I am not an alcoholic and I am someone who’s been brought to their knees by alcohol.
That’s a bold statement and could cause some people to immediately get defensive. I get that because I once referred to myself as an alcoholic. I bought into the idea even though it never really felt true for me.
I’m just a normal girl who drank an addictive substance and became addicted.
The term alcoholic created a barrier to entry for me, I didn’t change my relationship with alcohol until it had gotten so bad I could no longer see how I could live without it, or how I could live with what it was doing to my life.
You don’t need a label to want to make a change in your life. Why can’t we simply ask the question, “Is alcohol hurting my life? And if so, what can I do about it?”. Without the fear of an incurable disease and having to attend meetings for the rest of your life.
So here’s why I don’t use the term alcoholic and neither should anyone else:
- It creates an us and them divide, ‘normal’ drinkers and alcoholics
- It’s a disempowering outdated word
- It creates a barrier to entry and the problem goes unchecked longer than necessary because even though you may be seeing increased use, at least you’re not “one of those people”
- It places all the blame squarely on the person and none on the highly addictive substance
- The idea erodes self-trust and personal independence
- Alcoholics don’t get addicted to alcohol, human beings do
You can’t play around with addictive substances with the illusion that only other people will have an issue with it. If you could, the entire industry around addiction and recovery wouldn’t exist.
A few more points to consider around the term alcoholic
- It implies that you should be able to consume an addictive substance without issue, and if you can’t, then you’re abnormal
- It scares the shit out of people. It creates a fear that you’ll always crave and will forever have to use willpower
- There is no invisible line that once crossed you become an alcoholic. It’s a very broad spectrum of alcohol use disorder from mild to severe use
- Alcohol AKA Ethanol is a carcinogenic neurotoxin and no human body is designed to handle it
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the common medical and scientific term used to diagnose someone’s relationship to alcohol. AUD doesn’t appear as black or white, it’s a very broad spectrum from casual to severe use.
If you’re waking up more often than you’d like with glassy eyes and wishing you hadn’t had those last couple of drinks, then you’re on the spectrum. And no, you’re not an alcoholic.
We can throw out the old idea of being an alcoholic and all the negative stigma that comes with it. We can forget about the idea that we’re either in or out, an alcoholic or a normal person. Most importantly, we can stop letting the label of alcoholic and the “disease” of alcoholism distract us from examining our very individual relationship with alcohol.
I’m not an alcoholic but I am someone who has defied the social agreement regarding alcohol and lives a pretty damn good life in doing so.
I don’t have a disease.
I don’t feel powerless or anxious around alcohol.
Every day is not a struggle, I’m living my life to the fullest and experiencing more daily joy than I ever have.
One last thought, cigarettes used to be considered harmless.