Ask an Addict: Am I An “Alcoholic?”

Addiction is an issue that impacts almost everyone in some way. I’ve been in recovery from alcoholism/addiction since January 2008. During that time, I’ve gone through ups and downs but have fortunately managed to stay sober. I’ll be answering a reader-submitted question about recovery every other week (information on how to submit below). I’m not an expert or mental health professional, just a sober person offering advice based on my experience and the research that’s available. This week, I’m talking about how sober people identify and different kinds of recovery programs.
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Hi Katie,

I quit drinking about a month ago. I realized that once I started drinking it was hard for me to stop and even though I wasn’t drinking all the time, I had too many embarrassing moments or things I couldn’t quite remember. Since quitting, I feel fantastic. My question is, is it important that I tell people that I’m an alcoholic, or that I stopped drinking because I have a problem? If I don’t identify myself as an alcoholic or put it out there that I don’t drink because I’ve had drinking problems, am I in denial about my condition?

I don’t really have any friends who have stopped drinking because they have a problem. I have a couple of friends who don’t really drink, but it’s not for addiction-related reasons. I find myself not wanting to tell people I’m no longer drinking because I couldn’t control myself. This is especially challenging when getting together with old friends. These are people I used to be close with, but have recently drifted away from. I can’t cut them out completely—yet when we used to be closer friends, we spent a lot of our time drinking. I also don’t want to lie, either, or somehow be in denial about what’s going on with me. It’s not like I’m not proud of myself, but do I need to be all out there about what I’m doing, and call myself an alcoholic? Can I still protect myself from judge-y people like this by just saying I’m not feeling like drinking, yet still be “authentic” in my sobriety?

So yeah, AA and calling myself an alcoholic feels like too much but I also don’t want to be going about this in a way that might crash down on me later if the going ever gets tough, if that makes sense. I don’t know anyone else in my position and am finding myself feeling kind of alone. Do you think I should go to AA? Is there any less intense sort of program you might recommend?

From, Unsure

Dear Unsure,

First of all, kudos to you for recognizing something you weren’t comfortable with in your behavior and taking steps to fix that. That’s not something everyone has the ability to do (I, for example, had to be forcibly removed from alcohol before I could stop drinking it) and it’s awesome that you took and accomplished those steps. It’s even better that you feel so great in the wake of quitting. (That’s also not a thing that happened with me for a loooooong time—just in case anyone is reading this like, “well, good for you, but I still feel like garbage,”—it really does get better). Continued

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