Alcohol is a drug. I know, shocking, isn’t it? I did not grow up thinking alcohol was a drug. But after almost 10 years working in the treatment of substance abuse, I know it’s true. I believe it is the most difficult drug to stop using. It is everywhere and it is encouraged everywhere. It’s harrowing to try to stop drinking alcohol when you go into a local gas station and there’s more beer than there is any other beverage in the store. Or when you go to the local discount store and there is an entire aisle devoted to alcoholic beverages. When you go to grandmother’s house, and she serves wine with dinner. Not to mention uncle Bob in the backyard and his keg. Interestingly, alcohol is not a problem if you don’t have a problem. Problems include DUI/DWIs, job loss, social isolation, family arguments about drinking, physical health issues as a result of drinking, and a myriad of other issues. Being an alcoholic is not how much you drink or how often you drink or who you drink with or why you drink, rather it is the consequences of your drinking. If you are able to drink with no consequences, you are probably a heavy drinker but not an alcoholic. You probably don’t know exactly how long it takes you to get to the liquor store before it closes. You probably don’t go to several different liquor stores because you don’t want the clerks to think you are an alcoholic. You probably don’t switch from liquor to beer in an effort to slow down drinking. You probably don’t have to rationalize or justify (lie or manipulate) drinking.
Nobody wants to be an alcoholic. When you were 7 years old and asked what you wanted to be when you grow up – the answer was not an alcoholic. You also don’t become an alcoholic at your first drink. You can drink for years and be fine. Then suddenly you realize you have an alcohol problem. Alcohol is physically addictive. In fact, you can die from alcohol withdrawals. And you can overdose on it.
Alcoholism is not a weakness of character. The Alcoholics I worked with in residential facility environments we’re self-medicating. Alcohol made them feel better about themselves and more socially acceptable – until they weren’t. If you believe you might have a problem with alcohol, go to a 12-step meeting. And most important see a therapist to find out what you’re self-medicating, why you’re self-medicating and alternatives to feel better about yourself and more socially acceptable.