Kate's Blog

Do You Have A Problem With Alcohol?

Before I quit alcohol, I had many firmly held beliefs about what constituted ‘problem drinking’. There was a line out there – somewhere – and there was no way I’d ever cross it, because that kind of thing didn’t happen to people like me. Yes I drank a lot, but I bought posh wine in the supermarket. I had a good job. I went to the gym. It wasn’t as if I was pouring vodka on my cornflakes.
I was pretty sure I was on the right side of the line. And if I did start approaching it, then I’d know about it, right?
It turned out that ‘the line’ was more of a grey zone. Easy to spot with hindsight, but not so obvious when you’re in the thick of it.
The thing about drinking too much is that it’s so easy to rationalise it. You can always find people who are worse off than you, or drinking more than you. You can keep filling out those online tests until you get the answer you were hoping for. You can convince yourself that everything is fine, until one day it really isn’t.
Here are 21 signs that you might have a drinking problem.

  1. You love the idea of ‘one or two drinks’, but once you start, it’s hard to stop.
  2. You set limits, but you regularly drink more than you intend to.
  3. You spend a lot of time thinking about drinking.
  4. You spend a lot of time rationalising your drinking.
  5. You feel ashamed of your drinking.
  6. You google things like ‘do I have a drinking problem?’
  7. When you start drinking, you worry about your supplies running out.
  8. You always have one eye on how much everyone else is drinking.
  9. You drink to manage your emotions. You reach for booze when you’re stressed, or sad or want to relax.
  10. You enjoy drinking alone.
  11. People close to you seem concerned.
  12. The idea of socialising, networking or partying sober bores you silly.
  13. You feel annoyed when your drinking is interrupted – e.g. having to drive.
  14. You hide how much you’re drinking.
  15. You regularly blackout. There are long periods of time that you cannot recall.
  16. You find yourself doing damage control the morning after.
  17. Your sleep is disturbed. You’re permanently exhausted, yet you wake up at 4am.
  18. Your physical appearance is changing. Hello, puffy face. Bye bye waistline.
  19. You’ve given up other hobbies and activities you used to enjoy.
  20. You suspect that drink is preventing you from doing the things you know you have the potential to do.
  21. You find yourself on websites like this.

Ultimately, if your drinking feels like a problem, then it probably is. And most problems don’t go away on their own.
With hindsight, I wish I’d spent less time filling out online quizzes and weighing up the evidence. A better use of my time would have been to acknowledge the problem and then move on to looking at the costs. What was I sacrificing in order to keep alcohol on the scene? When everything was taken into account, was drinking really worth it? Eventually I decided the answer was no.
What about you? What will you decide?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. If you’ve already stopped drinking – how did you know it was time to stop? What prompted you to take action? Please share your thoughts, tips and hard won insights in the comments!

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


51 Responses

  1. #17 is where so much of the sadness and wasted potential comes from. In the Grey Zone, it can become easier to mitigate blackouts and serious damage as life becomes a boring, sleepy-eyed slog from one Happy Hour to the next.

  2. I enjoyed this post. I have been asking myself this question for so long. Too long to even admit. The thing is, is that my habits around drinking have completely changed over the last two years, and I seem to be able to stick to the 2 drinks “90% of the time” The thing is, is that when i do over-do it, even if it is once every 3-4 months i just feel really guilty and fear that i might slip back into old habits. I keep people who drink too much at an arm’s link away bc i am scared i will fall back into drinking too much. I don’t really want to live that way. I want to be confident in my ability to be with whoever/whenever and do what makes me feel the best about myself (which is not drink) My father died of alcoholism and i think i’m just really scared it could be me one day. It is not out of control now but whose to say it won’t be one day (it has been before) and so the safest thing and smartest thing to do seems to quit but i have a very hard time committing to the lifestyle change. It is like carbs…i love carbs but they make me chubby so the best/easiest thing for me to do is to restrict them, not moderate them…same with alcohol…it’s better for me to restrict it than to try and moderate it. Such a headache! FOMO gets me every time too. I get weak and lose my resolve.

