Am I an addict or alcoholic?

Many people drink and use drugs recreationally. They can party a little on the weekends, or have a beer after work, and not suffer any noticeable consequences. Drugs and alcohol might be a part of their lives, but just a small part.

If however, you’ve noticed that you’re starting to experience harm as a result of your drug use or drinking, and that you’ve continued drinking and using anyway, you might want to ask yourself: am I an addict? 

Here are seven questions to help you determine that.

  1. Do you drink and use to feel okay or to function? For non-addicts, drugs and alcohol can be a fun but unnecessary experience: the icing on the cake. People suffering from addiction, on the other hand, often drink and use because they feel uncomfortable in their own skin and need to fix that. It’s less about making life fun and more about making it tolerable. They might feel like they need to use just so they can show up for work or school.
  2. When you start using, is it hard to stop? Most people can have a drink, and then stop. It’s not a big deal. For addicts, the more you have, the more you want. The idea of having just one drink doesn’t make any sense—you’re trying to fill a bottomless pit.
  3. Do you look for reasons to justify your using? Have you ever thought: “I know I’ve been getting high a lot, but I’m not an addict, because…” Non-addicts rarely have to make such excuses to themselves. If you’re looking for a reason why your using is okay, that’s a red flag.
  4. Do you think about using even when you’re sober? Being an addict is less about how much you drink or use, and more about how your brain responds to drugs and alcohol. If you’re often impatiently waiting for 5 pm so you can go home and get high, that means you crave drugs in a way that most people don’t.
  5. Do you like drugs and alcohol, or do you LOVE drugs and alcohol? Most people like drugs and alcohol. But if you suffer from addiction, drugs and alcohol feel like the answer to the question you’ve been asking yourself your entire life.
  6. What happens when you stop using for a week or two? This is a great way to check if you’re an addict: stop drinking and using for a week. If you find yourself counting down the minutes until the week is over, or if you tell yourself that a little weed isn’t cheating—pay attention to that. Most addicts can stop for a period of time on their own. But they always can’t wait to start again.
  7. Do you feel hopeless about life when sober? Most people have had too much to drink at some point in their lives. They wake up the next day and feel sick with a hangover. After a little while, it goes away and they feel better. But if you’re an addict, the longer you’re sober, the worse you feel. Being sober is a miserable experience for an addict.

You’re the only one who can decide if you’re an addict or an alcoholic. But if any of these questions resonate with you, take note of that. Most addicts, if they are honest with themselves, will relate to some of them in one way or another.

For a more detailed look at the disease of addiction, read this

If you want to get into recovery, there are lots of options, and many people who want to help. Check out a recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous or Refugee Recovery. Consider an inpatient or outpatient treatment program (most now accept insurance) or make an appointment with a therapist who specializes in addiction. He or she can help you navigate your options further.

If you’re willing to give it a shot, you can and will heal.

Joan Borsten