If you’re browsing this website, the chances are that at some point you’ve googled the question ‘am I an alcoholic?’ But perhaps a better question to ask is ‘do I have a drinking problem?’

At The Sober School we tend to use the term ‘drinking problem’ rather than ‘alcoholic’. This is because people have such vivid mental images of what it means to be an alcoholic that they measure themselves against that standard and then do not seek help.

sleeping-189990-minFor many people, the term alcoholic is an intensely negative, loaded one. Alcoholics sleep in skips. Alcoholics get into fights. Alcoholics pour vodka on their cornflakes … don’t they?

None of the above is necessarily true of course. You can be an alcoholic without actually drinking that much. It’s all about dependence – about losing control.

Bizarrely, we live in a society that considers there to be two types of drinkers: ‘normal’ boozers and alcoholics. But it’s not that black and white. There are many shades of grey in between. You don’t go to bed a ‘normal’ drinker and wake up an alcoholic. There are several stages an alcoholic will pass through first, many of which a problem drinker will identify with.

But back to the question. How do you know if you have a problem?

The NHS estimates that 1 in 10 men and 1 in 20 women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence. Being dependent on alcohol means you feel you’re not able to function without it. Drinking has become an important – sometimes the most important – factor in your life. Drinkaware has a very good, thought provoking test you can take here.

You’ll find lots of other tests online. But ultimately it all comes down to this:

If you’re regularly drinking more than you intend to, and it’s making you miserable, then yes, you might well be dependent on alcohol. It is not really about how much you drink, it’s how it makes you feel

So you see, it doesn’t really matter what you label it. It doesn’t matter if someone you know drinks way more than you. And it doesn’t matter if everyone else is happy to get hammered all the time. If alcohol is causing you problems then it’s causing you problems. You don’t have to wait until things get really bad before you stop.

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