Published On: March 16, 2019622 words3.1 min read

Thank you to Tribe Sober member, Mallorie Lee, for this fascinating blog post.

Am I an Alcoholic?

Say “ALCOHOLIC” out loud next time you’re in a crowd, and you can be almost certain people will stiffen, avoid eye contact and probably move away from you as quickly as possible.

The word will have conjured up images of grubby homeless people sleeping in doorways or of people stumbling along blind drunk with a brown paper bag clutched in one hand.  The truth is they are the unlucky ones, the ones who didn’t get help, the ones at the end of the line.

I suspect our stereotyping of those who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol comes in part from ignorance and partly to distance ourselves from “those people.” As long as we can compare ourselves favourably with others’ levels of drinking (those “real” alcoholics out there), we can avoid facing our own demons.

So, in an attempt to get as scientific as possible I turned to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for a definition of alcoholism.

The DSM was created in 1952 by psychiatrists and psychologists as a way of standardizing, classifying and categorizing disorders of mental functioning.  Not an easy thing to do – to standardize human thinking, feeling and behaving!

The original term “Alcoholism” in the 1952 DSM, was subsequently replaced by the terms “Alcohol abuse” and “Alcohol dependence“. In the latest DSM, the new term is “Alcohol use disorder” and this is measured using a severity grade (mild, moderate and severe).

This is how the current DSM defines Alcohol use disorder:

A maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by 2 or more of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

  • Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol
  • Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfil major role obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  • Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol
  • Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    1. A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect
    2. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    1. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol
    2. Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

So there you are. A way of checking in with your ‘disorder’.  The name makes perfect sense if you think about the delighted comments from people on the Tribe Sober Whatsapp group when after a month or two they experience the return of simple order to their lives  – children are picked up on time, car dents repaired, dentist appointments made, studies resumed and help sought for care of the spirit, now that the ‘spirits’ have been put aside.

If you do identify with 2 or more of those DSM indicators then please consider joining our Tribe Sober community by attending a WORKSHOP or becoming a SUBSCRIPTION MEMBER .

Mallorie Lee x

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