Problem Drinkers or Real Alcoholics? Does It Matter?

Problem Drinkers or Real Alcoholics? Does It Matter?


This post was originally published on July 2, 2015.

The myth that those with alcohol problems are only low-bottom alcoholics who guzzle booze in the morning sometimes keeps problem drinkers from thinking they need to stop or getting help. Because these problem drinkers aren’t chugging Popov in the gutter and living in a shady motel, they don’t identify with the word “alcoholic.” And they certainly want nothing to do with AA.

But one woman is trying to change this.

Fine Wine to Bad Blackouts

Lucy Rocca, a well-educated and successful mother from a suburb of Sheffield, England, found that the wild drinking patterns of her 20s followed her into her 30s. But she couldn’t believe she had a problem, given her taste for fine wine and her middle-class lifestyle. Regardless, her two-bottle-a-night habit finally landed her in an emergency room, where she woke up covered in her own dried-up vomit with no recollection of how she got there.

Thankfully, it was a wake-up call.

Though Rocca still doesn’t think she’s an alcoholic, she does recognize she can’t drink safely. She thinks acknowledging a “middle ground” kind of alcohol dependency is important.

“The word [alcoholic]implied a level of alcohol dependency that resulted in the wheels falling off entirely: the loss of a job, involvement of the social services or a drink-driving conviction,” Rocca wrote in The Telegraph. “My own experiences with booze fell far short of such extremes, and yet I knew I had a problem.”

Reaching a Tipping Point

Instead of pissing on AA, as some people do when they get sober outside of the 12-step program, or droning on and on that alcoholism-as-a-disease is bunk, Rocca decided to put her new-found sobriety to good use. In 2012, she started, a blog and social networking site tailored to women with destructive drinking patterns who want to get on the wagon and steer clear of booze entirely.

Apparently, there are plenty of women who identify with this “middle ground” dependency because in just one year the site collected 20,000 members.

“Most of the women who use my site didn’t regard themselves as alcoholics and for that reason the majority had been turned off Alcoholics Anonymous,” Rocca writes. “They come to the site because they know that they are at a tipping point—a place where those carefree days and nights of social drinking and office networking are morphing into something else, when the bad feelings are beginning to outweigh the good.”

Just like an AA meeting, Soberistas provides a forum for women to support each other in their sobriety and remind each other that staying away from booze does not condemn you to a boring, routine existence. In their personal stories, they describe all the benefits of putting the plug in the jug, which include waking up without the agony of a hangover, kicking even more ass at work and not retching at the sight of your last hook-up.

Just Semantics

Whether or not Rocca or these other problem drinkers are alcoholics in the proper sense of the word is a moot point—they know where alcohol takes them and that it takes them to hell, and they want to stop the nonsense.

Let’s hope Soberistas starts a brother site called Soberbros to help out the dudes suffering from middle ground dependency too.



  1. Hey – guess what – there’s an organization out there that’s been doing this for a lot longer and it’s FREE to join! It’s called Women for Sobriety and it’s been around since before it was cool to be sober. Giving women a place to learn new coping skills and focusing on their strengths and competencies, they don’t try to profit form people’s desperation. There’s no membership to join. We have an active membership with forums, chats and even F2F meetings around the country and the world. A program created by women for women. It was founded by Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick.

  2. rizzo marler on

    Im an addict who goes to NA and i agree with this article.i think it doesnt matter what u want to call it, all that matters is that you recognize that there is a problem that needs to be fixed. AA and NA isnt for everybody byt i believe everybody should have some sort of support system because no one can do it alone. Bottom line is; everybody reaches recovery different. Recovery is being abstinent of drugs/alcohol,and changing the behavior that makes us want to drink/use, etc. Thank you for your hard work and willing to help others reach a beautiful sober life.

  3. Stumbled across this website. I have been sober 3 years. Defintley a different life.
    I didn’t know how to stop at one drink and had black outs.
    Some days are great days, some are bad. No thoughts of drinking. But trying to fix everything that I messed up. So some days are frustrating then others.

  4. Very well said. I struggle going to AA because I have a hard time calling myself alcoholic. I don’t crave it, just don’t know my limit when drinking, then blackouts happen. Good read and great support.

  5. Katherine Major on

    There are better things to enjoy in life than drinking alcohol to the point that it makes you sick. Sometimes we need to know someone cares about us.

    • Katherine,You are absolutely correct ! Everyone needs to know they are loved and cared for,not for what they do or have done,just for who they are,as a human being who has basic human needs.A positive “connection.”Thank you for your comment.

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Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.