Three Questions to Determine if You Have a Drinking Problem

On a number of occasions I’ve been asked by friends about how to determine whether or not they have a drinking problem. Many of them have expressed concern about the label, “alcoholic,” with good reason. It carries a stigma. It conjures up images of unshaven men in ill fitting clothes drinking from a paper bag in a back alley. It is a label of the problem not of a solution.

Now, I needed to accept that I had a problem like anyone else who enters recovery. Step 1 is critical. It’s the only one that you have to get 100% right. But even though I owned the label “alcoholic” in my early recovery I struggled with it.

Today I refer to myself as a person in long term recovery. I don’t reject the past but I don’t wallow in it either. I believe we become the stores we tell ourselves. I tell myself the story that I am in recovery because that’s where I want to remain. I want to focus on the solution not the problem.

When someone asks me a variation of the question, “Am I an alcoholic” I ask them to put that question on hold. I don’t think it’s the right question. Here are the three questions I have them ask themselves:

  1. Am I happy?
  2. Am I healthy?
  3. Am I free?

I know that when I was in the depths of my addiction I was not a happy person. Everything felt closed off. The world was small and I was afraid. I hated myself and what I’d become.

My health was in the toilet at the time. I frequently had bouts of diarrhea. I carried all manner of medications, baby powder, and wet ones in my briefcase because I never knew what ailment would hit when. I had pain in my right side under my rib cage. I had a mysterious bout of hearing loss in my left ear. I had symptoms of nerve damage in my left arm. My triglycerides were high, well over 280. I was concerned that I wouldn’t live to see 50.

And I was in prison. Not actual prison but a prison of my addiction. An emotional prison. I rarely went out socially. I rarely exercised. I rarely hade friends over. I never left the house after dinner because I was too drunk. I was stuck.

Today things are different. Today, I am genuinely happy and content in my life. I find joy in the small things and I relish time with my wife and son and our friends.

My health has dramatically improved. I’ve lost 29 pounds and my triglyceride are now down below 190. I look different and I feel different. Better. Well. Healthy.

And I am free to do what I want when I want. I no longer feel chained to my house. I no longer feel trapped in a life that I can’t escape.

I believe that anyone who has a problem with alcohol, if they answer these questions honestly, won’t be able to say that they are happy, healthy and, free. And if you can’t say these things because of your drinking, then you should probably reassess your relationship with alcohol.

I Haven’t Written a Post In 2019, Here’s an Update

At the end of 2018 I was thinking of combining this blog with an older one and renaming it. I was considering the change because I wasn’t sure that the idea of a sober blog, a sober persona online, was serving me. I’ve long struggled with the idea of identity. And so I’d shut down one twitter handle and renamed my primary handle.

Then life happened.

In January one of my high school friends died, potentially as a result of his substance use. I really don’t know but it hit me pretty hard because I’d been talking to him about my sobriety and his for months. It seemed like he was doing great. And then he was dead.

February came and went, as it does. Nothing exciting. Cold and grey.

March was a shit show. I can’t get into the details but my sobriety was tested by events in my life that no parent should ever have to go through. I struggled with cravings in a way that I haven’t in years. The desire to numb and escape was stronger than it has been since my early rays in sobriety. But I did the right things. I went to meetings and I talked with lots of people both in and out of the program. I should note that everyone is safe and healthy but it was one of the most traumatic events of my life.

I also was interviewing for a job in March. I couldn’t give the interview process my complete attention and as a result I would learn that I didn’t get the job in April. This is probably a good thing.

As a result of the events of March I started seeing a trauma therapist. This is long over due and it’s been helpful. I am learning more about myself that I learned through the steps. This experience has reenforced my belief that outside help is more important than the 12 step community generally acknowledges.

April was better. The weather started getting warmer. I started running again, We went in a trip to Grand Cayman.

But April was not 100% peaches and cream. I learned that I didn’t get the promotion and I also got my first ever call from HR. It turns out that even though I was ready to consolidate my online personas, my employer was not happy with one of my politically charged tweets. To be fair, I said some rather unprofessional things to our Tweeter in Chief.

The call from HR was really a non-issue because I was happy to remove the tweet and didn’t fight their objection, but it opened my eyes a bit and made me recognize that some separation between my personal life, my personal online presence, and my professional self and online presence is probably warranted.

And suddenly, it’s the middle of May and I haven’t posted in 5 months.

I have a few ideas about some topics to post in the near future but for now, I’ll just say that I’m doing okay.

I’m still sober and I keep moving forward.