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Am I An Addict Or Alcoholic?

Am I An Addict Or Alcoholic


There is a big misconception when it comes to defining what an addict or alcoholic is. Most people think it has to do with whether or not the person in question can abstain from their substance of choice for any length of time. You hear things like, “Well she doesn’t drink every day so she can’t be an alcoholic.” Another way people define addiction is whether or not there is a physical component. If he goes through any sort of physical withdrawal when he doesn’t have his drugs or alcohol then he is an addict or alcoholic.

The problem with these definitions is that there is an element of truth to them. Certainly, someone who doesn’t drink every day may not be an alcoholic or someone who has withdrawal symptoms likely is an addict but neither of those defines addiction.

When I got into treatment I finally realized that I was an addict and alcoholic. But I didn’t fit either one of the definitions above. There usually was a couple of days a week where I didn’t drink or use drugs. When I got to the treatment I didn’t have to go through detox like most people because I hadn’t drunk in the 24 hours. I also had no physical withdrawal symptoms. But if you knew me then, or know my story, there is no doubt that I had a problem. I was stuck in a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. My life was swirling around the toilet bowl and I was inches away from disaster.

How Do You Define An Addiction? 

I gave a clue above. It really is simple. Anyone who experiences negative consequences as a result of their drinking, drug addiction, video game playing, pornography viewing, or any other in the long list of addictions. Still, that is a little vague so let’s clarify.

First of all, negative consequences are plural. We are not talking about getting in trouble one time. We aren’t talking about one hangover. This is pattern behavior. We will see the same thing over and over. The addict or alcoholic may have trouble with relationships, may have trouble holding a job, maybe arrested multiple times for driving under the influence. There are a lot of different types of consequences. It could be health consequences. And there will likely be a mix of consequences. Personally, I had financial problems, relationship problems, I had put on a lot of weight, and I wasn’t very pleasant to be around.

Addict Or Alcoholic Life Has Become Unmanageable

Despite these negative consequences the addict or alcoholic doesn’t change. They continue to do the same things. To the outside world, they seem crazy. We shake our heads at what an idiot the person is. The reality is that the person is stuck. In and of themselves they do not have the power to change. Their life has become unmanageable.

Definition Of An Addict Or Alcoholic

The simplest and most elegant definition of an addict or alcoholic I believe is this: Anyone whose life has become unmanageable and is powerless to change it without help. If you are wondering whether or not your loved one has a problem ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Has their behavior negatively effected their life in any way?
  • Are they unable to make any lasting positive changes in their life?
  • Does their life seem out of control?


Definition Of An Addict Or Alcoholic

If you answered yes to any of those questions then your loved one likely needs help. If you are still not convinced here is one last test. Think of people you know who you are one hundred percent certain do not have an addiction problem. Does anyone ever wonder if they have an addiction? No, of course not. We never wonder if someone has a problem who doesn’t actually have a problem. It just doesn’t happen.

So if you are asking the question, there is almost no chance that they do not have a problem. The fact that you are still asking the question probably means they aren’t too far gone yet. It means addicts or alcoholics still have hope. It means the sooner they are able to get help the better the chance they will have of a normal life again.

Why Can’t He Just Stop Drinking?

Why can’t he just stop drinking

I recently had a young man reach out to me for help. He was desperate to quit drinking. Alcohol addiction was destroying his life. I met him at a local coffee shop to hear his story and see how I could help. He had recently totaled his car and been arrested for drunk driving. The prosecution agreed to a deferment but it meant he would be on probation for 5 years and required not to drink. Violating his parole would have some pretty terrible consequences. And yet he drank. He wanted to stop. Tried doing it on his own. Finally, he started reaching out for help.

After our meeting, I agreed to help hold him accountable. I went with him to local AA and Celebrate Recovery meetings and started doing a step study with him. He was required to call me every day by 7 pm or I would assume he was drinking. Over the next several weeks this went on. He came over to my house and hung out and we talked regularly. And still, he drank. He would drink before we went to a meeting. He thought he was hiding it from me.

One weekend I didn’t hear from him at all until Monday. When he called on Monday he had this long crazy story about why he couldn’t call. The story may or may not have been true. You see, the problem is that even though he is a good guy and he really did want to quit, because of the alcohol he couldn’t stop lying. This story he told, it was serious, but I couldn’t tell if it was true. Ultimately it didn’t matter. As the weeks went by a pattern developed where he wouldn’t call me on the weekends. I would talk to him before the weekend and ask him what his plan was to stay sober. He never had one. I would suggest ways he could stay sober but he wouldn’t take them.

His alcoholic brain already had a plan of getting totally fed up. Which is what he would do. He would drink a bottle of vodka and drive. He hit stuff. Blacked out. Then did it again. It was scary and it finally scared him enough to realize he needed more serious help than what I or anyone else around him could provide. Monday he checked into a treatment facility where he will spend the next 28 days. This is his second time in a treatment center. Hopefully this time he gets it.

Why Can Some People Stop And Others Can’t?

Along the way many of us asked the question, why can’t he stop drinking? Even I asked that question and I’ve been there. For those of you who aren’t addicts or alcoholics but have a loved one that is, you have likely asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times.

This young man has a great support structure with a lot of people around him who love him and who are willing to help. He is not being enabled by family, which can sometimes keep an addict or alcoholic stuck. He also has serious consequences. His drinking got him kicked out of the place he was living. His drinking totaled his car and could have killed him or someone else. His drinking will land him in jail the next time he is caught. Yet none of this was sufficient motivation. What is his problem? Why can some people stop and others can’t? There isn’t any easy answer to these questions but there is an explanation. The bottom line is that it comes down to compulsion:

An irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes

“An irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes”

He has an irresistible urge, that no matter how much he fought it with his conscious mind, he could not win. Alcohol always won. Does this mean he was hopeless? By no means! Treatment isn’t a cure for an addict or alcoholic but what it provides is a period of time where the alcoholic is forcefully separated from his or her compulsions. It is also a time to learn how to handle your compulsions. That is what he has never learned. It is what I tried to teach him. It is why I tried to help him develop a plan for the weekends when the compulsion would be the strongest. It is why I told him he needed to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every night.

Find A Way To Recovery

Watching a loved one destroy their life when they should have every motivation and reason to stop is frustrating, infuriating, and a helpless feeling. What they are doing makes no sense. We don’t have to pretend it makes sense. We can understand it though. We understand it in light of it being a compulsion that they really don’t have the ability to fight on their own. Addict or alcoholic need help. They need new ways to deal with the compulsion. It is possible. But it isn’t possible to do it on their own.

Last Update : June 25, 2021


Can you leave the rehabilitation center?

You can leave the rehab any time, no one will compel you to stay at the rehab. However, dedication and continued treatment are required to fight addiction and achieve a sober life.

What are the Stages of Addiction?

There are various stages of addictions. The initial stage is the functioning individual with the addiction. The most common scenario is they have a job and their relationships are intact, but their health is depleting slowly because of their dependence.

What are narcotics and why people get it?

Narcotic analgesics (painkillers) are drugs that can reduce pain, cause numbness and/ or induce a state of unconsciousness. They have the tendency to cause tolerance and addiction

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