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grntwlkr's avatar

When do you know if you are an alcoholic?

Asked by grntwlkr (179points) December 4th, 2009

my dad always told me, “when you are a pickle you can never be a cucumber again.” in your own experience; when did you decide that you were an alcoholic? i have a family history of alcoholism. I enjoy drinking, I feel i am becoming a pickle, but I also feel that i am not quite a pickle yet. please only answer if you are sincere!

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41 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

By the time you have to wonder it is probably time to seek assistance.

skfinkel's avatar

I agree with @pdworkin—if you have to ask, you probably know the answer. And even if you aren’t a full blown pickle yet, you can stop before you get there. So act now. Get the help you need—it’s not easy to stop any habit—especially one that might be hiding some pain.

wildpotato's avatar

I decided I was an alcoholic when I realized that I feel more like myself when I have a few, and that in order to feel like myself, I have a few every single night.

Ansible1's avatar

If you wake up and immediately start to plan out when and what you’re going to drink next…

If you start to get the shakes during the day until you have a drink…

If you frequently drink by yourself…

you may be headed toward alcoholism

jca's avatar

i am not an alcoholic, but i used to go out with a guy who went to AA, so i used to go to meetings with him. from what i understand, when alcohol becomes a problem in your life, you are an alcoholic. when it causes you to miss work, be late for work, get fired from work, lose your license, not get a license because you know you’ll end up in legal trouble because of dwi, have child welfare issues, have your spouse or partner saying they wish you would slow down, having friends or family saying they wish you slow down, having friends or family not want to be with you due to your drinking, being broke due to drinking, using other drugs due to drinking, etc.

arpinum's avatar

If you have alcoholism in your family, then you have a 50% chance of having the genes. You can either wait until alcohol causes serious problems, or you can get treatment now. But you are an alcoholic from the womb, even if your alcoholism hasn’t yet become a problem.

A good way to determine if you have an alcohol problem is to find out if alcohol is having a negative impact on your life. Just because you drink a lot does not make it a problem. But if drinking or the need to drink causes you to behave in a way that is harmful, or potentially harmful, then you have a problem and need to seek attention. People with the alcoholism gene however will develop a problem eventually. Those with genetic dispositions will rarely if ever manage their alcohol in a way that does not cause a problem.

Of course, you should talk to your doctor about this.

chelseababyy's avatar

Are you abusing alcohol? If so, you’re more than likely an alcoholic.

filmfann's avatar

If you can’t have fun without drinking, you are an alcoholic.
If you find yourself constantly apologizing for your behavior while drinking, you are an alcoholic.

DrBill's avatar

Stop drinking.

If you don’t miss it at all, you don’t have a problem.

If you need a drink to accomplish any task, or to feel like yourself, you have a problem

If one the same day you quit, say to yourself “this is stupid” and have a drink, you have a serious problem, and need to seek help.

avvooooooo's avatar

The basic difference is the need to drink. If you can stop, you may be able to consider yourself not an alcoholic. If you have adverse affects if you stop, you are an alcoholic.

There is no addiction gene. That’s crap. The “alcoholism gene” does not exist, people who are trying to claim it are looking for an excuse for their own behavior. Addictive personalities exist, as do patterns of behavior and attitudes about alcohol that are passed down through families. Attitudes and patterns of behavior have more to do with alcohol running in families than any other factors, including the individual themselves. But you are not an alcoholic from birth, you do not have no choice but to become an alcoholic, there is nothing in reality to support this bogus claim.

Mamradpivo's avatar

About when you wonder if you’re dependent on alcohol to get through the day.

Darwin's avatar

You know you are an alcoholic when you realize that alcohol is destroying your life. Other people can tell you that you are an alcoholic all they want, but you won’t be able to do a thing about it unless and until you decide you are.

You can also try filling out this survey and it will tell you if you are drinking enough to be considered an alcoholic. Basically, if drinking causes you to not do something you are supposed to, if you can’t stop drinking even when you know you’ve had enough, if you have blackouts, or if anyone or anything has gotten damaged because of your drinking, you probably are an alcoholic.

faye's avatar

I wonder if it is so simple. I’ve read about it a bit, took care of patients, talked to doctors. The main point I think is how you feel. Do you feel a bit out of control, unhappy? Do you change your personality when drunk? Have you had people tell you unsavoury stories about yourself that you have no memory of? I’ve known people to have a few beers everyday and a few who binge maybe 3 times a year.

grntwlkr's avatar

i think @arpinum right. I am an alcoholic already (due to my wonderful family genes) however It is not a problem for me yet. But I feel i am on the verge of problems. I can sense these things. I have decided to stop drinking, (I love drinking) before I cause any problems. I also feel that I have learned all I can from drinking.