    1. I think it all comes down to balance and what you’re getting out of the situation. Ultimately, if you’re happy moderating your drinking most of the time – and accepting that on occasion you will lose control – then that’s ok. That works for some people. Personally I found it much, much easier to stop altogether as moderating was a lot of hard work. I was never truly satisfied, I always wanted more and I had this sense that everything could go off the rails at any given moment. It might be worth you taking a complete break for a little while, just to reset and reassess? Good luck Christina!

  3. I gave up for several weeks with motivation from your site helping. Then I came to the decision that I was ready to drink again but last weekend I realised that the drinking was creeping up and taking control away from me. So hear I go again, I felt so amazing when I stopped, although very hungry for sweets. I love reading these blogs and can identify with most of the points you mentioned above. I hope one day a life free of alcohol will be as normal to me as being free of cigarettes, which I have been for 10 years.

  4. I’d hate to be simplistic but I think for 99% of us, if we have to ask, even ourselves or a faceless questionnaire, it means we do have a problem; it seems incredible when still drinking,but for the same percentage of us it is easier to stop than to modify; and while I do not doubt the happy existence of former dependent drinkers who now enjoy the occasional social tipple, I reckon they’re very, very rare and some are a ticking time bomb- if I feel envious I remind myself I never enjoyed ‘just one drink’ anyway, even if I COULD stop

    1. I quite agree – if we think it might be a problem then it probably is. If we were talking about gluten, or cigarettes or anything else that created unpleasant side effects, then we wouldn’t hesitate to point the finger at the source. But there is something about alcohol that makes people react differently. Perhaps it is the social conditioning around it – there is an expectation that we can learn how to drink moderately.

    2. Felicity – I am new to this site and to sobriety (I’ve been trying to moderate my drinking for years, unsuccessfully and without much effort or heart conviction behind it) and I just wanted to tell you that what you said – “If I feel envious I remind myself that I never enjoyed ‘just one drink’ anyway” – really brought clarity, so thank you. 🙂

  5. I quit drinking 4 years and 5 months ago for almost all of the above reasons listed. I drank alone to numb my emotions and feelings. My friends didn’t know how messed up I was, as I hid it very well. I tried to quit drinking on my own, but ultimately quit by going to AA. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and the best thing. Even after all this time, I occasionally think I can go back to drinking. This blog is such a great reminder for me of where I was 4 1/2 years ago. I never want to go back. Thank you for this resource!

  6. I am surrounded by people who drink and many drink a lot. I’m pretty sure I have to move away, get divorced and get a whole new group of friends in order to stop completely. I don’t think I can do that so not sure what my options are….

    1. Rest assured, it is doable. Many, many people stop drinking whilst surrounded by others who drink a lot (myself included). The key is to make sure you have lots of support and people who get what you’re going through and why you’re doing it. A fortnight ago I wrote about how to stay sober when all your friends drink and the week before that was about the power of a support network (and where to find one). You might also like to check out my stop drinking course: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
      Good luck!

      1. Thanks. I don’t have any support so that’s an issue. I really don’t like AA at all for reasons that I won’t get into here but, it’s tough when you are surrounded by it in the culture (plus I’m in business, where there are tons of dinners) Overall, it’s going to be a very tough journey for me, I can see that.. Thanks for listening

        1. you can do it, K!! absolute best tips in my opinion:
          1. fancy non-alcoholic drinks that you actually like. Like actually plan it out, stock up, plan ahead, bring enough. experiment and find what works
          2. keep a list in your phone of the things you HATE about drinking/alcohol/hangovers and review it ALL the time
          3. enjoy driving yourself everywhere you need to go. Leave when you want. No cabs. No drinking and driving. It’s friggin gloroius

        2. I wanted to chime in on this as I’m surrounded by drinkers (heavy drinkers) and my husband drinks every single night. I have been sober for 49 days today. I have NA beers when in situations like the ones you listed above. My entire outlook on life has changed, I feel reallllyyy good. My husband isn’t that supportive obviously as he still drinks a ton. I don’t care because I’m doing it for me and not anyone else. I don’t have alot of support from my friends or family as they all drink. I stay on these forums online, sobriety quotes on pintrest, I now run everyday and take care of myself. You can do this if you truly want to. Don’t allow your surroundings to control you, YOU control YOU. Good Luck

