Alcoholism or Heavy Drinking?
Alcohol Addiction & Recovery

Drinking alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of American culture. Because drinking is socially acceptable and excessive drinking is so widely condoned, it can be difficult to tell whether you have been struggling with a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. How can you tell if your drinking has transitioned from an occasional problem to a full-blown addiction? There are several symptoms to look for, though it is important to keep in mind how difficult it can be to self-diagnose when it comes to addictive disorders. This is partially because addiction and denial frequently go hand-in-hand. Even if it has become clear to others that your drinking has become a problem, you might continue to make excuses, saying things like, “I can stop whenever I want to, I just don’t want to yet.” Or, “I don’t know why my drinking bothers you, maybe you should just mind your own business and worry about yourself.”

Maybe related consequences have become undeniable, and you have grown concerned about your drinking but you aren’t sure whether or not professional treatment is necessary. Maybe the amount of alcohol you consume has steadily increased, and you have started drinking more frequently than you used to. Are you an alcoholic if you drink every night? The answer to these questions depends on several other factors. Continue reading to learn more, or contact Immersion Recovery Center directly for more information on alcohol addiction and recovery.

When it Comes to Drinking, How Much is Too Much?

The age old question — how much is too much? As is the case with nearly everything, it depends on the person. Some people drink nightly for months at a time, and are still able to abruptly stop as soon as they feel drinking is beginning to interfere with their day-to-day life. Other people drink nightly for months at a time and slowly increase their intake until they are essentially drinking around the clock. Despite how hard they try, they are unable to cut back or quit after a certain point. If you are concerned about your current drinking habits, we recommend attempting to quit on your own. Some daily drinkers are able to quit, no problem. If this is the case, there is a good chance your drinking habits got a little out of hand but did not develop into a physical dependence or an alcohol addiction. If you attempt to quit but you find yourself unable to do so, you might be struggling with a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.

The Difference Between Alcohol Dependence and Addiction

If you regularly ingest a chemical substance for an extended period of time, there is a good chance you will begin to develop a physical and psychological dependence. Once a dependence develops it is difficult to quit without professional help, and you will likely experience mild, moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms if you attempt to quit on your own. Both alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction are more often referred to as “alcohol use disorders,” which can also be mild, moderate or severe. If you have been struggling with a mild alcohol use disorder you might be able to quit on your own with a little bit of outside help. Maybe you begin attending 12-Step meetings, or you make the decision to seek the help and support of a licensed individual therapist. If you have been struggling with a moderate or severe alcohol use disorder, you are likely dependent on alcohol and will have a difficult time quitting without a higher level of care. At Immersion Recovery Center we recommend a multi-phased continuum of addiction treatment for anyone experiencing problems with alcohol use, no matter how severe. Because alcoholism is a progressive health condition, seeking help sooner rather than later prevents more serious and potentially permanent consequences from occurring. Contact us today to learn more.

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How Do I Know If I Am an Alcoholic?

How can you tell if you are an alcoholic? The American Psychiatric Association utilizes a specific set of diagnostic criteria laid out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or the DSM-V). When officially diagnosing alcohol use disorders, medical professionals look for the presence of two or more of these criteria. We have included the criteria below — if you answer “yes” to two or more of the following questions, we recommend reaching out to Immersion Recovery Center or speaking with another addiction treatment specialist who can help point you in the right direction.

Alcohol Dependence Quiz

  • Question #1: Do you often use alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period than you intended?
  • Question #2: Have you wanted to cut back on alcohol or made unsuccessful attempts to do so?
  • Question #3: Do you spend a great deal of time finding, using or recovering from using?
  • Question #4: Do you have strong urges or powerful cravings to use alcohol?
  • Question #5: Has your use of alcohol resulted in your inability to meet your obligations at work, home, or school?
  • Question #6: Have you had to cut back on or abandon social, professional, or recreational activities due to your use of alcohol?
  • Question #7: Have you repeatedly used alcohol when it was hazardous to do so, such as while driving a car?
  • Question #8: Have you experienced social or relationship problems due to your substance use and kept using anyway?
  • Question #9: Have you kept using alcohol knowing that it has caused or worsened physical or mental health issues?
  • Question #10: When you attempt to cut back on or stop your use of alcohol, have you experienced uncomfortable physical or mental health symptoms (withdrawal)?
  • Question #11: Have you needed more alcohol to feel the effects you’re seeking (tolerance)?

Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Alcoholism affects people in a variety of ways. Some people who struggle with alcoholism are able to successfully hide their drinking from the rest of the world, carrying on with their jobs, fulfilling their household responsibilities and maintaining relatively healthy interpersonal relationships. Other people rapidly lose their overall quality of life to alcohol; they lose their job and their financial stability, their personal relationships suffer, they neglect everything they used to enjoy. How can you tell whether or not you are becoming a functioning alcoholic?

Stages of Alcoholism, am I an alcoholic if I drink every night?