Thanks for the advice.

avvooooooo's avatar

@grntwlkr Perhaps you should read my answer. The one where I discuss where there is no such thing as an alcoholism gene. That science has not proved such a thing and that there are other factors that actually do influence people.

Addiction is not genetic. Learned behaviors and attitudes from the family of origin are what you can get from your family that influence you and can increase your chances of being an alcoholic.

rooeytoo's avatar

AA has the 20 questions that they use as a determining factor. But the simple answer is, if you are asking the question, you are at the very least a problem drinker.

It’s not the easiest thing to stop drinking. AA is a great place to learn how others did it. Try some meetings and see what you think. Each one is different, if you don’t like the first one you try, go to a couple more on different nights and at different locations, they all have their own distinctive flavor and some fit better than others.

Good on ya for seeing that you could be headed for trouble and wanting to do something about it!

Buttonstc's avatar

Before answering your question, I’m going to tackle some erroneous statements already made by previous posters.

Genetics os NOT destiny.

Having a genetic predisposition toward addiction or anything else such as diabetes or heart disease does not mean that one will automatically develop the disease in question.

To put it in very simple (but accurate) terms: genetics may load the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

To add to what many people have already said regarding how one can know, I’ll just offer a few additional observations.

Some people can go for a pretty long time without drinking and STILL be alcoholics. They are known as periodic alcoholics or binge drinkers. Therefore, being able to go without drinking is not a surefire indication that one is not an alcoholic.

However, if you can’t get through a day without a drink or you have a snort with which to start the day, you are an alcoholic.

The amount that one drinks is not the main issue. The key is WHY are you drinking? If it’s being used as a crutch to help you deal with life that’s an unhealthy pattern and will lead to your increasing inability to cope with life. That’s alcoholism.

It’s good that you are being introspective about your drinking rather than oblivious. This means that you can still find motivation to turn this around rather than living in denial..

Haleth's avatar

The first sign is if you drink with the intention of altering your mood or getting drunk. If you quit drinking without addressing your other problems, you might end up being sober for a while and then going back to addictive behavior. It will be really hard for you to stay sober, or you might replace alcohol with another addiction, like being a workaholic, overeating, or becoming extremely religious. You should seek counseling to learn why you drink so much, and learn to control it. Then you can decide to quit all drinking if you really want to, and not out of fear of an addiction.

arpinum's avatar

@Buttonstc Your right, 100% of people with these genes do not become alcoholics, but the risk is high and the problem is costly. I would err on the side of caution for these people, as the expected cost of drinking is quite high.

@avvooooooo If there are no alcoholism genes then how do you explain all these reports which find otherwise.

faye's avatar

@arpinum very interesting! I f I could go back I would have found some kind of work invoving genetics. How genes work and affect our bodies and maybe our minds fascinates me.

Buttonstc's avatar


I do agree with you that predisposition does significantly tip the scales, no doubt about it. But there were other statements made that if you have the genetics that it will catch up with you given enough time. That’s just grossly inaccurate.

However, I do think that more education about this should be done for children of addicts at an earlier age ( before the full force of puberty hits) so that they have the factual ammunition to resist peer pressure and make healthy choices.

My parents were severe alcoholics and I initially decided to never ever drink (as Dr. Phil McGraw has stated he did for the same reasons) but as I became more mature, I modified that stance slightly.

I think being an absolute teetotaler can potentially be a setup for failure as it is absolute. For the past 20 years plus I have never had more drinks in any given year than I can count on the fingers of one hand and that works for me.

I am also very conscious of why I’m drinking. I find the old AA acronym of H. A. L. T. to be a good cautionary principle.

That stands for four danger signals of which addicts (or potential ones) should be extremely cautious, namely


When one or more of those conditions is present, no one should be drinking or for those in recovery, be around it.

Nancy Reagan’s credo of “Just say no” is just way too simplistic. In order for kids to make good decisions, they need far better info and education than just that.

avvooooooo's avatar

@arpinum Did you bother to read and notice that many of those studies are blaming it on a different gene? That only a couple are coming up with the same one? That there were no less than TEN genes in the things you linked, all determined to be the one or the group? People make pronouncements all the time. That doesn’t mean that they’re right. Until people can come up with a consistent, peer reviewed conclusion with research that can be duplicated in the scientific method… Its crap.

