How to Tell if You Are an Alcoholic

Addiction and Substance Abuse

Ian C. Langtree - Content Writer/Editor for Disabled World
Published: 2010/09/24 - Updated: 2017/01/16
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Article provides a number of questions to help you determine if you may be an alcholic.


The nature of denial is that is very powerful, and the last person to realize that you are an alcoholic will be yourself.

Main Digest

How can you tell if you're an alcoholic

To the outsider, who has no problem whatsoever with alcohol, this question might seem a bit silly. But it truly can be a baffling question, especially if you are the one who is caught up in the slippery slope of experiencing both fun times as well as some problems with your drinking.

It can be truly difficult to tell in some cases.

Consider, for example, the relatively young person who is still having a lot of fun with their drinking. They haven't experienced too many heavy consequences yet: no drunk driving violations, no broken marriages, no lost jobs, and so on. But on the other hand, they might be realizing a dependency on alcohol, or noticing that they drink heavily on a regular basis, even when they haven't planned on doing so.

So the situation can be tricky; it is not necessarily as straightforward as one might think.

The nature of denial is that is very powerful, and the last person to realize that you are an alcoholic will be yourself. The reason for this is because we fool ourselves into thinking that we actually could control our drinking--if we only wanted to. But we tell ourselves that we enjoy drinking, so we don't want to control it, so therefore we are not truly alcoholic.

In some cases, there are alcoholics who will go weeks or months at a time without drinking, but when they do drink, they tend to binge, and get into all sorts of trouble. So this can be difficult to self-diagnose, because the person can and does maintain abstinence for long periods of time, even though they always return to the bottle.

So really, how can you tell?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

1) Try some controlled drinking.

Set a limit on yourself that you can only have 1 drink per day, max. Maintain this for at least one year. Pay particularly close attention to how you feel about the limit, and also about the one year trial period. "Normal" people who are not alcoholics would not generally have a problem with this experiment. At all.

2) Self diagnosis.

This is the only way. No one else can tell you that you are an alcoholic. You have to accept it for yourself. Admitting it is not enough. You must accept your alcoholism on a really deep level. It is only then that you can have any chance at recovery.

3) Consider this statement:

"I didn't get into trouble every time I drank, but every time I got into trouble, I had been drinking." Is that true for you? If so then that is a huge indicator that you might be alcoholic.

4) Consider this statement:

"When I control my drinking, I don't have any fun. When I have fun with my drinking, I tend to lose control." Another strong indicator if this rings true for you.

So go through those suggestions and give them some thought. Try to control your drinking for a set period of time (the longer the better) and pay attention to how it makes you feel when you limit your alcohol intake.

What is the Most Effective Way to Stop Drinking

For the true alcoholic, the prospect of quitting drinking is no easy matter. The idea of facing life without the crutch of alcohol can be overwhelming at first. Given that there are a number of different methods to stop, which is the most effective in most cases? Let's have a look at the options:

1) Willpower

This is essentially the same as not using any technique at all, but only relying on one's own willpower to avoid picking up another drink. Now this idea has been tested a million times over by virtually every alcoholic who has tried to beat the problem of drink, and the consensus is that it is never a sustainable method for anyone. Ever.

The problem is that, while some can maintain sobriety by sheer force for some length of time, they are miserable while they are doing it, and in their heart of hearts they still want to drink. Therefore this technique is not recommended.


This stands for "Addictive Voice Recognition Technique," so this is essentially an example of a cognitive therapy for quitting drinking. The idea here is to recognize when your "addictive voice" is speaking and recognize it as being "your addiction" instead of the real you. Then you can tell the addictive voice "no" when it asks for a drink.

There are other cognitive therapies as well, all of them intending to restructure the way we think in order to overcome alcoholism. These types of therapies probably do work for some people, but for the vast majority of alcoholics, cognitive therapies are insufficient to solve their problem. Why? Because alcoholism is a multifaceted and complex problem, one that affects a person not only mentally, but also physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Alcoholism takes over a person's life and affects them in a deep and profound way. It therefore follows that any solution for recovery that only addresses one small aspect of the problem is going to be insufficient.

