How to Tell if You're an Alcoholic

In the lead up to stopping drinking we will all have wondered if we do actually drink too much. A lot perhaps, but too much? That's something different.

The end of DryJanuary is approaching and many will soon revert back to their usual drinking habits. Presumably you have wondered before if you drink too much and this is a piece of tough love I'm afraid.

How do you tell if you drink too much? There are so many variables to consider it is very difficult.

How much is too much?

Can it be too much if it is less than your partner/friend/ colleague or Doctor drinks?

Can it be too much if you suffer no hangover the next day?

Can it be too much if it's only in the evening/in the pub/in the house/ or on a special occasion?

The sobering thought is that yes, these statements and many more can all be true. In the lead up to stopping drinking we will all have wondered if we do actually drink too much. A lot perhaps, but too much? That's something different. We may have asked other people, we may have read information on the internet, we may have gone to an AA meeting and seen others more severely affected and been falsely reassured.

The fact is that normal drinkers do not think about their drinking. It is no big deal for them. They have one or two, stop when they reach their limits and don't over do it. It's the same way that naturally thin friends often do not know how much they weigh.

I am sorry to break the news that if you have gotten as far as reading this blog, and continuing to read it after realising it is a sober blog, it is most likely that you do drink too much. I can also say from personal experience and the benefit of hindsight, that you almost certainly know you drink too much but are reluctant to believe it, knowing what it may mean for your future.

A quote from Erica Jong sums it up so well. She says 'Advice is something we ask for when we know the answer, but wish we didn't'.

Does this mean you are an alcoholic?

This is a question I often asked myself when I was hoping I wouldn't have to stop drinking. I know from other sober blogs and fora that many people wonder the same thing. Why? Because if we don't meet the criteria to be labelled an alcoholic then we are okay, aren't we? We are not that bad, need not worry and can carry on as we are. Deep down we know that's not true.

Asking whether or not you are an alcoholic is the wrong question.

What we need to know is whether or not we have a problem with alcohol.

Previously, GPs would ask about the number of units of alcohol consumed per week. You would answer, telling the truth divided by two (or three or four) and they would compare this to the weekly recommended limit of 14 units for women and 21 for men. Translating a bowl of wine into units and multiplying by a number of top ups and seven days in the week quickly gave us a huge number. But this number was not particularly meaningful to us on an individual, personal level.

Now it is simple. The Doctor asks two questions.

1. Have you ever done anything you regret whilst drunk?

2. Have you ever had more than six drinks in one sitting?

These we can immediately relate to. These are easy questions to answer with a simple Yes/No required.

So have you? Have you had more than six drinks at one sitting OR regretted anything that's happened whilst you were drunk?

If so, relax. You're not an alcoholic, but you do have a problem with alcohol.

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