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Am I an Alcoholic?

Am I an Addict?

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‘I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression.’

--Dylan Thomas

The face of addiction

The image most of us have of the alcoholic is a wizened old man panhandling for spare change and living under a bridge.  Our picture of the addict is a skanky prostitute living in an abandoned building who turns just enough tricks to shoot up again.  However, these people are not the true face of addiction. 

High functioning alcoholics

Over seventy percent of all of those afflicted lead relatively normal lives.  They go to work, pay at least some of their bills, and maintain the semblance of a loving family life.  They are still functional, although their lives are usually far from happy and are certainly unmanageable.  Just because you still have a job making good money doesn’t mean you’re not one of us.

It’s all the same disease

There’s no difference between the drunk on the street picked up by the deputy sheriff, and the judge who gets too drunk to drive and is escorted home by the same policeman.  The nurse who steals pain pills from her patients’ medicine drawer is no different than the junkie in the ER dying of an overdose of fentanyl.  We all share the same disease and all will eventually find the same end:  jails, institutions, or death.  A drunk is the same as an addict and the junkie is the same as the alcoholic.

The Big Book of AA suggests two questions you can ask yourself

You are probably not an alcoholic if you can go to a bar, have only two drinks, then stop for the night, or if you can go for six months without a drink.  However, my sponsor Walter M., once went six months without a drop of liquor to prove to himself that he wasn’t an alcoholic, all the while with two gallons of vodka in the freezer, ready to celebrate his sobriety the moment he reached his six months.  As I said, it’s a personal thing, not an arbitrary pronouncement.

Only you can decide if you are an alcoholic or addict

It’s not for me or anyone else to say whether you are an addict or an alcoholic.  Only you can decide if your drinking and using have gotten out of control.  Only your personal recognition that you are sick, known and accepted by you at the deepest level, will give you the commitment necessary to abandon all your old ideas and undertake a spiritual journey.  Hearing that you are a drunk from your wife, your boss, your doctor, or the judge is of no use.

The invisible line of addiction

What you used is unimportant:  beer is the same as wine or bourbon and they are the same as pot, crack, or meth.  It doesn’t matter if you only drink when the sun is over the yardarm or on the weekends.  It matters not how much you drink or use.  All that matters is whether you have crossed over that invisible line that leads to the disease of addiction.

Negative consequences of Addiction

There are signs that a person has lost control of their using.  The most reliable is the occurrence of negative consequences.  As Jerry said, “Every time I got high I didn’t get into trouble, but every time I got into trouble, I was high.”  Getting a DUI, getting fired, bouncing checks, having the wife and kids move out, getting hauled into court over and over—you know the drill.

  If ---
  •    You can remember your first drink.

  •    You are having blackouts.

  •    You've been arrested for a DUI.

  •    Your drinking has resulted in negative consequences, such as losing a job, a family, jail time.

  •    You are restless and irritable until you have had your first drink of the day.

  •    You life is ruled by drugs or alcohol.

  •    You will do anything to get your drug of choice.

  •    You have withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

  •    You get the shakes when you need a drink.

  •    You need an "eye-opener" to get the day started.

  •    You stick a needle in your vein to get high.

Then you may be one of us.
If you are still uncertain,
go to an AA or NA meeting.
If they are telling your story, you may have found your way home.