Am I an alcoholic?

3 minute read

If you are reading this post, there’s a high chance that, at some point, you’ll have asked yourself the question, ‘Am I an alcoholic?’. I completed endless online quizzes over the years trying to work out if I was an alcoholic (though in truth was mostly searching for confirmation that I wasn’t) until I realised it doesn’t matter what the label was, drinking alcohol was not good for me!

I did well at the quizzes … do you ever drink drive? No. Ever miss a day’s work due to hangovers? No. How about getting into fights or banned from pubs? Nope.

But the questions around do you always drink more than you intended? Plan your free time around drinking? Fail to moderate? Forget conversations?  They all scored a hard yes.

The word ‘alcoholic’ sets the red flags flying as we imagine someone who has lost everything, drinks cheap vodka on the park bench with their happy marriage and successful career firmly in the rear-view mirror. I read a post recently from a woman who got ghosted every time she told potential Tinder dates that she was ‘in recovery’ but, as soon as she changed her story to ‘I don’t drink’, nobody batted an eyelid.

The label ‘alcoholic’ is too often weaponised to destroy reputations. I once had a guileful manager who, when he’d lost his bid to get me sacked, started a whispering campaign that I was an alcoholic and warned colleagues to be wary of me. Had people not been aware of his motivation and fragile state, such slander – which he knew to be untrue – might have been damaging to me. As it was, I simply saw it for the malice with which it was intended and moved on.

I never fit with any clinical definitions of an alcoholic. I functioned well by day, had a great marriage (though even better without drink), and succeeded in a career I loved. But, and it’s a big but, when I drank all bets were off; I overshared, couldn’t care a less about good food or exercise, took risks and, whilst I didn’t miss work due to hangovers, I often functioned rather than thrived.

‘Alcoholic’ is such a pejorative term and I believe the judgment it attracts stops people from seeking the help they need through fear of being labeled. And it never fails to amaze me how judgmental people are about others they think have lost control of booze, but then will be quick to judge peolpe who don’t drink. This is a conversation I’ve had a hundred time:

“Do you have a problem with booze?”

“Not at all, I don’t drink”

“Oh, so were you an alcoholic?”

*Groan!*

So, call me an alcoholic or don’t, it is meaningless to me either way. Hands up, drinking didn’t work for me anymore; it made me miserable and stopping the struggle of trying to moderate (and doing those endless quizzes!)  is an absolute superpower!