Admitting that you have a problem with drinking is difficult for many people. Social drinking is something that’s common, and it can be tricky to know when your drinking has crossed the line into alcoholism. In fact, we get a lot of calls at Alpine Recovery Lodge saying:
I’m afraid I might be an alcoholic. How can I tell?
Asking that question might very well be the first step to recovery. The key is knowing how to answer it accurately. In this post, we’ll talk about the questions you can ask yourself to decide whether drinking has become a problem for you.
Is My Drinking Excessive?
The first question to ask requires some definition since “excessive” is a subjective term. There are two kinds of drinking that might be considered excessive.
- Heavy drinking is defined as having more than four drinks a day 14 drinks in a week if you’re a man under the age of 65. For women (and everyone over 65), the standard is three drinks a day or more than seven in a week.
- Binge drinking is drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short time. The standard here is five or more drinks in two hours for men, and four or more drinks in two hours for women.
If your drinking falls into one of these two categories, you may be an alcoholic. However, it’s important to note than an occasional bout of heavy or binge drinking is not, by itself, confirmation that you’re an alcoholic. If it happens all the time, you probably have a problem with drinking.
Do I Drink When It’s Not Appropriate or Safe to Do So?
Another red flag of alcoholism is drinking in dangerous or inappropriate situations. Here are some examples:
- Drinking in the morning before you go to work
- Drinking when you know you’ll be behind the wheel of a vehicle
- Drinking when your doctor has told you not to mix alcohol with prescription medications
- Drinking when you’re responsible for young children
Alcoholics tend to disregard societal and moral restrictions about when it’s appropriate to drink. If that sounds familiar, you may be an alcoholic.
Is Drinking a Priority for Me?
You may have heard that the person you’re in a relationship with is the one whose calls you always take. That idea applies to drinking too. If you always answer the call of alcohol while ignoring responsibilities, it’s a clear sign that you have a drinking problem.
Let’s look at a couple of scenarios to illustrate what we mean. First, what happens if you have a bill to pay but doing so will leave you without the money to buy alcohol? If you put off the bill-paying to go to the liquor store, that’s a clear sign that alcohol is playing an unhealthy role in your life.
Likewise, do you have plans with friends and cancel, so you can stay home and drink? Or do you find yourself spending less time with non-drinking friends, so you can go out and drink? These are both signs that you might be an alcoholic.
Do I Drink in Secret or Lie About My Drinking?
This question is a key one because for many alcoholics, it’s the thing that alerts their loved ones to the fact that they have a problem.
Drinking in secret might involve hiding a flask in your desk drawer at work, or even keeping bottles hidden around your house, or drinking only when you’re alone.
Lying about drinking might mean denying that you’ve been drinking when you’re asked a direct question. It might also mean lying about where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, or what you’ve been doing. Any one of these things is a red flag for alcoholism.
Have I Blacked Out or Lost Memories Due to Drinking?
Anybody can overindulge in alcohol, but if you’re routinely blacking out or forgetting what you did because of drinking, you have a serious problem.
Sometimes, alcoholics deny having blacked out. It can be very frightening for family members and friends to see you out of control or be unable to wake you. Denial is a common response – but if you’ve had people talk to you about behavior you don’t remember, you must acknowledge that drinking has become a problem for you.
Has My Tolerance for Alcohol Increased?
With any addictive substance, a key warning sign that you have a problem is when you need more of the substance to get the buzz you want.
For example, when you first started drinking, having one strong drink might have been enough for you to feel the effects of the alcohol you’d consumed. Over time – and with repeated heavy drinking – you might find that you need three, four, or even five drinks before you start to feel intoxicated.
To answer this question, it’s helpful to think back and ask what your tolerance used to be. Then, be honest about how much you’re drinking now. If it’s increased dramatically, you might have a problem.
Am I Defensive About My Drinking?
How do you react when people talk to you about drinking? It’s very common for alcoholics to have one or more close friends or family members talk to them about drinking. If you reacted with anger or defensiveness, that could be a sign that you’re an alcoholic.
For example, you might turn on the questioner and bring up something that they’ve done. This is a form of deflection. Another sign might be if you yell at the person questioning you and act as if they’ve personally attacked you.
Do I Make Excuses for My Drinking?
A question has to do with making excuses for drinking. Here are some examples:
- I’m just drinking because I’m stressed out and it helps me relax
- I had a hard day and I deserve a drink
- It’s a special occasion
Any one of these things could be acceptable to say for someone who doesn’t have a drinking problem. But if someone confronts you about your drinking and you answer with one of these statements (or something like them), you’re making excuses – and that’s a problem.
Do I Crave Alcohol When I Don’t Have It?
Sometimes, a person who is an alcoholic may convince themselves that they don’t have a problem because they don’t drink all the time. However, that’s only one way that alcoholism manifests itself.
If you can go hours (or even days) without drinking, it doesn’t mean you’re not an alcoholic. The question to ask is if you think about alcohol and physically crave it when you don’t (or can’t) have it. It’s common for alcoholics to feel depressed and experience other withdrawal symptoms when they can’t drink. If that sounds familiar, the chances are good that you’re an alcoholic.
Is My Drinking Interfering with My Life?
This last question is an important one because it encompasses many of the things we’ve already talked about. Here are some signs that your drinking may be taking over your life:
- You are sometimes unable to do your job properly
- You have experienced disciplinary action or reprimands at work related to your drinking
- You’ve fallen behind on life responsibilities like cleaning your house, paying your bills, or taking care of your health
- People in your life have expressed concern that your drinking has become a problem
- Your personal relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers have suffered because of your drinking
If any of these things sounds familiar to you, the likelihood is strong that you have a drinking problem.
Answering “yes” to one of these questions may not be enough to indicate that you have a problem with alcoholism. However, if you’ve answered “yes” to three or more of them, you have a problem with drinking and may be an alcoholic.
If that’s the case, you need to know that there is help available. To learn about Alpine Recovery Lodge’s treatment program, please click here.