Friday 20 March 2015

Am I an alcoholic?

I hate the word alcoholic. This is the first time I've used it in this blog. I'm sure that my loathing of the term is partly why I didn't stop drinking years ago. By defining people as 'alcoholic' there's an implication that it's all very black and white: you're either a normal person or you're an alcoholic. Yet what I see all around me is - to coin a phrase - fifty shades of grey.

Several times over the years (usually after a big night out, with a crashing hangover) I've typed 'am I an alcoholic' into Google. Generally you get one of those quizzes (I've always loved quizzes!). The questions can vary quite a bit, so there's obviously no agreement on which are the best ones. Here's an example from one I Googled this morning:

1. Do you lose time from work due to drinking? No
2. Is drinking making your home life unhappy? Not really
3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people? God, no
4. Is drinking affection your reputation? No, I was very secret about it
5. Have you ever felt remorse after drinking? Is the Pope Catholic?
6. Have you had financial difficulties because of drinking? No
7. Do you turn to inferior companions and environments when drinking? Goodness no, only the very nicest wine bars with lovely friends!
8. Does drinking make you careless of your family's welfare? I very much hope not!
9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking? Yes, probably, but I only realised that once I stopped!
10. Do you crave a drink at the same time daily? Yes, absolutely.

There are ten more questions. I answered 'yes' to sleeping badly and drinking alone, but no to all the questions about being hospitalised, blacking out, seeing my doctor and so on. And after all that, what was the result? You may have a problem with alcohol or be an alcoholic. 

Well I knew that I 'may have a problem with alcohol.' That's why I'm doing your stupid questionnaire! I want to know if I do have a problem with alcohol. And since I answered 'no' to 70% of the questions I'm thinking 'Well, that's all right then! Carry on! Crack open the Pouilly Fume.' But, quite obviously, drinking 1 or 2 bottles of wine a day for a decade is not okay, even if many of your friends are doing it too.

The amazing Jason Vale (read his 'Kick the drink, easily' if you haven't already) says, bravely, 'there is no such thing as an alcoholic'. He believes, and it makes sense, that alcohol is an addictive drug just like any other. Anyone who drinks regularly is an alcohol addict, it's just a question of how far down the slippery slide you've slid. And it's a very good idea to get of the slide before you hit 'rock bottom' or, what society defines as 'alcoholism', but Jason would call chronic alcohol addiction.

The problem is that we are terrified of getting off the slippery slide and quitting alcohol because then we will be admitting to ourselves and others that we are an alcoholic, and that word has a really bad rap. It comes loaded with terrible imagery of tramps quaffing methylated spirits and mothers passing out on the floor in a pool of vomit in front of their children. It means admitting to an incurable illness, and resigning ourselves to be miserable for the rest of our lives! Jason Vale points out that 'alcohol is the only drug in the world where, when you stop taking it, you are seen as having a problem.'

I was a terrible nicotine addict, but I gave up 13 years ago and I do not define myself now as a nicotin-aholic. I am a non smoker. I am nicotine free! I am an ex-addict who saw the light.

Likewise, I do not want to spend the rest of my life standing up in a church hall in front of strangers saying "My name's SoberMummy and I am an alcoholic." I do not want to define myself by a negative. I want to shout "I am a non-drinker! I am alcohol free! I used to be an addict - like millions of people worldwide - but I was brave enough and wise enough to quit. Hurrah!"

I honestly believe that when we manage to rebrand the ex drinker as wise, strong, clever and alcohol free, rather than an ill, sad, struggling 'alcoholic' far more people will jump onto the wagon. So, I'm starting a movement - one blog at a time. Anonymously. And isn't that ironic!

If you're reading this thinking 'am I an alcoholic?', then please forget the terminology, it's a red herring. You, like all regular drinkers, are probably addicted to alcohol. It's a horribly additive substance, so there's no shame in that. The sooner you quit, the easier it is, and - believe me, and millions of others - you'll never regret it.

Good luck this weekend, everyone! Let me know how you get on....

Related Posts: Secret Drinker Hits the High Bottom, Why so many well educated, middle aged women drink, Why ex-drinkers rock! Am I an alcoholic? Part 2


  1. Hurrah for you SM.i have done those quizzes too. Mainly to reassure myself that I am not, in fact, an alcoholic. No days off work, no blackouts, no children missing appointments at the orthodontist etc.

    I think we are a legion out there, the middle class mummies - our parties fuelled by Margaux and Le Montrachet. Anyone who doesn't imbibe is shown the tap for the hose-pipe in the garden.

    Chapeau for kicking it into touch. I am currently on my third day but I feel like I mean it this time. Something in my head is different, I've had enough.

    Enjoy your weekend, have a Badoit for me!

    1. Welcome Laura, and well done you! Stick with it - I'm on day 19 and I feel great (most of the time)! You are so like me - bet I know you! Keep in touch... SM x

  2. Hi sober mummy. Thanks so much for getting in touch. I think we have very much in common! Thanks for your kind comments about my book ( could you post it on amazon??). I am cheering for you and nodding my head. Everyone IS doing it and this makes any behaviour seem normal, even when we know deep down it's not. It sounds like you have given up without much difficulty?? If so that's great. I found it quite hard and would never have believed my perception of being sober could have been so wrong. As regards whether you are an alcoholic, or whatever that means, here is a link to an article I put on Huff post in January.

    Keep at it and keep in touch
    Sober is indeed the New Black!

    1. Hi - Rachel! Thanks for the link - love the article. I don't find giving up alcohol too tricky, the problem is in sticking with it ;-) I've never got past 2 months. That's why I'm writing the blog - the more people I share this with (even anonymously) the less likely I am to lose the resolve. I'll definitely do the amazon review, and I'll do a link from the blog on a post I'm planning on helpful reading. Love SM

  3. I am alcohol free.
    I am an ex-drinker.
    I don't drink alcohol anymore.
    That's what I like to say.
    There is such a stigma connected to the word alcoholic!

  4. Thanks for your post. Here are a couple more assessments, used more commonly in the field of addiction and relate more directly to the DSM 5 criteria:

    Hope that's helpful and I thank you for your blog. It brings a smile to my face :)

  5. Oh, just wanted to add. My line is" I'm in long term recovery, meaning that I haven't had a drink or drung in 9 years. I too, dont like the word alcoholic.

  6. Yeah that’s quite a nice way to make people who are alcoholic to confront the truth. Many often deny and some even do drunk driving considering they have complete control of situation. I have seen many people ruining their lives when I worked with a DUI attorney Los Angeles couple of years ago.

  7. You are absolutely right. We are just addicted to alcohol, and it's not a disease. Yet I feel very strongly that I'm genetically disposed for addiction, and that runs strongly in my family - alcohol, pot, nicotine, gambling, and even a case of becoming dependent on Coca-Cola (is that even a thing?)

  8. I had a problem with wine, too. It made me feel classy and important to order the most expensive bottle when I was out at dinner. It seemed like it would be a great way to impress the ladies, and sometimes it worked - at least in the short term. Best of luck with your journey to recovery!

    Jeffery @ New Dawn Treatment Centers

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