Its easy to blame behavior on genetics or brain chemistry or aliens from space. That’s why people are looking so hard for answers in genetics and chemistry instead of looking at the environment that produced the individual and their behavior. I’m not saying that some things aren’t genetic and that there isn’t such a thing as screwed up brain chemistry. What I am saying is that we barely know anything about the brain or human genetics and we for sure haven’t even begun pinpointing this, that, or the other that causes someone to be a certain way unless its something rather obvious that jumps out. The Down’s Syndrome genetics, for example, are pretty obvious. The fact that scientists can’t agree on an alcoholism gene, if one exists, means that it is not obvious and that it is still nonsensical to say that there is for sure a gene that controls addictive behavior. Until proven otherwise by a consensus in the scientific community (and yes, you can find any number of people who cite the same research over and over so don’t waste your time looking it up because it still doesn’t make it true), there is no gene that we can blame alcoholism on. We need to, instead, worry about the individual and their behavior which is what has been proven to produce and perpetuate alcoholism.

Its not unlike the saying “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Genes don’t control our behavior, we control our behavior. And that includes whether or not we engage in behaviors that lead to alcoholism.

If you’ve never been to an AA meeting (I have), maybe you should go to one. Ask some of the people there, many are very friendly and helpful, where they think their problem began. I think you’ll be surprised at the answers.

arpinum's avatar

@avvooooooo Which is why I said genes and not gene in my previous post. Yes I realize that multiple genes have been identified. I don’t claim that there is only 1 gene that will cause alcohol abuse problems. These studies do appear in peer reviewed journals. Don’t stonewall with demands that only one gene must be found by all researchers, reality is that multiple genes contribute to the issue. And these studies can be duplicated, just do the DNA testing and interviews and add some standard deviations, and your good to go.

Need scientific consensus? There is no official guideline for what make a consensus, but literature reviews are the best indicators of a consensus. And what do we have here? Looks like a lit review of 9 different studies (did you mention duplication of studies?) on whether a certain gene makes people susceptible to substance abuse. I’ll let you guess what they found. And this isn’t the only gene where there is a consensus.

If you have spotted grave scientific errors, why not send an article to The International Journal of Psychophysiology, Behavioral Genetics or other fine peer reviewed journals which have published these results?

avvooooooo's avatar

@arpinum Quick interpretation for you. Less than half of the known alcoholics had what they were looking for. When you narrow it down to the really bad ones, a little more than half. So basically, they’re saying that they still don’t know. Still blaming it on the unknown and environmental factors.

arpinum's avatar

@avvooooooo Less than half for that ONE gene. Other unknowns include other genes with other studies have identified.

rooeytoo's avatar

AA says alcoholism is a mental, physical and spiritual disease and I believe that.

To say it is strictly genetic is an over simplification.

There are plenty of dry drunks in this world, that pretty much disproves the genetic theory to anyone who believes in AA.

Bottom line is, does it really matter what causes it? The important part is what to do about it.

SuperMouse's avatar

@avvooooooo I respectfully disagree with your statement that alcoholism is not in the genes. All I have to do is look in my own family for anecdotal proof. My grandmother had seven brothers – all alcoholics. I have three brothers, two out of three are alcoholics, my dad and my uncle are alcoholics and I am an alcoholic. @rooeytoo, to say it is genetic is an over simplification, to say it for sure isn’t genetic is also an over simplification.

@grntwlkr I realized I was an alcoholic when I noticed I was drinking every single day without fail. I was looking forward to evening when I would come home and get blotto. I had to have alcohol with every meal, and when I was stressed out I had to down a couple of drinks. Alcohol was not destroying my life. I never drove drunk and it never ruined relationships, but I could feel myself becoming more and more dependent upon it and knew it was time to stop. After polishing off a pack of Smirnoff Twisteds and not remembering walking to my kids’ school to pick them up, I knew I had had my last drink. I have been sober for almost two years now and do not miss alcohol at all.

avvooooooo's avatar

@SuperMouse “Addictive personalities exist, as do patterns of behavior and attitudes about alcohol that are passed down through families. Attitudes and patterns of behavior have more to do with alcohol[ism] running in families than any other factors, including the individual themselves.”


