How many times have you heard the phrase or question, “you’re an alcoholic?” Whether it’s in passing as a joke between people who are drinking, or after you’ve had a bad night and nasty hangover, or said as a legitimate concern from a loved one, it’s a common saying. I know personally, I was wondering for years if I was, or was not, an alcoholic. Did I have alcoholism? Was the behavior I was exhibiting considered an addiction? All those words sounded scary to me. It wasn’t until I got sober that I figured out it doesn’t matter if you call it an addiction or not, sobriety can benefit anyone.
1. Addiction is a spectrum.
There is no dividing line between being an alcoholic or not being an alcoholic. It doesn’t work that way. Addiction is a spectrum, and there is a wide variety of alcohol misuse issues. Just because you don’t drink in the morning or get the shakes, doesn’t mean alcohol has made a negative impact on your life. Maybe you’ve never been in trouble legally, maybe you don’t drink every day, or maybe you don’t blackout. However, if alcohol still makes you feel bad, takes you away from your responsibilities, or has other negative consequences, you will benefit from sobriety.
2. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to quit.
Classification as an alcoholic is not a requirement to get sober. As we all know, there is a lot of stigma attached to the word “alcoholic.” We often think of this as a nasty, bad word that only describes people on the high end of the addiction spectrum. When I got sober, I was convinced I couldn’t be an alcoholic, and I didn’t even want to entertain the idea because it hurt too much. What I did know was that I felt physically and emotionally drained because of alcohol and that bad things always happened to me in a blackout. It didn’t matter what I called myself, the negative effects on alcohol on my life were clear.
3. The word alcoholic is empowering to some.
Because of the stigma attached to the word alcoholic, people are often reluctant to use it. In my experience, I dreaded saying the word. I couldn’t identify with it at first, and I thought calling myself an alcoholic made me a bad person. It felt “other.” As time went on and I attended 12-step meetings, I learned more about the word alcoholic, and it eventually became empowering for me to identify in that way. However, this is not the same experience everyone has. If you don’t feel comfortable using the word alcoholic or addiction, that’s ok, you can still be sober.
4. Alcohol is a harmful form of poison.
Let’s stop pretending alcohol is anything more than ethanol, a substance that is the direct cause of seven forms of cancer. It is not beneficial to your health. In fact, more than a few drinks a week is considered harmful to your health. It’s been proven time and time again that alcohol intake changes brain activity. If you’re trying to be healthy, or you don’t like the way alcohol makes you feel different or out of control, or you’ve only ever had one scary episode of drinking too much, sobriety can still work for you. It doesn’t matter if you call what you experience an addiction or not.
5. You don’t need to give in to the pressure to drink.
We live in a society that is inundated with alcohol. It’s all around us – on social media, at social gatherings, at life events, and transmitted to us through advertisements and marketing. We feel like we have to drink, and if we’re not, we’re weird and need to justify our actions in some way. These are all lies society tells us. The truth is there is big pressure to drink in our society, but we don’t need to give in to it and drink. Living a sober life is just as fulfilling.
Call it what you want – alcohol misuse, addiction, alcoholism, alcohol issues, drinking too much, etc. The names you use don’t matter because it’s all about the way alcohol makes you feel. Whether you believe you are an alcoholic or not is irrelevant. If alcohol is negatively affecting your life, you will be better off without it.