Thanks to my rather public relationship with alcohol, I get quite a few people asking me, “how do you know if you have a drinking problem?” I am not an expert on the subject, but I do have a little experience with this question. In fact, it took six months of ignoring it and six more months of wrestling with it before I finally came to a reasonable conclusion, and here sits the well-adjusted individual I am today. Ha.
I’ve made a list of items that might indicate you have a problem with alcohol, because lists you can check off are helpful. They are also convenient for handing to relatives and friends if you want to give them a not-so subtle hint.
Do You Have a Problem with Alcohol?
- If you even have to ask yourself that question, you may have a problem.
- If someone else asks you that question, you may have a problem.
- If you keep moving your acceptable drinking time back, you probably have a problem. “It’s okay to start drinking, it’s five o’clock” becomes “It’s okay to start drinking, it’s noon” becomes “It’s okay to start drinking, it’s nine AM” becomes “It’s to okay start drinking, I’m shaking all over, and a little hair of the dog will take care of that, amiright?” Also, when “It’s five o’clock somewhere!” becomes more than just a fun Alan Jackson song to sing on vacation and you find yourself chanting it like a mantra on your lunch break, you probably have a problem.
- Shaking in the morning, also known as DTs = alcoholism. There’s no way around that one, sorry.
- If you ever find yourself in the hospital for OD-ing on anything, you probably have a problem. Not that I ever did that (besides that one time).
- If you ever start thinking, “Hey, maybe I need to go to rehab,” you probably have a problem. This was the most persuasive argument for me – the realization that people don’t go to rehab unless they have a problem, so I probably had a problem. Repeat after me: people who need rehab have a problem. I’m looking at you, Lindsay Lohan.
- If you don’t think you can ever have any fun without drinking, you probably have a problem.
- If you rely on drinking to make you more fun/happy/melancholy/thoughtful/sophisticated/talented/fill-in-the-blank, you probably have a problem, because the key word in that sentence is rely. When you rely on alcohol for anything, it’s because you’re using it to fill a void. That’s a problem. People who aren’t alcoholics don’t need alcohol for anything, they are able to take-it-or-leave-it. People able to take-it-or-leave-it? That blows my mind, because when it comes to liquor I am a “yes, no matter what” girl. That is how I know I have a problem.
- If you ever have to tell yourself, “Next time, I can drink like a lady/gentleman,” you may have a problem. Once you start using AA verbiage to describe your own drinking, that’s a pretty solid indicator that trouble’s afoot.
- If you ever lie about how much you drink, even to yourself, you probably have a problem. For example, in the alcoholic brain, four real drinks = one alcoholic drink. Think, “But I’ve only had one drink today!” when really it was four. Or another example of lying to yourself: “I wasn’t that drunk! I only had ten or fourteen drinks and I was still able to drive home from the bar!” This thought is a strong sign you have a problem. Also, drinking two or three glasses of wine/shots/swigs from that bottle of Sailor Jerry in the back of your closet before hitting the bar not to save money, but so the people you’re hanging out with don’t know exactly how much you’ve had to drink may reveal you have a problem, especially if you do this on a regular basis. Hiding your drinking is no bueno.
- If you ever find yourself looking at a three-quarters empty bottle of hard liquor and think, “Might as well finish that off!” when really you should have stopped several nights ago may mean you have a problem. By the same token, finishing off other people’s drinks after they leave the table is generally frowned upon as alcoholic behavior.
This list is by no means comprehensive or endorsed by anyone other than myself, but it is a good jumping off point for determining whether someone has a drinking problem. I’m hoping everyone who reads this answers “no” to all these questions, for although AA is an amazing program, I would rather we not have any new members. It’s the club no one in their right mind ever wants to join, unless they grew up in an extremely dysfunctional environment.
Also, remember that everyone handles alcohol differently, so no two alcoholics look alike. There are people in AA who don’t let their drinking get as bad as I did but they knew within themselves they had a problem, and then there are people who lived under freeway overpasses for decades – I’ve seen it all, believe me. You don’t have to live under a bridge to be an alcoholic, a common misconception.
If you ever need help or advice, please email me. Helping people is the only good part about being a recovering drunk. Well, that and the fact that being a recovering drunk is a million times better than being a practicing drunk.