Q&A: How Do I Know if I’m an Alcoholic?
Need help? Call our 24/7 helpline. 855-933-3480

Q&A: How Do I Know if I’m an Alcoholic?


Am I An AlcoholicQ: I’m a college grad that has been a super-heavy drinker for years now. I know my drinking is problematic but I don’t know what that means, really. How do I know if I’m an alcoholic? If I am, do I need to stop drinking forever?

A: First off, congrats! Not for possibly being an alkie, but for having the guts and wherewithal to take the first baby steps toward (hopefully) feeling happier and healthier. Whether you’re an “official” alcoholic or not (pssst—there’s no legit “official” way to conclusively say who’s a real alcoholic), asking yourself these tough questions is, well, tough. We know how scary and alienating it can be to face a daunting possible diagnosis like addiction.

Again, there’s no official test for whether someone is an alcoholic versus a social drinker versus a binge drinker versus a “problem” drinker, versus a…you get the picture. If you’re concerned about your drinking and suspect (or feel in your gut) that you might be an alcoholic, there’s a reasonably sized chance that…you are. (Sorry to break it to you that way.)

There’s a self-test questionnaire-thing here, if you want to try it. It’s full of exciting questions like whether you ever experience blackouts, whether your friends or family have ever expressed concern about your drinking and whether alcohol has ever negatively affected your life, your relationships, your goals or your career.

Sure, those kinds of quizzes can serve as a sort of preliminary gateway toward helping folks identify their problem patterns when it comes to the bottle, but they’re not the be-all end-all. Determining whether you’re a bonafide drunkard is pretty much on you, though if alcoholism runs in your family, you have a much better shot of following suit (thanks, Mom).

My own “diagnosis” wasn’t very black or white. See, some alcoholics only realize they have a problem after their lives up and explode in their faces—maybe Mark’s wife serves him divorce papers after catching him cheating in a blackout blur; or Sally gets fired from her dream job because she’s too hungover to make it into work more than twice a week; or Ben makes the terrible decision to get behind the wheel when he’s over-the-top wasted, then promptly hits and kills a pedestrian. These kinds of major shock events are generally considered addicts’ “bottoms”—they’re triggers so life-shattering that the addict essentially has no choice but to confront his drinking and, hopefully, change it for good.

But you don’t have to hit some crazy dramatic blow-out bottom like the more intense examples above to “qualify” as an alcoholic. Plenty of recovering drunks had “higher” bottoms in which they didn’t externally lose as much as their low-bottomed peers, but…they’d lost enough. They felt awful enough about the things they’d done or said and the things they hadn’t done or said and all that shame, guilt and fear ultimately condensed into something painful enough to make them seek help.

Whether your move to seek help was court-ordered, suggested by a therapist or just a moral choice you’ve reached on your own—change is a good thing. Because if you’re an alcoholic, you should not be drinking. Period. That is, unless you want to keep feeling like crap and screwing up your life…?

That said, try not to think of the whole “no more drinking” situation as some kind of self-imposed ultimatum like, “I can never ever let myself drink again, but if I do, I’m a total fuckup.” In AA, members are only encouraged to think about abstaining from alcohol for literally only one day at a time. They aim to not let themselves think or plan too far in advance—i.e., no fruitless ruminating about what might happen five years from now, or at her wedding next month or at that concert tomorrow. Just think about staying sober today. That’s your sole goal for now.

To sum up: If you’re worrying about your drinking—and you’re not sure you’re a “real” alcoholic—I’d suggest attending an AA meeting. Just one. Try it. Yes, it might feel a bit weird and uncomfortable at first. But just sit there. One measly hour. You don’t have to raise your hand. You don’t have to say your name or talk to anyone or proclaim yourself an alcoholic—or proclaim  anything at all. You can bust your ass to get out of there as soon as the whole miserable debacle wraps up. But just going, sitting and trying to listen to other people’s stories is bound to help you start to answer a few questions of your own. It might even help you feel less alone. Good luck!

Any Questions? Call Now To Speak to a Rehab Specialist
(855) 933-3480

About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.