It’s the question that anyone who starts to worry about their relationship with alcohol asks themselves ‘am I an alcoholic?’. The common perception of an alcoholic is someone who drinks in the morning or is sat in a shop doorway with a bottle in a brown bag, but this really isn’t the case.
If you’re anything like me you have probably spent time on Google asking this very question, trying to convince yourself that your level of drinking is fine in order to put your mind at ease and to allow you to get back to your favourite hobby.
There are quite a few online tools to measure your drinking levels (a recent one compares your drinking with the rest of the UK) and tell you if you have a problem.
I didn’t need an online tool, I knew I had a problem, a bottle of wine or more every night is a problem. But I certainly didn’t (and never will) consider myself an alcoholic. I drank alcohol and I stopped, just like I used to eat hamburgers and I stopped, but I am not labeled as a hamburger-holic for the rest of my life, I just don’t eat hamburgers anymore. So I don’t understand why someone who has been labeled as an alcoholic has to be in ‘recovery’ for the rest of their life, it feels like a stigma when it should be celebrated as an incredible life-changing achievement.
Most respected people in the sober-sphere shun the term ‘alcoholic’ and explain that there is a spectrum of drinking which varies from person to person, a good measure of whether someone has become alcohol dependent is whether the thought of not having another drink at the time you usually would fills you with a sense of fear and dread.
If I ever encountered a situation where my wine routine would be disrupted I would feel exactly like this, I recall staying at a retreat in the New Forest, it was alcohol free for three days and I spent several days before stressing about not having wine and debating whether I should sneak some in my bag, I actually stayed alcohol free for the three days but made up for it as soon as I returned home.
So the best worst term is ‘Alcohol Dependent’, which seems a fair description of someone who can’t imagine life without another drink.
I was without doubt alcohol dependent, but the good news is that it is easy to break free and become sober. It doesn’t feel like so easy when you are inside the booze-bubble, but with the right tools and support it is not only pretty easy to get free, it is actually an amazing experience that changes your life for the better in so many ways.
So don’t despair, even if you have tried to quit and failed a few times. Join the private Be Sober Facebook group (and some of the other brilliant groups on Facebook), arm yourself with the books that will change your mindset about alcohol: This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and Kick the Drink Easily by Jason Vale and join the 30 day Alcohol Experiment online.
I run a lot of marathons and I approached my sober journey in the same way as when I sign up for an event, I got excited about it, treated every sober day as another day in training and found myself being really passionate about being sober. It was my new hobby and I wanted to tell everyone about it (although this isn’t always advisable).
I tend not to count the days now, I check in occasionally and like to mark the big milestones, but I have a life to live and don’t want to be counting every day until I die. However, having that huge streak does provide a sense of reward and I know it works for a lot of people.
So the answer is ‘NO’ you are not an alcoholic, but ‘YES’ if you are reading this you are (or were) probably alcohol dependent.
Now let’s do something about it and start changing your life!
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