        3. K, I’m in business also and struggling. I was alcohol free for several months last year and felt wonderful. An appearance was made at every business function, seltzer and lime in hand, then I would make my Irish goodbye (go to the restroom and never return) and wasn’t missed because most were so involved with their drinks that it wasn’t even noticed. I traded the cocktails for pre-sleep trips to the gym and a good night’s sleep. My rise and shine wasn’t well received, as most were nursing a very sore head and body. I was grateful, proud and convinced that I never wanted to drink again. Sadly, I am here struggling and need to figure out how I will break up with wine. I am convinced that Kate and The Sober School as well as each of you here is my start. Thank you all.

    2. I am in the same boat, K. When I told my husband that I planned to become T-total he laughed and said ‘that’ll be the day’. I know that he’ll support me when he realises I’m serious but I have no idea how we are going to handle this socially as our lives revole around dinners, pub trips……over drinking at the weekend! I am going to start ordering fancy non alco drinks like Kate suggests.

  7. this is a perfect, comprehensive list. I used to be someone who wouldn’t even CONSIDER going out to a function of any kind without drinking, and not a few but many drinks to get drunk on purpose. It was unthinkable. But every single day after was the same: regretful, ill, ashamed, anxious. I was so sick of wanting to stop drinking but never actually stopping. After a particular day after just overcome with anxiety and booze blues I knew it was time to seriously try. Now with 4 months of booze-free living under my belt I’ve had lots of practice being myself and enjoying the company around me and I can honestly say it is SO POSSIBLE. Hangovers, anxiety, poor focus and skipping exercise isn’t worth it. Give life a chance sober and I can guarantee anyone will see it’s doable and WONDERFUL. Do a 100 day challenge. It is reasonable, and long enough for you to see the difference and quite likely not want to go back 🙂

    1. I am also 4 months booze free and have had the same experience. It’s like discovering my personality and the kind of people I enjoy being around. The booze made it easier to enjoy everyone’s company but now I find that I’m seeking out deeper and more meaningful interactions. Social events are just fine without drinking! Exercising consistently and feeling more productive and optimistic. I won’t be going back. Congrats on your accomplishment!

    2. So inspired by your comment Jamie! 4 months and you are still with it, congrats!! The stupid this is (and I’m sure you know this) for the few hours of feeling great while drinking a lot you have days feeling terrible. In the end you are correct it’s not worth it. I love you advice please keep posting

    3. Love reading things like this – really gives me hope… I’m sick of the blues/anxiety/lack of drive to do anything and constant feelings of shame and self loathing… x

  8. 20 days without a drop of alcohol, this was the perfect time to read this post.. At first I just thought “why read this one, I’ve already established that I have a problem,that is why I cut out the alcohol.” But I did read it. Thank you. 20 of the points on that list are spot on and it is a hard reminder to keep going and not (again) say:”it’s ok now,I have cleaned out my system and let my liver have a holiday, one glass of wine won’t hurt.” No, this time is different. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Kate. This is the best place to get support and that extra boost when in doubt.

  9. I’ve wanted to quit drinking for a number of years, and agonize continuously about all the reasons why I need to stop. Does anyone have suggestions about how to quit when married to an alcoholic?

  10. Thanks, Kate. I fell into all but maybe 2 items on the list. Indeed no more need to do those quizes. Need to face up and move forward…..

  11. I am an alcoholic and was married to one who sadly died. It’s easy to use your partner as an excuse to drink. I wish now that I had concentrated on myself and just stopped, had I managed to he may have followed on and been alive today. I keep on trying this control lark IT DOES NOT WORK, the problem is like a piece of elastic, control is stretch, but sooner or later the elastic pings u straight back to square one. I am trying to stop again, why is it so hard to give up on headaches sleeplessness feeling half dead, and paying thro the nose for the pleasure. I stopped once for a year but my mood swings got the better of me, here’s hoping!!

