Why Asking "Am I An Alcoholic" Is the Wrong Question to Ask

Those concerned about their interactions with alcohol will often ask the question, “Am I an alcoholic?” They could be trying to figure out if they need help. They want to know that they are okay and feel better about how often or how they drink. However, this is entirely the wrong question to ask when deciding if someone needs help with their drinking.

Addressing the Question

Merely asking the question in the first place usually indicates that there needs to be some kind of change. Not everyone who asks this needs to then go through residential or intensive outpatient therapy. Still, asking the question itself indicates that some dangerous actions are being taken when regarding alcohol. The kind of change or help needed will depend on the individual. However, when someone is concerned enough to begin asking themselves this question, some degree should be adjusted regardless of how one answers the following questions.

The question itself also contains some dangerous language. The idea of an “alcoholic” implies that the term defines the person. However, people are much more than a label, and their identity cannot be boiled down to one simple word with a negative connotation. Regardless of one’s interactions with alcohol, it is impossible for someone to just “be an alcoholic.” If someone would benefit from seeking professional help, it is more beneficial to know how someone is outside of their alcoholism. From that point, we can evaluate how alcohol, as a separate entity, affects that identity.

Problems with “Yes” or “No”

There is also the danger of constructing the question as a binary. It can be either “yes” or “no,” both of which carry their own problems. Alcohol addiction affects each person differently, and an online checklist cannot often accurately depict what someone’s life is like. Trying to numerically quantify your interactions with alcohol to decide if you need help is rarely the best way to proceed. Answering “yes” may result in a drastic overcorrection that brings its own struggles. An answer of “no” may lead to someone continuing down a potentially destructive path.

Moreover, there is more than one kind of way to interact dangerously with alcohol. Having an alcohol addiction doesn’t mean that one has to be tripping down the stairs every day. It can be an inability to regulate oneself on the occasion that they do partake in drinking. It can be continually having a sip throughout the day, even if they never reach the point of falling over drunk. The idea of addiction and how it affects each person is very fluid. It cannot be accurately addressed as a simple “yes” or “no.”

What To Ask

So if such a question as “Am I an alcoholic” is riddled with problems, what metric can be used? Breaking down one’s interactions with alcohol can be difficult, but try asking yourself more than one question. Asking 3 questions may help guide you to what the right kind of recovery may look like.

  1. How has alcohol affected my professional life?
    This can address things like calling off of work due to a hangover, or leaving a bit early to get to the bar. The stresses of work are certainly numerous, but does that stress regularly cause an urge to drink to unwind? Has drinking made one, in any way, struggle with what a regular workday would look like?
  2. How has alcohol affected my personal life?
    This question is getting at the heart of one’s own expectations from drinking. If asked to hang out with friends, does one find themselves turning down the invitation if there is not going to be alcohol present? Or is one more interested in staying inside, drinking, watching a movie, and playing video games than going out and enjoying an outing where there will be no drinking? Is one looking for new friends that will party more often?
  3. How has alcohol affected my family?
    Most commonly, this addresses if anyone has raised concerns about drinking in the family or has drinking hindered one from addressing everyday household chores and responsibilities?

Each of these questions addresses a different way that alcohol can present itself as a problem. Each person’s answers will differ, but asking them can address what kind of help that someone may need with their alcohol consumption. When someone begins to question their own relationship with alcohol, that is the clearest sign that there needs to be an adjustment of some kind. This adjustment can be extraordinarily tricky. Therefore, addressing alcohol’s role involves deconstructing what alcohol means in each context. A slight change can be difficult, but a step has already been taken to realize if one’s interaction with alcohol may be unhealthy or heading down a dangerous path.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol in your daily life, Alta Centers is here to help. Each person is different, and they may have to address this addiction in different ways. Alta Centers prioritizes a modern, community-focused recovery model that keeps people social and active. Asking these tough questions is also taking the first step towards a healthier lifestyle. Alta Centers is available to help you make that step, from detox to aftercare. For more information on their programs available for you, contact Alta Centers today at 1-888-202-2583.

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