How Can I Tell if I’m an Alcoholic?
The problem with being in active addiction is you can’t see how alcohol affects your life. Your mind, which has an abnormal reaction to alcohol, becomes intensely focused on the feeling produced by alcohol.
I can pinpoint the time when this effect occurred in me. From that point on, it became my sole vocation. It was like I found my true calling. Now, I realize I had lost the power of choice. I don’t have to ask “am I an alcoholic?”, because I know I am.
Do I Obsess About How Much I Drink?
The alcoholic mind is a truly dangerous and crazy thing. The third glass of beer would always, inevitably, bring on a tidal wave of irrational and desperate reasoning. With myself, mind you.
“Listen here, you’re 23 years old, if you want to drink another beer you can drink another beer.”
“Okay, so you like to drink. So what? Plenty of successful people LIKE to drink. Does that mean you’re an alcoholic? No. It means you like to drink. For Christ’s sake, you enjoy a nice beer or five or twelve on occasion. What, does that mean you should go to alcohol rehab for 90 days and sit in group therapy with a bunch of real, low-bottom drunks? No! Go order another beer. It’s okay. It’s okay. I promise it’s okay.”
“You don’t need it.”
“I know I don’t need it, I don’t. But I want it, okay?”
“Get the beer.”
“No, you’re fine. Just drink soda. You can get good and drunk tomorrow.”
And on and on and on until the next day rolled around, and then the same. Being at constant battle with your own crippled brain is an exhausting thing to do. But hey, on the bright side – I could keep it at three glasses if I really, really tried. At least for a week. So surely I wasn’t an alcoholic, right? Come to find out, my alcoholism was no great respecter of boundaries. I could white knuckle for brief stints, but sooner or later I would cave and take 8 or 9 Fireball shots in rapid succession, followed by a bottle or two of gas station wine and as many beers as I could squeeze out of unsuspecting male strangers.
What I learned once I got to alcohol rehab was that it wasn’t necessarily how much I drank that made me an alcoholic, but how much I thought about drinking. I obsessed; I truly did. Alcoholism is a disease of obsessions and compulsions. I drank compulsively after awhile – I had lost all control over the quantity I consumed once I picked up the first drink. It became utterly undeniable. If you are struggling to determine whether or not you are indeed addicted to alcohol, try limiting yourself to three glasses of craft beer. If you can do it, cool. Now pay attention to how much headspace the thought of ‘just one more’ takes up. How does your brain react to this unnatural cut off? Take notes. And remember, alcoholism is a progressive disease. As time goes on you will begin to lose more and more, and your ability to control your intake will continue to rapidly dwindle. Get help while you can.
Does Alcohol Come Before Family?
Take a look at who, or what, comes first in your life. There are responsibilities like family, work, and school. Then there’s recreational stuff like playing sports, going to a movie, or drinking. Which of these do you place first? If you answered drinking, well, you might want to rethink the answer to that question “am I an alcoholic?”
I used to bartend and I’d find myself showing up late for work day after day. My boss would yell at me, but I’d only step things up for the next couple of days, soon returning to my usual routine. Also, when I did finally arrive at work, I’d immediately pour myself two or three shots. I couldn’t face an eight-hour shift without being drunk.
I’d make plans with my family, and at the last minute would cancel if I wasn’t messed up enough. Holidays and family gatherings became unimportant. Hell, I wouldn’t even call my family for weeks at a time.
Am I An Alcoholic if I’m Losing Sleep?
Another issue was my sleeping pattern. My thoughts would race and I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. I figured out quickly that drinking before bed helped me fall asleep.
As time went on, my sleeping habits became reliant on the amount of alcohol I’d consumed before bed. This pattern is completely unmanageable. No one should have to drink to be able to fall asleep!
Is My Life Unmanageable?
Putting others at risk as a result of your drinking is a good indicator that your life is unmanageable. An example of this would be drinking and driving. The fact that you had to drink, but you also had to drive, isn’t normal. This is a pretty obvious sign that your life may be unmanageable. Say you drink on the job. You’re putting your clients at risk here as well. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a doctor and it’s their lives, or you’re a financial consultant and it’s their money.
Being Honest with Yourself
It’s hard to realize that things are unmanageable as manageability is subjective to everyone. That’s why the time I spent in an alcohol addiction treatment center was good for me. I had some time from my last drink and began to gain some much-needed perspective.
A good place to start is to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Do you find yourself unable to control your drinking?
- Do you need alcohol to start your day?
- How are your personal relationships?
- Have you ever gotten a DUI?
- Have you had legal issues as a result of drinking?
- If you’re in school, do you go to class?
- Has your doctor ever told you that you need to stop drinking?
- Do you need alcohol to sleep?
- Has any person ever come to you concerned about your drinking and you responded angrily?
If you ask yourself “am I an alcoholic?” and you answered yes to any of these questions, I highly recommend going to a twelve-step meeting or finding an alcohol addiction treatment center.