  12. I knew I had a problem for a long time and no matter how many attempts to moderate I did, I’d always take things too far. For me the blackouts and next day damage control got too much and I knew I needed a change but didn’t know how. Reading your piece for the BBC opened my eyes for the first time that other people thought the same as me about alcohol and it was ok to not drink. Thank you for that and this post – so many on the list resonated with how I used to be (27 months alcohol free now!) Xx

    1. Wow, 27 months! That’s amazing. I’m so happy to hear this. It’s funny how sometimes you just need to see something from a different perspective and things start to click. Here’s to many more happy, sober times! x

  13. I think there are 2 Ks posting here. Me, K who lives in the US does not have an alcoholic hubby. In fact mine has been very supportive. Maybe I should use my initials to post KBC

  14. This list really helped. Thank you!
    I am nearly 3 months sober today and every sober day is a blessing (this after several relapses). But I will admit that sometimes I start wondering if I really had a problem. Did I have a problem or was a just being sociable? Then I remember some things I did/said while being ‘sociable’ and those awful booze blues that another commenter mentioned and I know that I’ve made the right decision for myself. I can’t deal with drinking places, drinking friends or big social occasions just yet.
    But it’s true – if you are wondering if you have a problem then you probably do. And it would be better to spend your time and energy on trying to fix it.

    1. I am entering my 4th month sober, and I really understand what you feel about wondering if you really had a problem! Was I being over dramatic? Was I exaggerating things? Was I just being young and letting my hair down? (I’m 25). I went to a wedding yesterday- my sister’s. Normally I would have drunk like crazy. I stayed totally sober. It was amazing. Like another world. I had a great time. I didn’t need to drink. Also, I reread what I wrote down about my drinking when I first quit- ‘my drinking story’. It keeps me reminding myself that it was bad. Good luck to you- I understand where you are and am cheering you on too from a distance 😉 Love! 🙂

  15. Day 4
    A typical week for me has always been to come home from work and while starting dinner pour a glass of wine to melt the stress of the day away, but most would turn into 3 – 4. You all know what the trade off is, poor sleep, waking up foggy, concentration lousy. I’m so so tired of the cycle.

  16. This is just what I need to read today. I’m sitting here crying because in a drunken self pittying rage I replied to a joke a friend messaged with a huffy reply trying to put her in her place then went on to bring up the behaviour I don’t like in her. All in a message from nowhere because I sat drinking wine that night. I thought I loved “me” time either wine and I can polish off a bottle in no time then I’m looking for another bottle. Most of the time I don’t get too hungover or affected by it but there is the odd occasion, I turn into an awful person I don’t recognise. Especially when I recall things I have said or done. I’m not a young person. I’m a 42 year old mother of 2 lovely children who I love with all my heart and a caring husband who often tells ne he hates “drunk susie” or that I’m awful when drunk. I’ve always put this down to “nagging” just cos he doesn’t like a drink. But if I look back I have lost friends because of how I acted in the past with drink and it has happened again today and I honestly believe it needed to for me to stop blaming the world for all my non existent problems and take control of this before its too late. My problem is I like to drink wine in the house…I fact I’m worse in the house than when out which is rare as I’ve managed to convince myself I don’t need to go out. I’ve lost the joy in many things and I can see how unhealthy that is. I’m really sorry for rambling on…it all seems to be coming out. I believed I enjoyed a wine and did not have a drink problem but deep down I know I do. I’ve tried yo tell myself because I don’t drink every night I’m OK. Today I just need help. My life is passing me by….I won’t even allow myself to learn to drive because I think I’ll fail. There’s so much I should be doing but talk myself out of. With drinking, for me, follows deep depression and paranoia. I’m so tired of it.
    I have most of the 21 points really. Don’t black out but did years ago drinking in my 20s.
    Scared. But I want me back.

    1. Susie, I think so many people will be able to relate to how you’re feeling right now. You are certainly not alone! Please know that by acknowledging how you feel – and recognising your desire to change – you’re already way ahead of the game. You can totally do this. You’ll work this out. Here’s a tip: make sure you write down how you’re feeling today. You need to bottle this moment and keep it somewhere as a reminder of why you’re not happy and why you want to change. Good luck.