Becoming a Functioning Alcoholic

If you are a functioning alcoholic it will be even more difficult to self-diagnose, seeing as most functioning alcoholics experience very few external consequences as a result of their drinking. You might be drinking an excessive amount on a daily basis, but because you are able to maintain your career and because you wake up at 7 a.m. and brush your teeth every morning, you are able to convince yourself that everything is just fine. If you are a functioning alcoholic, your alcoholism will typically develop in four distinct stages.

Stage #1: Occasional Alcohol Abuse And Binge Drinking

During this stage, you might start using alcohol more frequently than you did before. Maybe you go to the bar with your friends one night and binge drink to the point of blacking out. You wake up the next morning confused and full of remorse, vowing that this is the last time you drink so much; you’ll never let yourself get to that point again. The next weekend, the same thing happens. Maybe you start drinking at home after work. You start with a glass of wine to “unwind,” and within a month or two you are drinking an entire bottle to yourself before bed. You begin to grow concerned about how much you drink, but you never suffer any serious personal consequences and so you continue drinking despite this growing concern.

Stage #2: Increased Drinking As A Coping Mechanism

The majority of functioning alcoholics begin to increase the amount they drink over time, often using drinking as a coping mechanism. Maybe you have just undergone a difficult change, like a major transition or the loss of a loved one. You start to drink to numb the emotional pain — which, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic. Some people drink as a coping mechanism and stop as soon as enough time passes for the initial severity of the emotional pain to subside. Others recognize they are using alcohol to cope, and make the decision to seek therapy or join a support group. If you are a true alcoholic, the amount you drink will slowly (or quickly) continue to increase, and whenever you experience emotional discomfort in any capacity you will reach for a drink without giving your actions a second thought.

Stage #3: The Consequences Of Problem Drinking Start To Show

As the amount of alcohol you consume and the frequency of use increase, you start to experience a greater amount of personal consequences. If you are a functioning alcoholic, these consequences might be predominantly internal. You might wake up in the morning wishing you hadn’t, or you might drink at night because you can’t stand to sit alone with your thoughts. Your self-esteem and sense of self-worth might be suffering — they may have disappeared entirely, replaced with self-loathing and despair. The consequences of problem drinking might also be external. Maybe you have been fighting with your loved ones more often than not, or perhaps you have gotten in trouble at work as your superiors have noticed your productivity has been on the decline. Whatever the case may be, consequences continue to worsen in severity over time.

Stage #4: Noticeable Physical And Psychological Changes

As alcoholism progresses, you might start to notice physical changes. Maybe you are always sick to your stomach, or you constantly feel fatigued and slightly under the weather. You also experience psychological changes. Maybe your anxiety amps up or you start to experience depression; there are entire days during which you can’t motivate yourself to get out of bed, let alone fulfill your personal responsibilities. It is important to note that physical and psychological changes only continue to worsen the longer they are left untreated.

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How to Get Help for Alcoholism

If you believe you are struggling with an alcohol use disorder you cannot effectively address on your own, we are available to help. Seeking help for an alcohol use disorder is not always easy, especially if you are in some degree of denial about the severity of the issue at hand. How can you go about getting help for alcoholism? A great first step is reaching out to someone who has been through the process before or who has been working in the addiction treatment field for quite some time. If you reach out to someone who knows the ropes they will be able to point you in the right direction.

Choosing an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Center

How do you know which treatment center is the best fit for you? First of all, we recommend narrowing down your search based on the level of care you require. Because the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be so severe, beginning with a short stay in an inpatient detox center is always a good choice. Once you have undergone withdrawal under close medical care, we recommend entering into an alcohol use disorder treatment center. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want a treatment center which offers demographic-specific care?
  • Do I need a treatment center which offers dual diagnosis treatment services?
  • Does the rehab take an integrated approach to recovery, combining psychotherapy with the 12-Step approach and providing a range of additional addiction treatment services?
  • Is the treatment center licensed and accredited?
  • Am I willing to travel for alcohol rehab?
  • Does the treatment center accept my insurance or offer additional options for coverage?

If you have any additional questions you are struggling to find the answer to, reach out to us today. We are happy to help guide you through the process of finding a reputable and effective alcohol rehab.

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    If you are interested in learning more about alcohol addiction and seeking help from an alcohol rehab, contact Immersion Recovery Center today. We want to ensure you feel confident and well-informed before making any major decisions. As soon as you or your loved one makes the decision to seek professional help we will be available to walk you through the admissions and early recovery process. The moment you contact us, either through our website or directly over the phone, you will be put in touch with one of our knowledgeable Treatment Advisors. You will undergo a brief pre-assessment over the phone which helps our clinical team determine whether or not our program of alcoholism recovery is the best fit for you. We offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check, and arrange local transportation to our Delray Beach, Florida treatment center. All you have to do is reach out and we will take care of the rest.

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    Reviewed for accuracy by our Clinical Supervisor:

    Amanda Eilola
    LCSW, CET2


    Amanda brings 14+ years of experience working with substance abuse and mental health issues. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Certified Experiential Therapist II, and a Qualified Supervisor of clinical social work interns in the State of Florida.