That’s a question I asked myself for a decade even though I kinda, sorta knew the answer.
There are all kinds of checklists now, some that differentiate between the social drinker, the heavy drinker and the problem drinker. (For example, see Psychology Today 2009) Checklists can be helpful, especially as we live in times when drinking alcohol is the norm: acceptable, preferred and encouraged.
The bottom line question for all categories of imbibers is how well they manage their lives if they take a drink.
Most people manage just fine. Some of us don’t. I was one who didn’t, but I didn’t need a checklist to grade my alcohol management skills.
I just needed to be honest.
Honest is a tough word to define – and tougher to be. Especially when I want what I want. I read a great definition of honesty: it is the absence of the intent to deceive. (Emotional Sobriety: The Next Frontier, Page 10) I wanted to prove my drinking was not out of control — and maybe a little deception was necessary.
Of everybody I wanted to convince I was not an alcoholic, it was myself I tried most eagerly to persuade to be a social drinker. Frankly, nobody cared about my drinking the way I did. Providentially, I came across a concise comment:
You’ll stop worrying about what people think of you, when you realize how seldom they do. (Anonymous)
When I finally got it, that my opinion of my drinking was one that mattered, I slowly opened my heart to getting help. When I quit asking myself if I were an alcoholic, and asked God, I not only got an answer – but I got a Helper.
My Helper has been a willing and compassionate companion who enabled me to evaluate my impulses, intentions and idiosyncrasies —
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)
He alone has enabled me to look into the mirror and see more than my sins, inadequacy, and disappointments. (Psalm 103:12) And He put me in touch with folks and a program of recovery that works as I work it.
Drinking too much may or may not be a sign of alcoholism. I heard an AA-er say recently that they would loved to have gone on some of the benders others in the room describe. But even one drink was one too many – one drink, all inhibitions were gone – and trouble followed.
We really are many and varied.
And if your life is unmanageable, gentle reader, to any degree due to the use of alcohol, yours or someone else’s, you are most welcome to ask my Higher Power, what next? (Psalm 50:15)