  17. One month without alcohol today.
    -I turned 28 a month ago and got completely obliterated on sake and cocktails, followed my weeks of guilt.
    -I’ve had enough. 14years of binge drinking and making stupid decisions. Hating myself for days, weeks, years after.
    -My family has a history of mental illness, alcohol is a depressant and I was recently prescribed antidepressants and referred to a psychologist.
    -The only time my relationship with my partner has been at risk is when I’ve been drunk.
    One of those reasons should have been enough.

  18. For me, it was the simple realisation that going sober filled me with horror- that made me realise I *needed* to go sober.

    1. Day 7, 1st weekend, I’d forgotten what it feels like to feel good. I can’t remember a time when the weekend didn’t start on Thursday at 5:00. With each day that passes without drinking I get this feeling that I can do anything. I hope this isn’t something that just happens and goes away eventually.

  19. The other week I got an invite to a friend’s birthday party, a tour of a winery followed by dinner. I rsvp’d to the wine tour but not to the dinner, with plans to bounce out before allowing the opportunity to embarrass myself. It was at this point I truly realized that I’m going out of my way to avoid a situation where my secret of not being able to adhere to my often promised-seldom achieved 2 drink maximum. Wouldn’t it just be easier not to drink and more fun to go to both the tour and the dinner? Why am I jumping through hoops to protect this secret? I have no dramatic rock bottom to report, just the decision to dry out for a while. I can probably go to Hawaii with the money I will save on wine this year…
    3 days sober.

  20. I can totally relate to almost all of these with numbers 15 and 16 being the most pertinent. My blackouts have become more and more frequent and so has the anxiety. I no longer want to start my mornings asking who I might have offended and how much I embarrassed myself.
    I am only on day 2 of what is likely to be a difficult journey as most of my friends and my husband are heavy, albeit social drinkers, but I’m feeling positive about making this decision.

  21. i am ready to quit drinking, I fall into a strange group maybe where I never even drank once in college. I stayed far away from it as a result of coming from a long line of alcoholics. Then at 30 years old i bought my first property got married and started to enjoy drinking wine as there were many wineries close by. i thought for sure i would have no issue. and i didnt for a long time. i am very type A and driven and always on top of everything.. you know the type? well two years later i found myself divorced, i switched jobs, moved out of state and away from everything i cared about and now after all that here i am a year later and i drink nearly every night. im tired all the time, i have gained weight, ive missed work, all the while making excuses because when i drink i feel sooo good only to feel sooooo bad the next day and then repeat after work again. i want to get started im just not sure what the first step is. i have never had my life out of control. even in dating..im a totally different person. i went from my husband being my first to throwing caution to the wind because of alcohol. i dont recognize me any more and i want me back. but where do i begin?

    1. Hi Bryn,
      I totally relate to your comment about never drinking in college as I never did either. No drugs, no alcohol, no bad behavior. Sadly, I started drinking later in life when people are less forgiving and more judgemental. My husband always wanted to go out and party and I wanted to be with him. He, and our friends, could drink for hours and still be in control whereas I would fall apart and embarrass myself. I am now sober and don’t entertain thoughts of drinking, but only after a disastrous episode in which I endangered my child c and lost a friend. My remorse and humiliation are complete. Sorry to unload likevthis. I suppose I just n ended to let out t h see horrible feelings.
      Best of luck to you.

