Am I an Alcoholic?

I have read a number of posts recently about the term alcoholic. Here’s howI look at it today. I expect it will change over time. Like everything else…

Am I an alcoholic?

I think drinkers spend too much time worrying about what others think and the right way to frame things. The truth was, I drank too much and it was hurting me. I may not have been drinking Vodka out of my coffee mug in the morning, or even drinking daily, but I was waking up every Monday full of self defeat and disappointment that I could not control my alcohol intake. I was sad and lonely. I felt life had passed me by. My denial was strong.

 After many attempts and failure, I quit drinking temporarily on December 1, 2013 and life became SO MUCH BETTER. Not overnight, but every sober day has been better than that last day hungover and depressed. Even the really hard ones.

For a while I did this with white knuckle resolve and a therapist. I read books.  Then I found blogging. I have been to aA and to refuge recovery. I have participated in online groups and I have a group of sober friends, mostly online. 

My temporary plans changes. Now I plan to never drink again. My mental health depends on it. I had become obsessed and compulsive. I lied about how much I drank and I hid my bottles. My own behaviour scared me. I constantly asked myself how things had gone so wrong, but from the outside looked so right. I can seee in hindsight that my facade was crumbling. 

Today I much prefer the freedom sobriety allows. It takes work and vigilance. For me that includes medication, eating, sleeping well, yoga, being kind and gentle with myself, trashy novels, sober friends and bubble baths. It also sometimes includes meetings and connection with other sober people. This is not onerous. Instead, this is how I make life easier for myself, not harder. Sobriety is precious. I am more than willing to give it the respect it needs.

I am responsible for my sobriety, but I know there is always help when I struggle. I just have to be brave and honest enough to ask.
I happily tell people I’m sober. If I’m at AA I will say alcoholic, but not usually outside that. I feel it encourages a differentiation between myself and others. And I don’t believe there is a difference. Anyone can get to the point where drinking is causing them harm. Anyone can benefit from sobriety. Anyone can be an alcoholic. 

To me personally, an alcoholic is a person who is still drinking and wishing they weren’t. I am not. But I could become an alcoholic again if I chose to drink.

AA is not my path, but I have gone to meetings and I did the steps on my own. They are an excellent tool to self awareness. The women’s way through the 12 steps even has a good workbook. If you plan to be sober it’s worth evaluating all options. 

However you stay sober is the right way if you feel at peace. Being willing to consider other ways if yours isn’t working is vital. Early on someone told me that the same thought process that got me into this mess cannot figure out how to get out. I have found this to be unquestionably true. I need others to help me see the way. It has taken years to develop even a little self awareness. I had none when drinking. It was too hard to look inward through the veil of alcohol and regret.

If you are drinking and wish life was different PLEASE don’t feel you have to wait until something bad happens before you quit. Don’t wait until you fit some archaic definition of alcoholic. Sobriety is available to anyone who wants it. It is a gift you give yourself.

Stillness and peace,


36 thoughts on “Am I an Alcoholic?

  1. OK – I have to do the copy paste thing again:

    “I could not control my alcohol intake. I was sad and lonely. I felt life had passed me by.
    I lied about how much I drank and I hid my bottles. My own behaviour scared me. I constantly asked myself how things had gone so wrong, but from the outside looked so right.

    Today I much prefer the freedom sobriety allows. It takes work and vigilance
    I make life easier for myself, not harder.

    To me personally, an alcoholic is a person who is still drinking and wishing they weren’t.”

    This really nails it for me and I am sure many of us Anne. It is the perception of what an alcoholic is that makes some of us hesitate I think. However I am of the belief that “an alcoholic is a person who is still drinking and wishing they weren’t”

    It is really that simple.
    One of the key points you make here is the fact that sobriety takes effort, vigilance and deserves respect. Some of us forget that and think “my life will be easy full-stop once I stop drinking”. My eldest daughter said to me once, “if you had cancer mum and was drinking – then you stopped – don’t expect the cancer to be gone” I am not disrespecting those that have something incredibly destructive like cancer however the concept is the same. our problems underneath alcohol will not go away with the abstinence of alcohol, however they will be more transparent and possible for us to deal with them.

    I did think at the beginning of this journey that if being sober is so hard – then why the hell should we do it? If so many “alcoholics” always want to have a drink then what the hell??? What is the point they aren’t happy!! But I have found the key here is that alcoholics or ex-drinkers or whatever DON’T want to drink – we just used to it as a crutch so turn to it in times of difficulty. I now realise this doesn’t mean we walk around always wanting to go back to that club – we just struggle with life. Hence treating our sobriety with respect and I am adding love.

    Thank you so very much for posting this amazing and well explained (in simple, understandable terms) such a complicated issue for many of us.

    Much love Anne
    Michelle xx

    1. I love that. Definitely with love too.
      It is the ultimate self compassion. To stop numbing and to start living.

      I did spend a lot of time angry that I both wanted and deserved to drink and wanted to not be a drunk. I tried hard to find acceptance that I was just an over drinker. But it’s impossible. We cannot lie to ourselves. No matter how strong the denial, deep down we know the truth. That’s what makes this so frustrating.

      Thank you for your response!

  2. I was just on another blog and wrote a blog’s worth response to their post…and then I got here…lol. But it’s the topic du jour, and something that pops up now and then. I find that so many bloggers here are self-directed in their recovery, like you. Tools are the game, and the more and varied they are, the better. I know AA’ers who are also totally into religion, or sports, or silent retreats. I know people not in AA who are the same. I know so many folks who started in AA and have moved on to other modes of recovery, or mix it up. Or leave AA and just do their thing. As I mentioned on the other post, I haven’t been to a meeting in over a year and half now. Is my recovery in “jeopardy”?? Am I doing it wrong? Well, I am sober and happy and have no thoughts of drinking and I feel like I am on the right path. So what’s the answer? The answer of course is that if it works for you, it works for you!

