Honestly ask yourself, “Do I have a drinking problem?”
No one is watching you read this, and no one can hear your thoughts but you. No one has your feelings except you. This is a tough question because it requires a tough answer. And it may demand that you make a change in the way you view and use alcohol. If you think you are too old or too young to have a drinking problem, you are mistaken. If you think that you’re the wrong gender, the wrong social or economic group, the wrong race – you are mistaken on all counts because whoever and wherever you are, alcohol is an equal-opportunity destroyer.
Has anyone told you, within the past year, that you have a drinking problem? If so, how did you react? Did you try to cut down on your drinking, or confine your drinking to certain situations or places – at home, after work, only beer, never while you’re driving, etc? Think about why you drink and how much you drink: does it take more alcohol to make you feel “buzzed” than it did a year ago? Maybe you’ve started drinking alone so others won’t criticize you. Maybe you’ve begun to miss days at work or at school because you’re hung over. Do you have a physical or mental health condition that becomes worse when you drink – and you drink anyway? Think about feeling sick and hung-over after a period of heavy drinking; do a few quick drinks make you feel better?
If you went to a professional who’s familiar with problem drinking, these are the kinds of questions you’d be asked. You’ve probably already guessed that if you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you should pay attention: they are the symptoms that addiction professionals use to diagnose alcohol dependence – in plain terms, alcoholism. They indicate that your body depends upon the presence of alcohol to function. Yep, it’s too late. You’re addicted to alcohol and there’s no point in blaming yourself or someone else about why it happened. It did happen and now you must do something about it.
No, you don’t have to go to a support group and tell strangers that you’re an alcoholic. You don’t have to go to church and renounce the devil called “alcohol.” You don’t have to do anything at all – except stop drinking. You can’t cut down or confine your drinking to happy hour. This isn’t how addiction works. You have to stop drinking because if you don’t, you will die. Alcohol dependence is a chronic, progressive, and ultimately fatal disorder. It destroys your body, mind and spirit. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you and cause your death. So if you’re going to tell yourself the truth about your drinking behavior, then this very moment – the moment you read this – would be a good time.
This has been a private, quiet, introspective moment for you. There is nothing to fear, no one to blame, and no more secrets to keep from yourself or anyone else. From here, it’s much easier, as everything is when you deal with it honestly and with courage. You also know what you need to do now; talk with someone you trust like your doctor, a therapist, a minister, a nurse, another person with alcohol dependence – just make sure it’s someone who will tell you the truth, respect your privacy, and help you achieve your goal of complete abstinence from alcohol. There’s really no right way or wrong way – only your way. Whatever that is, do it now.