How to know if you have a drinking problem

You might be wondering if you have a drinking problem.

Above all things, there is one sure sign that you have a drinking problem.

By Ed Latimore Last modified

I’m a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober for over 5 years.

For a while, I wasn’t sure if I had a drinking problem, but once I put the bottle down, I realized that my alcohol use was functioning level alcohol abuse.

You might be wondering if you have a drinking problem.

Above all things, there is one sure sign that you have a drinking problem. Before I tell you the surest sign that you have an alcohol dependence that requires detox and discipline, I have to warn you…

Most people do not have a drinking problem

In fact, I don’t even think most people who engage in binge drinking and alcohol abuse have a drinking problem.

If you’re fine with your level of alcohol use and your in life, drink until your liver falls out.

If you’re drinking alcohol because you lack ambition, you don’t have a drinking problem. It’s not alcohol abuse if you want nothing more out of life.

You’re not “problem drinking”. You’re just a loser drinking heavy.

For most of my 20’s, I had the wrong priorities. Instead of trying to build myself up to be a man of respect, I took the easy way of trying to be liked instead. That meant spending a lot of time getting drunk with people I can’t even remember. let alone talk to today.

When I lived for “Thirsty Thursdays”, I didn’t have a drinking a problem.

I was irresponsible in my alcohol use, but I wasn’t an addict or an alcoholic. Maybe I had dreams of being more or better, but I wasn’t putting in the work. As long as I kept getting invited to parties and happy hours, I figured I was fine just the way I was.

I didn’t have any health problems, my mental health was mostly alright, by my drinking habits were severe. If you just looked at me any time I wasn’t drinking, I looked fine. However, there were the cumulative effects of alcohol–binge drinking at the expense of everything else in my life–that were starting to take their toll.

At the age of 27, when my friends were financially stable and going places, I was forced to work a customer service job for $9.28/hr, I couldn’t afford a place to live, and I couldn’t stand the face I saw when I looked in the mirror; especially after a night of heavy drinking, which was quickly becoming most nights.

This made me want to change. This made me want to be more. Alcohol was officially getting in the way. This is how I knew for certain that I had an alcohol problem. 

A major drinking problem

A typical photo from my drinking days. I remember that I had to work the next day.

How do you know if you have a drinking problem?

Forget all the lists you’ve read about the “common signs” of a drinking or alcohol abuse problem.

Forget everything they tell you liver disease checking yourself into rehab treatment programs like alcoholics anonymous.

I can tell you the following from experience: by the time you start displaying any of  the popular warning signs, it’s too late.

[WIth that said, I know that the tone of this piece is take no excuses, in-your-face, get tough or get lost kind of style. If you suspect that a family member or loved one has an alcohol addiction problem, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists some of the signs that you can look for in addition to what I cover.]

When it comes to warning signs, all that matters is whether your drinking pattern is keeping you from getting what you want out of life.

If you’re trying to improve any aspect of your life but your alcohol use inhibits you, then you have a drinking problem.

If you’re trying to gain something but your drinking is keeping you from getting it, then you have a drinking problem.

If you want to be different or better but your alcohol consumption keeps holding you back, then you have a serious drinking problem.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a moderate drinker who only goes out once a week or you’re one of the 65 million binge drinkers who get smashed every night.

If you have an earnest desire to advance but your drinking is holding you back, then you have a drinking problem and you need to stop drinking.

Your Drinking Problem Will Stop You From Bettering Your Life

But if you want to get down to 10 percent body fat — and you’re eating all the right foods and working twice as hard as you need to in the gym — but you go out drinking every night, then your drinking is a problem.

In fact, it is THE problem.

If you’re doing all the right things in your relationships – romantic, platonic, business, familial, etc. – to make them strong and lasting, but the majority of your problems happen when you drink — you have a drinking problem.

I used to brag that 95% of all my problems were either caused or exacerbated by alcohol. Since I wasn’t interested in doing more with my life, I was fine with getting drunk and ruining my life.

There are people with a shitty personality when both sober and drunk. These people are assholes, but they don’t have problems. If you’re cool when you’re sober but you’ve lost friendships while intoxicated, you have a drinking problem.

If you put effort into a portion of life but alcohol undoes or impedes that progress, then you have a drinking problem.

You should take a break, even if it’s only temporary. Maybe only drink soft drinks or tea. You may even need to go on a permanent break, but something must change.

Drinking grape juice instead of wine

Juice instead of wine these days!

Is your drinking problem actually an ambition problem?

If you drink all night because you work all day at a job you hate, you’re dissatisfied with life.

If you aren’t trying to improve your situation, I can’t say for sure if you have a drinking problem. It’s more likely that you have an ambition problem.

If you’re 25 years old with 5 kids and you use the money to buy booze instead of feed your family, you’re an irresponsible and terrible human. While it’s likely that you may have an alcohol problem, you definitely have a discipline and self-control problem.

If you don’t have any goals, you can’t have a drinking problem.

If your goal is to just pay rent, watch Netflix, and eat, you don’t have a drinking problem. You have an ambition problem.

If you want more from life, a hangover is a waste of time.

Fail because you didn’t work hard enough — not because you got a DUI. Lose friends because you’re an asshole — not a sloppy drunk. Have control over your life — even over the mistakes.

I wrote a book about my transition from an alcoholic degenerate with nothing going for himself to the person I am today. People warned me that my social circle might change, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional transformation and mental maturation that would also take place. 

I wrote this book as if I could go back to 2013, when I decided to get sober, and talk to myself before, during, and after the process. It’s the advice I wish I had when everyone around me still drank and couldn’t understand what I was dealing with. I did it the hard way so you don’t have to. 

Get it here

Book about getting sober

And next, read this: How to Have Fun and Socialize Sober