3) AA

Twelve step programs are probably the most widespread solution for alcoholism, and because of this, they offer the most amount of hope and the most realistic solution for most people in most situations. But there are problems and limitations with AA as a solution as well. For one thing--while it is difficult to find accurate data regarding this--the success rate in AA is probably somewhere in the range of 3 to 10 percent. To be fair, though, no other treatment method seems to offer substantially better numbers than this, and AA certainly has helped a lot of alcoholics, simply due to the sheer volume of people they are working with.

One thing that AA does right is the social network of support that they offer to the recovering alcoholic. No other technique for quitting drinking can really claim to have the same level of social support as what you will find in AA. This support can be critical for some people in overcoming alcoholism.

One of the problems with AA and other 12 step programs is that they really only approach addiction from a spiritual perspective. The most comprehensive solution for recovery has to be a holistic approach, one that addresses all aspects of addiction and the different ways it affects a person's life: mentally, socially, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and so on. 12 step programs really only address the "spiritual malady," and thus leaves a number of problems on the table that still need to be dealt with.

Therefore, AA is not ineffective for quitting drinking, it is merely an incomplete solution. The real solution for recovery is a holistic approach that addresses all aspects of the recovering individual. This is known as the creative life in recovery. Finding your way to this solution requires a holistic approach.

How can we live a sober life?

For the true alcoholic, this is a mind bending question; an almost unreachable proposition. People who are trapped in a cycle of addiction find it extremely difficult to visualize the sober life. They might start to envision such a life, but the illusion immediately breaks down for them, because they know that they would not be happy living that way. So they try to rearrange their vision and find some way to make it work, but they cannot. The fear of facing life sober is too great, so they continue to drink. Even if an alcoholic is basically miserable, they picture a life of sobriety to be far worse, and they cannot imagine themselves ever being truly happy without being drunk.

So there are really two issues here: one is how to live a sober life, and the other is how to even go about getting there.

Living a sober life - this actually has very little to do with the idea of not drinking. Of course, if you are living a sober life, you're not going to be drinking. But for the true alcoholic, how can this ever be sustainable if they are miserable while gritting their teeth in order to avoid alcohol at any cost? Of course it is not sustainable, as most any alcoholic will return to the bottle before they reach a suicidal level of desperation. And please understand that for a true alcoholic, suicidal desperation can be a very real thing.

Alcoholics are passionate people.

They love to drink and it really does flip that special switch for them and it truly electrifies their life. The problem is that it eventually quits working as their tolerance increases and it becomes impossible to "get happy" anymore. Because they are passionate people, they need a passionate solution for recovery. If you simply strip away the booze and the drugs then an alcoholic is left with a hollow shell of a life; they cannot elicit any passion or excitement about themselves without returning to the bottle.

Because of this level of passion, it stands to reason that any alcoholic who is living a sober life must live it with passion. This is the solution. Not behavior modification or counseling on Tuesdays and Thursdays or even 12 step programs. Passion.

Passion is what makes the sober life a success.

Understand that 12 step programs can still work great for some alcoholics, as long as they are passionate about the program and about their life.

Do this test:

Ask any successful recovering alcoholic if they are as passionate about life in recovery as they were about drinking. They will always tell you that yes, they are. Otherwise they would not be sober. They would be drunk.

As we live and breath we are expending our life energy and our passion and we need something to direct that towards. If you take away the booze then you need to find a passion to replace that with. This is what defines the creative life in recovery. This is what makes for a sober life. Not just quitting drinking or going through the motions of some program and sharing about how your day went. Instead you need to find passion and purpose in your life in order to truly overcome alcohol.

Of course it is one thing to define the sober life in recovery, but quite another thing to actually claw your way out of the grip of addiction and get there.

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Cite This Page (APA): Langtree, I. C. (2010, September 24 - Last revised: 2017, January 16). How to Tell if You Are an Alcoholic. Disabled World. Retrieved July 23, 2024 from

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