Am I an alcoholic?
October 28, 2011 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I have 2-5 drinks per day. Am I an alcoholic?

For years I have wondered whether or not I have a drinking problem. This is a very real concern of mine. I am 30, I am a loner, and I care very much about my health. I quit smoking 3 years ago. I am vegetarian and I cook most of my meals - I eat primarily vegetables, and I go raw more often than not.

But I drink a lot. Generally, it is like this:
A glass of wine with lunch.
A glass of wine with dinner.
2-3 more glasses of wine (the bottle opened at dinner is often emptied) as the night progresses; most often I am reading a book as I drink.

I also drink four to six liters of water per day - an excessive amount, but I think it is because of all the wine. I don't like being drunk and I don't like being hungover. But I love wine, I love being tipsy, and I love just holding the glass all night long while I do other things.

I don't feel like alcohol impedes my life. But I worry about my health, and I worry that, perhaps it does impede my life and I just don't admit it to myself. I get real lonely sometimes and I don't go out; I just have another glass of wine and keep reading my book. I think I'd drink less if I had a girlfriend, but then again, I don't know if I drink too much anyways.

Thanks for your advice.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of questionnaire-based "tests" for alcoholism. One of the simplest ones is the American Psychiatric Associate's CAGE test:

Have you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

This is usually administered by a professional, and two "yes" responses means you and said professional will need to look into it further.
posted by griphus at 6:32 AM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Stop drinking for a couple of weeks. If you find that difficult, you may have a problem with drinking.
posted by xingcat at 6:33 AM on October 28, 2011 [19 favorites]

I don't think drinking a bottle of wine a day is necessarily terrible, especially they way you do it. Otherwise every Frenchman and Italian would keel over at 50.

If you have an issue, I wouldn't say it's with the amount you drink. It's that you use the pleasure alcohol provides you as a substitute for other things, like social interaction. This is bad, but the remedy is not necessarily to quit drinking. It's to seek out human interaction.
posted by Diablevert at 6:33 AM on October 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

Alcohol is one of the worst solutions for loneliness. I think if you're asking this question, deep down, you already know the answer. How you want to address it is another story, but you have a good start here.
posted by litnerd at 6:34 AM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also, have you ever seen Black Books? It's on Hulu. If you look at Bernard and see yourself, might be time for a shave and an evening out.
posted by Diablevert at 6:36 AM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

To be honest, from the information you're giving, it doesn't sound like you're an alcoholic. But it would probably be better for your liver if you took a few days off from drinking every week. If you find this impossible to do, well, then maybe you're an alcoholic after all.
posted by Acheman at 6:36 AM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you're using alcohol as a solution to a problem or a crutch to avoid addressing problems -- rather than simply as a means to convey pleasurable flavours, then yeah I think you might need to work on the problems. Drinking never solves problems, it just salves them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:37 AM on October 28, 2011

At this point it matters less whether you have a "medical problem" or an "official problem." You have a "you problem" and that is enough for this to be an "alcohol problem."

By that, I mean, you are envisioning a life where you drink less and behave in different ways (going out), but you feel unable to make steps toward achieving that life. And you don't seem happy about that.

Do you have a primary physician? If you do, make an appointment for your yearly physical, get your blood work done and check out your health.

While you're waiting for your doctor appointment, go on a walk. Try for every night. Just once around the block. Maybe twice, but if you only go around once that's fine. After a few nights, maybe you'll feel like waving hello to a neighbor person. The next step might be going to have a dinner at a little cafe. Even if you only speak to the waiter to ask for a side of rice with a side of peas, or a roasted portabello sandwich, you will be out, and talking. You can even bring your book.

Whatever you do, please, do not seek out a girlfriend to get you out of this rut.

(congratulations, by the way, on quitting the smokes!)
posted by bilabial at 6:37 AM on October 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

That CAGE test is odd. I gave up drinking for 3 months earlier this year, as a health pledge to myself (mainly to lose weight; it worked).

After 3 months, I started drinking socially again, albeit far less often than I did before; I'd go to a happy hour once a week, and have about two drinks. It was a nice excuse to get together with my friends during the winter.

My health-nut friends annoyed me by criticizing me for "abandoning" my diet, which in turn made me feel guilty and made me want to cut down on the amount I drank (back to zero).

Under those criteria, I satisfied 3 of the 4 criteria for being an alcoholic because my friends were able to guilt-trip me about having two beers a week. I'm pretty sure that two drinks a week does not make me an alcoholic, and that the CAGE test is crap.
posted by schmod at 6:45 AM on October 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

Who knows?

