What if you were an alcoholic and didn't even know it? Would your life change?
You may be surprised to know the majority of people who drink alcohol in general ask themselves at some point if they are an alcoholic or not. What is too much? The answer seems to change every couple of years, according to the FDA and a variety of entities who study the effects of alcohol. Red wine is good for the heart, but how much is good for the heart? It is statements like this that has led to mass confusion.
There is a healthy amount of fear that keeps people from over-doing it in terms of drinking, but when it becomes a question, people ask themselves on a regular basis it becomes disruptive to their daily lives. Here is an easy way to know if you are indeed considered an "alcoholic."
1. Do you leave work and get excited to get home and have a drink?
2. Do you use alcohol as your main coping tool for dealing with stress (be honest!)?
3. Do you feel like alcohol is hindering your ability to perform at your best at work (again, be honest with yourself)?
4. Have you ever had a health problem related to drinking?
5. Has anyone every commented that you drink too much?
If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions, you would be considered an alcoholic. You may be surprised to learn that there is no actual diagnoses of alcoholic in today's modern psychiatric diagnostic criteria, which we use to make our diagnosis. Instead, we have a spectrum of alcohol use disorders that range from mild to severe. The bottom line is, if you fall anywhere in the range of a mild, moderate or severe alcohol use disorder, you have let alcohol impact your life in a negative fashion.
In reality, it is all a compromise. For example, if you drink a bottle of wine each night and you feel sluggish and tired the next day but are able to complete your work, does that mean you have a problem? The symptom of fatigue and sluggishness is not in and of itself necessarily a problem, but instead it is relative to your own life. For some people, it is worth the trade-off to feel crummy the next day in order to enjoy a bottle of wine each night. Other people may feel that the lack of energy and motivation that costs them the ability to perform at their peak performance, and thus the tradeoff is indeed not worth it.
If you answered "yes" to any of those above questions, stop buying into the belief that you have to have certain symptoms or problems to be considered an alcoholic. You don't have to have problems like having a DUI, needing a drink when you wake up in the morning, drinking every day of the week, blacking out when you drink, drinking hard alcohol, or any other more severe outcome from using alcohol to be considered an alcoholic.
The bottom line is this: I tell my patients who ask me whether or not they are an alcoholic the following, is alcohol causing you any negative consequences in life whatsoever? If the answer is "yes," then you have a problem with alcohol. I steer clear of getting into labeling people alcoholics--or any other labels in general--since I have found people let the shame of the diagnosis overwhelm them to the point they become paralyzed from taking action to fix the problem.
Shame causes people to feel so extremely depressed. People start being extremely hard on themselves, which leads to a domino effect of negativity, hopelessness and ultimately an inability to change. The traditional method to alcohol treatment lumps everyone into the same pile. The reality is, there is not a single diagnoses that captures each and everyone's individual issues.
The Moderation Institute is built upon the foundation I have established over the past three years in terms of treating every single person as a unique individual with their own one-of-a-kind unique struggle. There is NO SHAME, NO GUILT and NO HOPELESSNESS when people come through our program.
People are empowered, hopeful and excited to regain control over their decisions when it comes to using alcohol. I want to challenge everyone to get rid of the thought and label of being an alcoholic and simply recognize that perhaps you may be happier and healthier if you modify your alcohol use to some degree.
That is it! No 12-step program needed, no confessions needed, no higher power needed. If you want to pursue any of those however, I will get you the resources to utilize a great 12-step group and support system. The point is, everything is customized to you.
In conclusion, you don't have to define yourself as an alcoholic. Could your life be better if you had more control over your drinking? IF the answer is "yes," then call us to regain the control you are looking for.
Call (480)-269-5945 to take back control.
Michael Yasinski, MD