“Am I an alcoholic” is a normal question many people ask. The term “alcoholic” has many bad connotations. Most people draw many conclusions when they hear that word, and seldom are any of them good. Perhaps, though, the word is thrown around far too loosely.
The truth of the matter is that most people who drink – even very heavy drinkers – are not actually alcoholics at all only a problem drinker. Recent data has challenged many of the previously held notions regarding both alcoholism and what it takes to kick a drinking habit.
The new information comes mostly from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, the broadest survey ever conducted about American alcohol consumption. According to the study, chronic heavy drinking to the degree that would classify it as genuine alcoholism is actually quite uncommon. True alcoholics need serious help and often have to take the hardline Alcoholics Anonymous-style approach to recovery, but the reality is that most people who drink are not alcoholics but merely “problem drinkers.”
The “Typical” Problem Drinker
The survey also showed that most Americans experience – and then overcome – a period of heavy drinking during their lives. The typical problem drinker is a functional, non-addicted person who drinks heavily for a time – usually around four years – and then recovers on his or her own. This information helps to take some of the stigma away from drinking and is a reminder that our own minds are very powerful. Most of us are, in fact, not “powerless” against alcohol.
The idea of taking the reins in your own life and embracing your own personal power is more than just some new age idea. Top experts in the psychology of addiction are changing their minds about the way they view recovery – and treatment programs are following suit. “We’re on the cusp of some major advances in how we conceptualize alcoholism,” Dr. Mark Willenbring, director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in an L.A. Times interview.
Resources to Help Problem Drinkers
Until now, most of the resources available in terms of literature and recovery programs have been geared toward helping the extreme heavy drinker who truly is powerless over his or her addiction. To borrow a phrase from AA these are the people who really have hit “rock bottom.” This practice has left the vast majority of people seeking help for drinking in the dark.
Going forward, counselors and addiction specialists can take a broader approach to helping people overcome a drinking problem. Not only will therapy be more effective but also more compassionate as well. They do not automatically treat every problem drinker as a full-blown alcoholic. This new information may also prompt friends and families of drinkers to be supportive of their loved ones – and more optimistic about their recovery. Use our Treatment Directory to locate treatment near you.
Overcome Problem Drinking
Learn how to control your drinking in the privacy of your own home without going to AA or expensive counseling with the Give up Alcohol Course.