Am I an alcoholic? The jackpot question everyone wants to know.
Very few people have come out and asked it, but I can tell they want to.
When I was still drinking I would want to know yes or no. You know why? Because if that person could admit that they were, in fact, an alcoholic, then in my mind they would be magically catapulted into another category far enough away from me so that I could continue to drink.
Then I read this explanation of what an alcoholic is:
“The common stereotype of an alcoholic is somebody who is homeless, drunk all day, unable to hold down a job, and obviously down on his or her luck. The reality is that only a tiny fraction of alcoholics fit this profile. Most individuals with this condition are high functioning. This means they appear outwardly successful in life, even though they are struggling due to their alcohol intake. It is often the high functioning alcoholics who are most concerned about the stigma of alcoholism, sometimes more than the condition itself.”
That was me. I was more scared of being stereotyped and what other people would think about me, my lifestyle, and my character than I was about the actual addiction I was experiencing.
They weren’t experiencing it—I was experiencing it. And for a time, I was more concerned about hiding it than I was getting myself help. The stigma played a significant role in fueling my denial.
For a long while in my sobriety I hated the word alcoholic. Today, I don’t hate the word alcoholic. I hate the stigma that is associated with it. I can identify with the condition, but not the stereotype.
So, am I an alcoholic? Probably? Yes? Maybe? Does it f*cking really matter? That’s not the question I asked myself when I chose to quit drinking, because if I did, I would still be drinking.
Instead, I asked myself this:
Is drinking alcohol bringing more pain or more joy to my life? Pain.
Is alcohol still serving me the way it once did? No.
Am I concerned with the path that I am on with my drinking? Yes.
Do I want to quit drinking? Yes.
Outside of Alcoholics Anonymous, I choose not to identify myself as an alcoholic. For some, this is a very important step in their recovery and I respect that—for me, it is not. I prefer alcohol-free and sober and pro-sobriety, highlighting the wonderful things that have come from abstaining.
The bottom line is that I didn’t have to call myself an alcoholic in order to stop drinking. I didn’t have to label, identify, or refer to myself as anything that I wasn’t comfortable with.
I just needed to be willing to stop and love myself enough to do it.