What defines Alcoholism?

When is an alcoholic an alcoholic?  The answers vary widely, and so the debate rages on, but I’ve been exposed to alcoholism my entire life and I have an answer that just might settle the matter once and for all.  And this answer is incredibly obvious, but denied to be the real answer by the majority of those affected by the condition of alcoholism.

In my opinion, and according to my research, I’ve determined that an alcoholic is not someone who drinks a lot of alcohol.  Wait-Let me explain… I have a good friend who works a full time job, is always on time, never misses work because of illnesses,  and doesn’t treat her family poorly when she gets home in the evenings.  But, she drinks 10-12 beers every night.  However, in her defense, she only drinks light beer!  But a twelve pack each night is what she consumes.

Does the amount of alcohol she drinks automatically qualify her as an alcoholic?  To many people, yes it does, but not to me.  I believe the biggest indicator of alcoholism is an “unmanageable” life.  In other words, for me to definitively label my friend an alcoholic, her life needs to be in a mess; she should resemble a train wreck…but she doesn’t.  She isn’t verbally abuse to others when she drinks, she doesn’t black out and hurt people unawares, and she doesn’t lose jobs because of her drinking.  Heck, she doesn’t even mistreat her three-legged albino dog!  (Ok, I made that part up.)

According to AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, an unmanageable life is the one true definer of alcoholism.  And I agree wholeheartedly.  So why is it then, that people want to ignore that indicator and call indulgers like my friend, an alcoholic simply because she enjoys a significant amount of alcohol on a daily basis?  To me, we either have clear definitions of what an alcoholic is, or we don’t.  We should not qualify ourselves as experts on the matter simply because we possess an opinion about it.

My friend loves beer, and she’s not ashamed of it.  Does she need counseling for her affinity of beer?  No… Not yet anyway.  Might she at some point in the future?  Perhaps.  But to automatically send her to that dysfunctional location with no evidence to corrobate the judgement would be irresponsible on our part.  And don’t we have enough stone throwers and unqualified judges running around in our midst?  Let’s do the world a favor:  Listen more, talk less, and consider carefully all the facts and extenuating circumstances before proclaiming our neighbors to be gravely ill with “this” social malady or “that” mental dysfunction.  Remember, you’re a neighbor to someone who just might want to play Dr. Freud on you for a behavior you consider benign. Would you enjoy being placed in their petri dish?  I didn’t think so.


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