SuperMouse's avatar

@avvooooooo it will take an awful lot to convince me that there is not a genetic component to alcoholism. I just don’t buy it. I am willing to wait and watch while more science is done to prove the theory. Do you have a link to that quote? For the record, I do not blame being an alcoholic on my genetic make-up, but I do believe having those genes requires me to be more aware and monitor my behavior very, very carefully, especially when it comes to addictive behaviors.

avvooooooo's avatar

@SuperMouse That’s me from above, separated from the rest of that comment. Part of my schooling was a lot of work on addiction, including AA meetings. I ended up going to far more meetings than I was required and NA meetings as well in order to learn more about addiction from addicts. My ideas about addiction come from much study, reflection, and discussion with addicts and addiction counselors in addition to the academic work.

SuperMouse's avatar

@avvooooooo I too have attended many AA meetings and other meetings for addicts of different kinds. My ideas about addiction come from much study and reflection as well as being raised with an alcoholic father and uncle and dealing first hand with my own addictions. I understand the point you are trying to get across, I just disagree and think that science will eventually prove there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.

avvooooooo's avatar

@SuperMouse Predisposition, possibly. But the “born an alcoholic but just don’t know it yet,” no. Absolutely not.

SuperMouse's avatar

@avvooooooo I don’t buy the “born an alcoholic” theory any more than I buy the theory that there is absolutely no genetic component. Like anything it is about choices. One may have a family history of heart disease but work out and take care of oneself to help stave off the effects. In my opinion, It is imperative that those with alcoholism in their family are hyper-vigilant in watching for the warning signs.

filmfann's avatar

@SuperMouse said: science will eventually prove there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.
Of course. For example, Native Americans, I am told, are missing a gene to allow them to process alcohol. (My wife is part Cherokee, and I am part Sioux, but we don’t have issues here. Thank goodness for a mixed bloodline).
My wife’s mother, and my grandfather, both on the Native American lines of our families, where both alcoholics.

evil2's avatar

i think if your are asking yourself if you are an alcoholic, seek help cause you probably are….and if you arent by then its best to get control of it before it controls you….

hearkat's avatar

I told my son from the time he was 5 years old, and I had to have visitation removed because his father had become so unstable, that he was probably “born an alcoholic”. The alcoholism and drug abuse and resultant deaths in his father’s family are undeniable. His father’s liver gave out when he was 39 and our son was 7.

At around 15, my son who clearly has the more of his dad’s genes than mine (in appearance as well as personality traits) once told me that when he felt stressed, he craved alcohol even though he had never had it. Now at 18, he still doesn’t drink.

I believe that alcoholism is genetic for many. Perhaps it isn’t alcohol addiction that is the issue… but rather a hereditary imbalance of neurochemical(s) for which alcohol is the cheapest and most accessible medication. Only time will tell.

@grntwlkr: As others have stated, simply by asking this you have shown that you are likely headed to a problem if you don’t stop drinking. Kudos to you for coming to this awareness before it became more serious. It should make no difference whether you attach a label of ‘alcoholic’ to yourself or not. If people ask why you choose not to drink, you can simply say that it has no benefits for you or you don’t like how it makes you feel anymore.

Sonnerr's avatar

I don’t know if anyone said this already, TL;DR, but if you start to drink and get highly intoxicated on your own(by yourself), then you probably know the answer.

mattbrowne's avatar

If you decide not to drink anything for 4 weeks and then notice you think about it at least twice a day for the whole 4 weeks.

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ItsAHabit's avatar

Could you or someone you care about drink too much?
• Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
• Does your drinking ever make you late for school or work?
• Does your drinking worry your family or friends?
• Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won’t?
• Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?
• Do you ever get headaches or have hangovers after drinking?
• Have you started hanging out with heavy drinking friends?
• Do your friends use less alcohol than you do?
• Have you ever been in trouble because of your drinking?
• Do you ever borrow money or go without things in order to buy alcohol?
• Is drinking hurting your reputation?
• Do you feel a sense of power when drinking?
• Do you ever drink until your supply is gone?
• Have you ever lost friends because of your use of alcohol?
• Do you think you might have a drinking problem?
The more of these questions that apply, the greater the chance that you might have a problem with drinking.
But having a drinking problem doesn’t mean that you are alcoholic or that you have to abstain from alcohol. Most, people who experience problems from drinking choose to reduce their consumption to moderate levels rather than to abstain.

BoBo1946's avatar

when you stop drinking coffee for breakfast and start drinking beer.

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