Am I an alcoholic? Hint: There’s a Better Question!

The age-old question, “Am I an alcoholic?” hasn’t gone anywhere.

Spoiler alert: It’s a trick question! 

Many have found the need to identify as an “alcoholic” or “not” a barrier to finding freedom from alcohol. However, you don’t need to identify as an alcoholic to change your drinking habits if alcohol no longer serves you!

Please note that the term alcoholic is a self-applied term. The DSM 5 uses the term alcohol use disorder (ranging from mild to severe). The word “alcoholic” is not a clinical term.

Many find themselves on the mild or moderate side of alcohol use disorder and can stop independently without medical assistance. These people may know something is not quite right, they aren’t happy with their drinking, but they may still feel stuck. It is important to note that some may need medical intervention to stop using alcohol safely. Typically, alcohol withdrawals can be minor to moderate, including mood swings, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and nausea. Severe withdrawal symptoms can include delirium tremens, seizures, or hallucinations, and medical intervention is needed. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly. Please seek support and advice from a medical professional if you are concerned about this.

In time, those who decide to stop drinking often become the healthiest they’ve ever been. There are steps you can take to empower yourself toward sustainable change. Sustainable change comes from recognizing and addressing the reasons and thought processes that were driving you to drink in the first place. Sometimes we must replace maladaptive coping strategies with new, healthier coping skills. Drinking may have even started as a “habit” but turned into an addiction (alcohol is an addictive drug.) There is hope, and we can create a life we love without alcohol!

Instead of asking, “Am I an alcoholic?” The question should be, “Is alcohol serving me?” If you answered “yes,” you may hold some limiting beliefs about the benefits of alcohol. Ask, “Is it serving me enough to continue on this trajectory?” The answer might be a resounding “No.”

If you have googled, “Do I have a drinking problem?” it might be time to look at your relationship with alcohol. If you have listened to podcasts about it (maybe even for years) or have read countless quit-lit books but are still questioning your relationship with alcohol, it may be time to look closer. You may find that alcohol may have helped you temporarily but is not helping or serving you in the long run.

To be clear, I do not have anything against Alcoholics Anonymous. Regarding the path to sobriety, I think whatever works best, works!! We are all unique individuals. AA or not, you can still decide that alcohol is not serving you and needs to be wiped off the table. 

What about moderation? Many find that while they can moderate for short periods, there are more sustainable long-term solutions. They may find the costs aren’t worth the benefits. Some may find they have no desire to moderate an addictive substance.

I don’t think it’s crucial if you get sober through AA, therapy, quit-lit books, personal introspection, or through breaks from alcohol (and you decided enough was enough!) There is no “right” versus “wrong” way. What matters most is you’re here now. We may take different paths to get here, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re dipping your toe in now. Despite the different approaches, a common goal in the sober community is to find freedom from alcohol in the truest sense of the word freedom: “To be without hindrance or restraint.” 

If you feel stuck and are interested in my 10-week intensive course to jumpstart your sobriety journey or would like to take an extended break from alcohol (to get a glimpse of what life is like alcohol-free), please get in touch with me for more information about my upcoming course. My course embodies a mental health and empowerment perspective – I hope to see you there!

Welcome, and I’m glad you’re here!

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