I wrestled with this question myself for about four years before I finally got sober.
When I was twenty I wasn't happy unless I had a bottle of wine every night. My ex challenged me to go one week without liquor and I managed it, but every night I had that itch, that craving. I wanted a drink, damnit! This was one of my first signs. I hid it from everyone for so long that I even managed to hide it from myself.
I turned to alcohol during times of despair, which was the first indication of a problem. If I had a 'bad day' I would buy a bottle. If I had a good day I would look for something bad to justify it. I would create unhappy situations.
I frequented house parties, switching between social groups so the same people wouldn't see me wasted, over and over again.
I hid liquor around my bedroom. I kept bottles of wine underneath my bed. Before I had anybody over I had to do a sweep of the apartment to make sure there was no liquor showing.
I thought I was so clever and fooling everybody. I never let anybody get close enough to me to realize that I had a problem. I couldn't have a partner because they would have to see how often I drank. I couldn't have best friends, for the same reason. I kept everybody at enough of a distance to make sure nobody really saw how bad it was.
I've been sober nearly a year and a half. The last time I was sober was in 2013, I quit December 29th and I relapsed in May 2013. When I made the decision to sober up I still couldn't tell myself that I had a problem, I just said that I'd had enough for now - enough of the hangovers, spending money. I never once said that I had a problem. I was easily coerced into drinking again. When one of my friends brought a truck over to help with the empties she saw how many bags I had, stepped back and said, "Woah..." I didn't have the heart to tell her that I had just been to return empties a month before that. I had gotten a $3000 return from my student loans and drank it away in three weeks.
And I still couldn't admit that I had a problem.
I lied about my drinking and ultimately the only person who suffered the consequences was myself.
When I quit drinking in 2014 I still had a hard time telling myself that I was an addict. Sometimes it's hard to talk about. When I tell people I don't drink they ask if I have a problem. I catch myself, my familiar reply has become something along the lines of, "Well one night I drank so much wine I should have been hospitalized, mixed it with medications, because I was sad." No. I have grown comfortable telling complete strangers that I have an addiction.
I never went to AA so I never got to say the words, "My name is Jessy and I'm an alcoholic," but it is something that I say to the mirror every day, to remind myself. It all boils down to honesty to myself.
I have a drinking problem.
Currently my addiction is under control and on June 24th I will celebrate 18 months sober.
I still get cravings. I still get bad days. For me, today is a bad day. The thought of "Oh I can drink this away" surprisingly hasn't arisen (until writing this of course, but it's more of the realization that it hasn't affected me) - but it does. I have terrible days and I think to myself, "I can drink this away." This speaks volumes to me, it says that I do still have a problem. That I am still an addict. I very rarely used alcohol as anything but a crutch - something to numb the pain, to make me less anxious, more friendly and outgoing. Through the years of abuse it had the exact opposite effect - I became morose, depressed, and anxious without it.
There is a difference between alcohol use and alcohol abuse. When you start drinking to forget, to numb the pain, to quell the anxiety, when you start lying about your consumption, hiding bottles, denying you've been drinking, telling yourself and others that you don't have a problem, you have a problem. If you need to defend and justify your drinking, you are not using alcohol, you are abusing it.
Alcohol abuse is a short-term solution to long-term problems, which will ultimately amplify themselves until you hit a breaking point. I still self-reference my breaking point, my three day hangover, the way I felt. I reference this to remind myself that no matter how bad of a day I am having, or have created, nothing will ever be as bad as the day that I realized that for the rest of my life, I can never enjoy a social drink. If I were to drink, it would all come spiralling back out of control and I would end up at that breaking point again. That's somewhere I never want to be, ever again.
What I try to cover with these entries is my personal experience with the problems I face. I understand that every person handles and experiences everything individually. I hope that if you are reading this and struggling, you've found something you can relate to. I hope that if you are reading this and are in a place of recovery, you can look in the mirror and find pride in yourself.
Here is a short quiz to determine whether or not you may have a drinking problem.
We can beat this. It's not easy, but I promise, it's worth it.