    As for the word – meh. I try not to get caught up in the semantics. I think less policing and fussing over it, the better. I call myself an alcoholic in recovery. I refer to my old self as an active alcoholic. And like you, I rarely mention it outside a meeting, or when talking to other alcoholics or addicts. It carries no shame for me!

    Anyway, love your post, and in the end, regardless of what others call themselves, it’s about finding the path and being with others who have been down that path.


    1. Thank you for that Paul.
      I really think the answer is to be open minded. And to try to not have preconceived notions. What works today might be different than what works next year. And to share the joy whenever possible!

  3. Fantastic post. I wish every struggling person out there could read it. I did waste a LOT of time debating the whole alcoholic label. But you put it so simply: “Alcohol was hurting me.” I knew that to be true. And who knew blogging could be a big part of the answer? 💕

  4. Love love love this post. Was obsessed with not being an alcoholic, even though I knew I was… then definitely 100% was and told close friends or family this sometimes to shut them up, to own my addiction. That this is how it is and that’s okay! And now..? Whatever… I’m sober and it’s my choice and it may be hard sometimes (as if drinking wasn’t hard) but this is how I want it. Would I ever drink without obsession and addiction? Nope. No way Jose!

  5. “Sobriety is precious. I am more than willing to give it the respect it needs.” – I love this!

    I love the permission to be sober. It is so funny how many people, myself included, think you have to have this defining moment (and usually it’s a rock bottom moment) for sobriety to become your answer. It’s okay to choose sobriety BEFORE rock bottom. In fact, I think it might even be quantifiably better.

  6. I love this definition Anne: “To me personally, an alcoholic is a person who is still drinking and wishing they weren’t. I am not. But I could become an alcoholic again if I chose to drink.”
    Thank you for a great post. xx

  7. I definitely flip back and forth on this one. You are right it doesn’t matter. It is a waste of time wondering if you are an alcoholic or not. If some type of food makes you feel sick, you stop eating it. Doesn’t matter if you have an allergy or not. Drinking too much makes me feel sick, am I an alcoholic? Who knows? I don’t think I’ll ever know.

    1. You will never know. There is not blood test. No one will diagnose you.
      I often think we need a new recovery program that is lived out loud and with joy. The secrecy of AA has limited that, I think. Anonymity and hiding are different.

  8. I LOVE being sober and I LOVE you!!
    I love everything about this post, Anne!
    I was going to write a post about joy in being sober, and so after reading this, I think I will!

  9. I love that Anne, I really love it. Can I borrow your quote ? In the past there WAS only AA as a means of support, now there are other organisations and the whole sober blogosphere. For my own reasons, to do with my work / profession and my children for whom I am solely responsible, I have chose to rely heavily on blogs, internet support and made r/l friendships with other sober women in this way … to call myself an ” alcoholic” defines me as something I no longer am . I know that I cannot drink. I know I can never drink again. I know that if I had not stopped drinking when I did a whole load of things (bad) things might have happened. I’m lucky, I was able so stop whilst I still had a job, a home, no criminal convictions and had no terrible accidents, lucky, not different to those who can’t stop, just lucky and now determined.

    1. I always feel fortunate I chose to stop digging when I did too.
      I feel great compassion for people trapped in addiction hell. It is not fun.
      Use away!

  10. SMART LADY. All this. The difference between “alcoholic” and “alcohol addict” is the same as the difference between “bi-polar” and “manic depressive”. Same thing, different name. I agree with you about what makes an alcoholic, and that thing is drinking. I’m okay with “recovered alcoholic” since I don’t drink. I think the idea of “recovering”, that AA concept that you’re never completely healed, is to remind us that we’re not restored to pre-addiction parameters. So I agree with the theory yet find the connotation distasteful. I’m whole (unless I drink and then I’m right back in the fuckery). Happy to read a post from you!!! Time for a Meetup!!

  11. A really, really wonderful post. It’s a topic I’ve wrestled with, only to come to the conclusion that I need to stop wrestling because the answer just doesn’t matter. All that matters is trying to live the best life I can.

  12. I love this post thanks for sharing and for being sober and talking about the joy you can find in that place❤️

  13. A really fabulous post. I too find a great diversity in tools/practices for remaining sober. I recall well when I first got sober I did a ton of reading on the disease concept, became completely enmeshed in AA service and did all of the things I needed to stay sober. Over the years, that practice has evolved. Today, it is important for me to be aware each day that I am in recovery. I am not terribly interested any longer in the disease concept, moderation, or all of those other things. Rather, today I choose to be fully engaged with my life on a path to true self. Alcohol and drugs are simply incompatible with that path.

    Thanks so much for sharing

  14. Your comment (that nailed it for so many of us) “To me personally, an alcoholic is a person who is still drinking and wishing they weren’t. I am not. But I could become an alcoholic again if I chose to drink.” THIS is the definition I have been searching for, I kind of knew it but you have captured it in words – perfectly!
    Always great to read your posts.

  15. This is great.

    It is ODAAT, ALWAYS! Tough one to grasp. I still struggle with it. Like, the only way for me to get longterm sobriety is by not worrying about longterm sobriety. You articulate that in this post so well. Thank you Anne.

  16. Fantastic post! I am what I feel, and right now I feel better about myself because I’m not drinking. Nothing more I need to label about myself than that!

  17. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been sober for 64 days and have often wrestled with the “Am I?” question. Thank you for articulating so well that it doesn’t have to be a certain term that defines.

      1. I’m 45. Sometimes I think age really does make us wiser. Plus, I was just exhausted drinking.

        I’m not anymore. And my kids like me a lot better.

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