The difference between labels…

Apologies, I didn’t make a note of where I got the following excerpt from. If you know, please feel welcome to put it in a comment.

This is the first description I’ve read that clarifies where I’m at. I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a problem drinker. Does that mean I’m already trying to wiggle out of stopping drinking? Hell no. I’m definitely still wanting to be sober.

What about a problem drinker — is that the same thing as an alcoholic? Simply put — no. You can have problems with drinking without being diagnosed as an alcoholic. This kind of consumption is sometimes referred to as heavy drinking or drinking abuse. You might find it interesting that not all problem drinkers turn into alcoholics. Here is how I have come to understand it. If drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem. It’s really that simple. A problem drinker can stop drinking, if there is good enough reason for it. Let’s take another example. Stewart is a heavy drinker. He has 2 to 5 cocktails every day. Some days he drinks even more. During his annual check-up he discovers he has a (potentially deadly) medical condition. The doctor tells him there is a surgical procedure that can cure him. He schedules the surgery to be preformed in six weeks. The doctor warns him not to drink before the surgery. In fact, he is told that if he drinks anything alcoholic, in the upcoming six weeks, the surgery will most likely fail. So Stewart, follows the doctors orders and does not drink for six weeks. He misses the drinking. He is moody and has sugar cravings. However, he follow the doctors orders, without too much difficulty.

If Stewart is an alcoholic, he will drink despite the warning. It will baffle the doctor, his family and himself. Why, with so much on the line, would he drink? He has willpower in all other aspects of his life. He is reasonable and successful in all of his choices. It doesn’t make any sense. The disease of alcoholism convinces a person that it will be different this time. And, the real alcoholic has the most trouble when he stops drinking. That is because, when life presents difficulties, there is an instinctive reaction to reach for something to alter the brain. No amount of training, or self-knowledge seems to fix this instinct.


5 thoughts on “The difference between labels…

  1. ainsobriety says:

    It doesn’t really matter what you call it. The solution for both of them is to abstain.

    And if you plan to abstain, but don’t, or can’t, then the alcoholic label applies.

    There’s a good quote out there
    “I’d rather spend my life sober, thinking I’m an alcoholic
    Than spend it drunk trying to prove I’m not”

    These definitions are mainly for clinical diagnosis for treatment. Being a problem drinker doesn’t stop you from getting help, including AA.


    • Water Girl NZ says:

      I had to find a label that fitted me. I’ve been label-less since my first attempt last September and I wasn’t comfortable not knowing which category I slotted into. I couldn’t identify with “alcoholic”, it was like a pair of jeans that just didn’t fit properly. I wasn’t waking up needing a drink. I wasn’t even needing a drink every day. Some nights I could moderate. My perception of an alcoholic (rightly or wrongly) wasn’t matching with my party girl, just having fun kind of drinking. I needed a definition that reflected how I felt about my drinking. Maybe it’s due to my control freak, information-gathering personality. Problem drinker fits me perfectly. Does it affect the abstinence outcome? Not at all.
      Thanks for your comment, I truly appreciate it.


      • ainsobriety says:

        I hear you. In the big book there is a definition of heavy drinker. I took that as me for a while. Eventually I met enough women who called themselves alcoholics yet seemed like me, that I guess I accepted the term.

        Generally I call myself a non drinker.

        I hear you on the need to analyze, research and break things down. Sometimes that gets me into analysis paralysis. Sigh.


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