Do I have a drinking problem?

By: Laura McWilliams, Industry Health

I get asked these questions a lot. How do I know if i have a problem with drinking? How much drinking is too much? When will I know that my drinking is out of control? Am I an alcoholic? Do I have a drinking problem?


Well, let's see here: do you have a drinking problem? Is your drinking causing you problems? Chances are, if you emailed me in the night to ask me if you have a problem with drinking, you already know the answer to this question. I totally understand the desire to find someone to tell you that it’s ok, that you don’t drink more than other people, that you can successfully cut back and drink “socially”. But you and I know that it’s different than that. I went through long periods of drinking less than lots of my friends. I would compare my drinking to theirs and tell myself that I was fine. But my drinking was different. It wasn’t the drink so much as it was the anxiety and ritual that got to me. I could easily just have one or two glasses of wine at a restaurant but it would be all that I thought about the whole time- when will it arrive, can I order another glass, am I drinking faster than everyone else, how much is left in the bottle. This was a huge problem for me- I was always completely distracted by alcohol. It interfered with every single aspect of my life. It was all I thought about, all of the time.


The end of drinking for me came not from some terrible breakdown, or intervention, or dui, or anything like that. The end came for me when I could not stand trying to control it any longer. I needed to free my brain. I knew that I was wasting my one precious, beautiful life sitting here alone in my house, trying to finish the bottle of wine and smoke my allotted number of cigarettes before I had to go to bed and get up for work. What a waste.


The solution that I picked first was control. I found statistics on the government health website for how much one is to drink to be considered a “moderate” drinker. Ok, no problem, right? It was something like 6-8 drinks per week, no more than 2 drinks per day. But hell- if you take an easy (work night) out- that’s a glass of wine after work, another while I get ready. Cocktail before dinner, wine with dinner- 2 glasses, most likely, and then a glass of wine when I get home with a cigarette. That’s 6! And I wouldn’t even be drunk at the end of the night! Needless to say, this regiment I put myself on was exhausting, stressful, and I failed every week, every day. Failure over and over. It was almost like I wasn’t even trying, but I was. I was so tired of trying. So I tried something else. I got a book, a 30 day sobriety program, picked a day- right after I got back from a trip to Portland- and I just started. Started doing other things. Started on this path that has taken me places that I never thought would be possible.


Was I a sloppy, loud, violent, out of control drunk? No. Was I intervened upon, taken off to rehab by my family, put on court ordered abuse classes? No. Was I put in jail, had my driver’s license taken away, fired from my job, evicted, dumped, living on the streets? No! I was a happy, lively, social, successful, functioning member of society. With a huge drinking problem. And I am alive and well today.


You can fix it, too. How do you know if you have a drinking problem? Ask yourself- is drinking a problem? Did you answer yes? It is actually that simple. You don’t need a professional or an online quiz or survey to tell you you have a problem. If drinking is a problem, then you have a problem. And it’s time to find a solution. Right now.