  22. Almost a year, 10 months ago after many starts and stops I quit drinking. The social issues are real, I am learning to love myself and new health and freedom from the crappy effects of drinking more than I crave the social approval. I am now protective of my sobriety, I value it, something new in my thinking : ). The final straw…..I sat down and wrote on a note pad (yes real paper and pen, ha!) all of my stops and starts (approx. dates) and my attempts to moderate, that by the way always ended up with no moderation after 2-3 months. Anyway after reading this list, just seeing it in black and white, the failures I kept explaining away, I knew…….. no more failures.
    My choice, my power, no magic, just me stopping and not starting. I no longer drink, not an option.
    I wasn’t a drinker in the AM, no DUI”S (probably just dumb luck there). I truly thought because my choice was fine wine and costly boutique vodka it must be fine, in fact chic. But there was no denying it alcohol was negatively affecting my relationships in profound ways,not to mention the puffy lazy, less motivated self I was becoming. My stops and starts, and moderation didn’t hold, and I had forgotten (if I even ever knew) how to socialize with out a little buzz.
    So again reading all of this about myself = I had/have a problem with alcohol. I can’t, won’t, do not drink.
    Easy? Absolutely not! I am still having to learn that some friends may become just former drinking buddies as they can’t see not bonding over a cocktail. Had a few good cries over that! But my new best friend (myself) needs me, and so I believe I will eventually make new connections that involve more than alcohol commonality. Now I’m not entirely free of blame here, I cultivated friends that served my drinking habits. I believe it’s been said you attract what you project. Knowing this sometimes softens the friendship loss blow.
    I think one other thing in my life may have actually helped, I was diagnosed with celiac disease 4 years ago. No gluten, none at all, it will make me quite physically ill and affect my health in many unseen ways. JUST LIKE ALCOHOL ! Light bulb moment for sure!!!! Now you would have to hold me down and force me to consume gluten, because it will make me feel crappy and affect my health, and I LOVE pie! And pizza! and…well you name it! If I know that, then I can no longer fool my self about the fact that alcohol is a drug and what that drug does to me and my body. So now I’m the popular no gluten, no booze girl at parties, makes me laugh out loud just thinking about it! Difficult guest?
    I’m happy to have found this site and am getting a very important “you are not in this alone feeling” from all of these posts.
    Thanks Kate : )

  23. This llist really resonated with me…I think there was only one that i wouldnt tick.
    I am a mum of 3, full time manager in a very stressful job and for the last ten or more years have drank heavily. Easily a bottle of wine a night and moving swiftly on to G&Ts (6 a night). Waking up every morning feeling ashamed, bloated, guilty…lost. I would swear I wouldn’t drink tonight and then come 5pm after a hectic day would pour a glass and the cycle repeated.
    That is until yesterday morning when I woke up and realised I had wet the bed. I was (still bloody am!) mortified! I was so drunk I became unconscious and wet myself. That shame has now kick started my sobriety. I didn’t drink yesterday. I’ve done one day. But I am focuses on beating this. I have to do it, I have to feel proud of myself again and I have to think of my health and my responsibility to my children.
    The journey has started and I am strangely feeling positive…

  24. That is it! It is 21:47 right now (my husband is snoring next to me and our baby boy is sound asleep in his cot) and I am making the decision to live alcohol free. I will post my story another day. I thank the universe for coming across sites like these. I am so inspired and excited to live a full and productive life. Wish me luck xxx

  25. A friend/mentor asked what one thing could I do to improve my life. One thing! The answer was undeniably to quite booze.

  26. I stumbled across you after a sponsored facebook link. I’ve spent about 2 hours reading everything on your site. I feel sick, frightened, and totally emotional. I’ve known deep down for a long time that my relationship with alcohol is not healthy. But I don’t drink as much as a lot of people I know, so I justify it. I lost a friend to alcoholism last year; I know what a slippery slope it can be. And I’ve tried so hard to talk myself into being able to drink in moderation because I think I enjoy it. Any night off feels like a huge success and I treat myself to drinking the following night. I hate myself the night after a big night out with the work mates because I drink so excessively. Today’s the day I need to make a change.

    1. Welcome aboard Kate. I know it can be a bit overwhelming at first. But the fact that you’re here, you’re thinking about this, and questioning your drinking, puts you way ahead of most people already. You can do this 🙂

  27. I have drunk so much that I fell onto a sharp edge of a TV stand and almost killed myself… I woke up covered in blood and dazed… I am ashamed of my drinking and keep making efforts to quit but it is so tempting to just say… “just one drink”… I know it runs in my family and I know I need to stop!! I just need some will power and perseverance.

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