Published On: December 14, 20201582 words8 min read

Can a drinking problem mean that you are an alcoholic? Do you want to stop drinking in case you are an alcoholic? Or do you want to stop drinking because it is the right thing to do? In this blog, find out all about the levels or degrees of drinking: problem drinking and alcoholism, heavy drinking, binge drinking and casual drinking. Where do YOU fit in?

If you are reading this, it is probably because you drink, a bit too much. You feel that maybe it is time to stop drinking. Maybe you Googled “I want to stop drinking” or “Am I an alcoholic?” This could mean that you feel uncomfortable about the amount of alcohol you are consuming every day.

If you are reading this, it is probably because you drink, a bit too much. You feel that maybe it is time to stop drinking. Maybe you Googled “I want to stop drinking” or “Am I an alcoholic?” This could mean that you feel uncomfortable about the amount of alcohol you are consuming every day.

At Tribe Sober, we know a lot about drinkers, ‘moderators’, ‘problem drinkers’, ‘almost alcoholics’ – and alcoholics. 

Many who choose Tribe Sober do so because they knew deep down inside that they have, or had, an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. She had to go. Or you had to go. What a choice!

Problem Drinkers vs Alcoholics

Let’s open up the discussion around problem drinkers and alcoholics. The trending phrase, “almost alcoholic” is choosy as it kind of lets us off the hook of being “completely alcoholic”. But what is the difference? A glass a night? A bottle a night? Who defines these terms and how are they defined from country to country, town to town, social class to social class?

I think we all know someone who drinks. South Africans are a nation of drinkers. As a drinker, I would always feel OK about my daily wine habit because I was brought up by drinking parents. They normalised booze and having a daily tipple. I also felt OK because all my friends drank. It turns out that as drinkers, we choose our friends according to our lifestyles. I don’t know about you, but I always mixed with other drinkers. People who didn’t drink were boring and weird! 

The irony is that now that I don’t drink, I see myself as normal and people who drink as abnormal! According to the American Addiction Centers,, there are two kinds of people who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol: problem drinkers and alcoholics. Knowing the differences brings light into your own life, and those of others who drink.

  • Alcoholics are addicted to alcohol. They are physically and mentally dependent on it. Alcoholics find it hard not to drink and struggle with dependency every day. Alcoholics can achieve sobriety, but they will always be an alcoholic and at risk for relapse. They will often relapse after just one drink, no matter how long they have been sober.”
  • “Problem drinkers are not physically dependent on alcohol. They can go days, week, or months without drinking, if they want to. If they abstain, they will not have detox symptoms. They may drink a lot, or they may drink occasionally. The issue problem drinkers have is that when they do drink, it causes an issue in their life or in the life of someone they know. They may say and do things that hurt others or themselves. Drinking is not a problem for these individuals, but it does create problems in their lives.

Does this ring bells for you? Another term being bandied about at the moment is “alcohol use disorder” which is a euphemism for alcoholism. It names a chronic, relapsing disease.

On the other hand, problem drinking is not a disease. It can be treated. It usually affects the drinker in some negative ways.

Problem Drinker Signs

  • Missing class or work.
  • Avoiding family and friends or become isolated, wanting to drink alone.
  • Feeling depressed.
  • Becoming angry or violent.
  • Spending money, creating financial problems.
  • Taking risks with lives – your own and others.
  • Having unsafe sexual relations with someone, especially strangers.
  • Losing friends, or dumping old friends for new friends who drink regularly.
  • Having blackouts.
  • Driving drunk.
  • Getting arrested for drinking behaviour.

Problem drinkers become devious and don’t want to talk about their drinking. They hide the amount they drink, lie about how much they drink, and they avoid people who may be concerned about it. The problem drinker usually knows deep down inside that there is a problem. This is when they turn to Google to find out what it means to be a drinker and why they drink so much. This is when they need professional advice and counselling.

Signs of Alcoholism

  • Using alcohol in higher amounts or for a longer time than originally intended.
  • Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
  • Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use.
  • Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
  • Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.
  • Having a tolerance (i.e. needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve desired effect).
  • Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol.

Ask yourself if you have a drinking problem and see if you can answer these questions:

  1. Do you defend your relationship with alcohol if people notice you drink a lot?
  2. Do you drink to feel great and important?
  3. Does alcohol allow you a good time with others?
  4. Do you feel happy when drinking?
  5. Do you need a drink to feel comfortable in social situations?
  6. Does drinking boost your self-confidence?
  7. Does drinking lighten your stress loads?
  8. Do you feel guilty or depressed after you drink because your subconscious knows better?

Many of you who are reading this article right now probably enjoy a drink some or most days of the week. You enjoy it and you really don’t think that you have a problem. But woe betide anyone who questions your drinking, makes comments or laughs at you! 


Heavy Drinking vs Binge Drinking

In the UK, heavy drinking for men over the age of 65 means having 2 drinks a day, or more than 14 drinks a week. Binge drinking, on the other hand, mean having 5 or more drinks within 2 hours.  Heavy drinking is a continuous abuse of alcohol whereas binge drinking is consuming a lot of alcohol in a very short time. Binge drinkers tend to be weekend drinkers, but heavy drinkers drink all the time.

According to the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, published by the World Health Organisation in 2018, the highest levels of alcohol consumption are in Europe. But Africa bears the heaviest burden of disease and injury attributed to alcohol. The report finds that while inaction on alcohol control is widespread, there is also hope.

According to the WHO’s data, South Africa’s drinking population consumers 28.9 litres of pure alcohol – per capita – a year, the fifth highest consumption rate in the world, below Namibia (31.3 litres), Eswatini (32.7 litres), Cook Islands (32.9 litres) and Tunisia (33.4 litres).

Hoo boy, we do NOT want to be part of that data! We want to stop drinking! Which is why we read Tribe Sober and other sobriety websites, not so?

It is interesting to note that heavy drinkers choose large glasses or drinking vessels. I remember ensuring I had large wine glasses in all colours on my shelves: I had green, purple and pink glasses of glorious designs that could hold 2 glasses of wine easily! Heavy drinkers are often attached to a particular large glass that must be theirs all the time. 

The alcohol industry makes a lot of money from heavy drinkers. Binge drinkers tend to make up for their abstention on week days, consuming litres of alcohol on weekends. Turns out that if you binge drink just one night a week, you are damaging your body more than if you drink one glass of alcohol per night. 

According to, “With binge drinking, your body suffers from a high level of toxicity. In addition, it’s difficult for your body to metabolize high amounts of alcohol at one time. When large amounts of alcohol are present in your body all at once, the body suffers many abnormalities and consequences, such as distorted hearing and vision, difficulty breathing, and vomiting, to name just a few. Consuming one drink a day every day is much better for the body, as your body can easily metabolize small amounts of alcohol.”

What is going to be for you? Complete abstention from alcohol because you think you may have a drinking problem? Do you find yourself in the category of heavy drinker or binge drinker? These things we can control. We can control Diabetes 2 too, but we don’t want to get it! Take steps today to improve your health and STOP DRINKING.




Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Leave your comment

Related posts