broad examples and none of them necessarily constitute a full recovery program on their own. They are just given as examples to illustrate the intensity and action that you need in order to overcome alcoholism.