11 Critical Signs of A Drinking Problem

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In this article, we’re going to look at 11 signs of a drinking problem. If you’re worried that you’re currently drinking too much, what exactly should you be looking out for? 

We’re going to look at the term “alcoholic”, the definition of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and then look at 11 signs you are drinking too much.

Finally, I’ll point out some resources to help you if you are worried you are drinking too much.

Are You An “Alcoholic”?

The first thing we need to understand, before looking at the signs of a drinking problem, is whether or not you’re an alcoholic.

Deciding if you’re an alcoholic can sometimes appear to be a precursor to getting sober. 

I’m here to tell you that you do NOT need to call yourself an alcoholic to get sober.

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Some problem drinkers will think to themselves that because their drinking problem isn’t as bad as an “alcoholics”, they don’t try to fix it.

“Well, it’s not like I’m an alcoholic that has to drink in the morning when I wake up every day.”

They think to themselves.

I’ve spoken about the “alcoholic” a number of times, and it makes up a crucial part of the Soberclear program. However, it’s important to touch on this now.

Understanding the concept of the “alcoholic” will help you understand your drinking problem much more clearly.

My Story With Being An “Alcoholic”

When I realized my drinking was a problem, there was a point where I tried going to A.A. 

That’s what everyone else says to do, right? If you’ve got a problem, you go to a meeting.

Whilst A.A. works for some people, including my Mum who has been for 20 years, it wasn’t for me.

Group therapy

I’m not going to go into the reasons in this post, but I will touch on the label of the “alcoholic”.

When you introduce yourself during a meeting, you are supposed to introduce yourself as an alcoholic.

“Hi, I’m Cassandra and I’m an alcoholic.”

They say.

In other words, if you’ve stopped drinking for 15 years using A.A., you still are supposed to introduce yourself as an alcoholic.

In other words, you are still a problem. You are still powerless over alcohol.

It makes no difference how long you have been sober. You are always an alcoholic.

Excessive alcohol consumption was merely an extension of your personality flaw – the “alcoholic” in you.

To me, that’s a huge problem.

Let me explain why…

Let’s say we’ve got Ted. Ted is 28 and he thinks he might have a drinking problem.

He goes to his first meeting. 

Here, he is told to decide if he is an alcoholic or not. All of the people in the meeting are telling similar stories to what Ted has experienced.

“Surely, if all these people can’t handle their drink and I’m like them – I must be one of them” 

He thinks to himself.

If Ted decides he is an alcoholic, he now has a label. 

Being an “alcoholic” carries a LOT of weight.

Let’s say Ted stops attending meetings after 3 months. He no longer enjoys it and he decided it wasn’t for him for whatever reason.

Well, what happens to the label?

Does that mean Ted is still an alcoholic?

What happens if he relapses and gets black-out drunk?

“Well, I’m an alcoholic apparently. I can’t control it. I’m powerless.”

He mutters.

The “alcoholic” label can be dangerous for some people. 

If they go to A.A., decide they’re an “alcoholic” and then stop attending meetings, it can become a dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecy.

The reality is, if you have a drinking problem, there is nothing wrong with you.

signs of a drinking problem

Alcohol is a drug. A highly, highly addictive drug.

If you start taking a drug, and you take it, again and again, that has nothing to do with you.

It has everything to do with the drug.

There is nothing wrong with your personality or your genetic make-up.

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Definition Of “Alcohol Use Disorder”

Now, just because I choose not to label myself as an alcoholic doesn’t mean I didn’t have a huge drinking problem.

My drinking was out of control – and it was causing huge consequences in almost every area of my life.

However, as soon as I got rid of the drink, the problems soon disappeared.

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In other words, I wasn’t the problem. The drink was the problem.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA),

“Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder”

Interestingly, a physician would not call you an alcoholic. They would also say you have an Alcohol Use Disorder.

This is much more accurate.

This definition doesn’t come with the same weight as the “alcoholic”, and neither does it imply that there is something inherently wrong with the drinker.

According to the NIAAA, there are certain criteria that a problem drinker must meet, outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

According to this book, anyone meeting 2 of the 11 criteria during the previous 12-months is diagnosed with AUD.

The severity of AUD is rated either mild, moderate or severe. This is dependent on how many of the criteria are met.

So, the most recent version of the DSM asks this:

In the past year, have you:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
  4. Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  5. Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

If you answered yes to just 2 of these symptoms, it suggests the existence of AUD.

  • Mild AUD: 2-3 symptoms
  • Moderate AUD: 4 to 5 symptoms
  • Severe AUD: 6 symptom

I’ll be honest. 

I answered yes to every single question…

But I still managed to find stopping drinking effortless and enjoyable

If You Have Signs Of A Drinking Problem, What Should You Do?

There are many options available to people who are showing signs of a drinking problem.

For some people, including my own Mother, 12-step programs are very effective. 

My Mum enjoys meetings. She happily labels herself as an alcoholic and enjoys the religious approach.

For others, they may choose other recovery approaches. That might involve therapy or other meeting groups such as SMART Recovery.

The Soberclear approach is totally different. It’s all about getting clear and educating yourself on alcohol. It’s about bringing awareness to your beliefs around drinking, dismantling them and then making a logical decision to not drink alcohol. The Soberclear way requires no willpower, no religion, and no meetings.

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If you want to learn more, I recommend you check out this free training. I talk about the 3 secrets I used to stop drinking alcohol.

Also, you should check out these posts next:

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Were any of these 11 signs of a drinking problem apparent in your life?




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