What makes a drinker an alcoholic?

I drank beer to excess for better than 10 years. Every day. Even I was calling myself an alcholic.

I was just recently diagnosed as a diabetic. I quit drinking cold 3 weeks ago. Since then nothing. No DT’s, no cravings, I sleep well. Except for the getting up to urinate 4-5 times a night. Hey it used to be 8-10 times so it’s getting better.

So what makes a drinker an alcoholic?

Alcohol dependency (which may be psychological, physical or both) makes a person an alcoholic. You can be a very heavy drinker and not have a dependency.

The usual operative definition of an alcoholic is anyone who drinks more than you do. :smiley:

Something I’ve noticed recently. If I’m in a restaurant, I can leave a beer half-finished on a table and walk away. No alcoholic I know can do that. It’s just not possible for them to leave a drink unfinished.

(I know someone who will even reach over and finish off my drink, if I intend to leave it behind :eek: )

Like Friedo said. You can be a heavy drinker but not have an alcohol dependency. Sort of wanting to drink vs. needing to drink.

… On the other hand, some of us just don’t like to pay for drinks and then not drink 'em…

replace ‘drink’ with “bottle of whiskey” and that becomes my problem.
I can happily turn down offered wine or brandy But if I have a bottle and I’m on my own, I end up finishing it. I drink about 2 thirds, get into bed without remembering doing so, then wake up a few hours later feeling deceptively clear headed and sober (I said’ feeling’) and finish off the last third. Then I wake up many more hours later feeling like crap and thinking what the f**k have I done??

I have long made a clear distinction between alcoholic and alcohol abuser. The former is addicted. To my mind, you were the latter. (As I have been at times in my life.)

This is a complex question to answer so I will stick to the lighter part for now.

I just got of rehab for alcoholism (I am doing great BTW) and it is funny, that is one of the examples that they gave to lighten things up. They actually did a stand up act in the form of "If you have ever … then you might be an alcoholic. The one about finishing someone elses drink use one of them. Everyone there could relate to that. Not finishing you own drink, well that is so implausible to be ridiculous.

There was another funny one that they gave when someone claimed that they didn’t need to be in rehab because they could quit using willpower. The instructor said, “Ok, let’s ask other people about that”. He asked "Ok, alcoholics, do you remember when you had a couple of drinks at a bar and your buddy came up and asked if he could by you another? Remeber when you used your willpower against him and said: “No thanks, I am all set”.

Normal people wouldn’t get it at all but we all cracked up because that could never happen with an alcoholic.

The usual test is whether or not drinking causes problems. Such as:

Are you late to work, especially on Mondays?
Do you take long lunch hours?
Do you always leave early on Friday’s to catch Happy Hour?

In short is drinking interfering with job performance?

Do you often make excuses to your wife (or whatever) for being late to the evening meal because you stopped at the bar on the way home?

Things like that.

If your are an alcoholic, sooner or later drinking will start to cause work related and domestic problems. And you won’t understand the problem. After all, “I bring home a good paycheck.” which ignores the fact that you are living a completely separate life from the rest of your family.

The criteria that I think are most definitive of alcoholism are (these are the ones that I cherry-picked from many other lists):

  1. Loss of control. Drinking more than you intended when you start, drinking more frequently than you would like to.
  2. Feeling guilty about your alcohol use
  3. Lying to yourself or others to cover your alcohol use.
  4. Choosing alcohol use over other activities that you enjoy.

I understand all the things that have been posted.

But what makes one person become physically addicted to alcohol where another person, who drinks just as much, does not?

A lot of it is genetic predisposition. Alcohol dependency tends to run in families.

For some people your body starts to adjust to a constant level of alcohol and then at some point doesn’t work right when it is taken away. It happens with most seditives it is your brain upping your nervous activity level contending with the drugs trying to slow it down. When the seditives are gone your nervous system is over balanced, evidenced by withdrawls until it adjusts back to normal. For some people this never happens and for others its happens very quickly.

It is a combination of genetics, level of physical health (cardiovascular fitness, liver function etc.), age (which is correlated with physical health), and pattern of drinking. One very long sustained drinking binge (we are talking about many days at least) makes your body dependent on alcohol to function and withdrawing it can be dangerous. Whereas, a heavy night drinker will have sobriety during the day at least and the body is able to sustain function without alcohol.

To give a personal spin, I drank every day for a 11 years. The number of drinks started out at about 9 or 10 a day and rose to more than 24 a day towards the end. I only had minor withdrawal symtoms (night sweats, and hand tremors) when I went into rehab. They gave me librium to help with the mild discomfort but I probably would have been Ok without it. The doctor told me that it was because of my fairly young age and my drinking schedule that made it less serious for me than for others. Also, I am practically genetically engineered to be able to drink vast amounts of alcohol because of both sides of my family.

That is all in the past now though, because I am in recovery thank you very much.

When I got my dwi I had to take an alcohol awareness class. The instructor told us an alcoholic is one that WAKES UP after having a few drinks as opposed to getting sleepy like normal people do.

There are other factors as well.

There are also different types of alcoholics such as

The functional alcoholic: This is a person who when he/she starts drinking doesn’t stop untill they are totally hammered. But still manages to keep up with his or her responsibilities. Such as work, family life ect… (me btw)

Then there’s the Disfunctional alcoholic which I don’t think I need to define this one to anybody.

You can go to AA.ORG to find out if you meet the textbook definition of an alcoholic - but you already mentioned that you thought you were, so that trumps em all.

I quit drinking completely also, over a year ago, only it wasn’t so easy (and I fortunately didn’t have any of those withdrawl symptoms you mention.) And for me, the first three weeks weren’t impossible, either. But here is a list of things that made me seriously doubt my decision:

  1. Going out with friends/family and being the only one not drinking/drunk
  2. Watch the Superbowl sober, New Years sober, celebrate your birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, going fishing, getting fired, weddings, entertaining clients, golfing, Vegas, three day weekends, etc
  3. (The big one) Someone whose opinion you trust comments on how you used to be more interesting

If none of this seems so bad, or doesn’t apply, hey, you’ll probably do fine. For everyone else, there are options. Good luck!

AA gives you THEIR definition of an alcoholic, since they are a religious ( or spiritual as they like to call it ) organization, take what they claim with a grain of salt.

A commonly used screening test for alcholism (i.e. dependence on alcohol) is the so-called CAGE questionnaire:

C - Have you ever thought you should CUT DOWN on your drinking?
A - Have you ever felt ANNOYED by others’ criticism of your drinking?
G - Have you ever felt GUILTY about your drinking?
E - Do you have a morning EYE OPENER?

Two or more postive answers indicates a 90% chance of alcoholism (recognizing that the questionnaire doesn’t work as well for women and, perhaps, certain minorities)

AA doesn’t give anyone their definition of alcoholism. You simply have to self-identify as an alcoholic or an addict of another mood-altering substance to become a member (many members are not alcoholics but addicts of other drugs). Nobody judges you on whether you should or should not be there. They do have a recovery plan that they suggest you follow but that is not forced in any way. You can come or go any time you want. Also, AA is NOT a religious organization. When they refer to a “higher power” it can be anything the person wants it to be. My higher powers are certain people and I know one guy who has his motorcycle as his higher power. Whatever works for you is what they want you to pick and you never have to tell it to anyone else.

Karlgauss is good for saying “ie dependance on alcohol” Because actually there is no true medical term or definition of “alcoholism” or “alcoholic”