It sounds like you spend each day in a dull and comfortable cloud, however, since your alcohol intake starts steady and carries on. Why not interrupt that cycle for a while? You can answer questions later.

You can also treat yourself like a science project. What happens when you drink x amount? No amount? Set up some testing guidelines in your home laboratory and see how you perform.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:54 AM on October 28, 2011

@schmod - but they weren't on your case about being a drunk, they were guilting you because of the calories, which is pretty far down the list of concerns for most people.
posted by modernserf at 6:54 AM on October 28, 2011

Alcohol is a depressive though how much will vary person to person. As I have gotten older these effects have increased. The day or two after a hearty night of drinking feels darker and lonlier. It sounds to me like you are in a bad feedback loop and would greatly benefit by shaking things up. I think actively taking a break from wine and alcohol would give you a boost and some perspective. Having a girlfriend won't help you quit drinking. Quitting drinking and getting out there and mixing things up may help you find someone.

Today, it doesn't matter if you're an alcoholic. See if you can break free of the habit and then evaluate. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 7:00 AM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that two drinks a week does not make me an alcoholic, and that the CAGE test is crap.

Well, that's why the CAGE test is meant to be given as part of an interview process with a professional who can tell the difference between your being in the category as the result of a technicality or not. I'm not saying it is foolproof, but it's also heavily context-dependent.
posted by griphus at 7:04 AM on October 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Oops, hit the button too soon.

The technicality in your case being your fitting the categories because of effects of drinking completely unrelated to alcoholism.
posted by griphus at 7:05 AM on October 28, 2011

The technicality in your case being your fitting the categories because of effects of drinking completely unrelated to alcoholism.

Doesn't that put you squarely back into the category of "unable to tell if the problems are drink related or not" if the CAGE test is unable to make that distinction or context, though? It is completely useless as a simple 4 rule test as I can think of any number of reasons why the first three could be justified or excused (genuinely or otherwise) purely on a financial level. And if it is that easy to slap an excuse over the top of it and dismiss the problem or, alternatively, very easily think you comply with 3/4 of the alcoholism scale (when in fact you don't) then it is useless in isolation and as such (and, honestly here is the on topic bit) that CAGE test is very much unhelpful in this context so the OP should completely ignore it.

Being able to find reasons to stop drinking but dismiss them (Man, this wine costs me a lot of money when I add it up (rule 1) and I really should be saving this for a holiday (rule 3) but screw it how else am I to socialise? (justifiable)) could be justification for an alcohol problem or not equally. OP: do not use that scale for anything. The only thing to take from that response is "If you really think you have a problem see a professional, but don't use an internet scale to convince you either way."
posted by Brockles at 7:17 AM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think the amount of alcohol that you're drinking is problematic, but what stands out to me is that you end up with at least a little bit of alcohol in your blood for a good half of the day.

Its not clear from your question how much tolerance to alcohol you have, but if your tolerance is low enough for you to feel some effect (tipsiness) all day, that would give me some pause.

The danger is, IMO, getting used to being at least slightly intoxicated all day, so it becomes normal. Clearly, you're not drunk, and its certainly possible to function well with a tiny tiny alcohol buzz indefinitely. What may start to happen though, is that you start to prefer the tiny chemical tinge on your consciousness to the cold clarity of being stone-cold-sober. People typically go through a few years of living this way before they start talking about needing a little something to "take the edge off," because they are no longer used to their normal sober state, which has by now acquired an edge. And this, this is a precarious state to be in, this is where its easy to tip into full-out abuse. It takes years to develop, I've seen it.
posted by tempythethird at 7:23 AM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

In my opinion, alcoholism means you're not in control of your decision to drink alcohol. In other words, if you can go a week or so without boozing it up, you're not an alcoholic, you just like alcohol.

Although, it does seem strange to me that you drink wine pretty much ALL DAY. Before too long, being slightly drunk is going to be more normal to you than being sober, which IS kinda scary.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 7:27 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

it does not sound like you are an alcoholic to me - but there is one way to find out, go to a few meetings. Seriously. Go to a few AA meetings, and listen. If you identify with the stories you hear there, then it will all ring true in your heart

There are tests on-line that you can take - but if you really want to know (really really), then go to a meeting. It will be an eye opening experience either way.
posted by Flood at 7:39 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alcoholic isn't necessarily a binary. It's a term that many people use to describe certain problems they have with the role alcohol plays in their lives. It sounds as though you, too, have some problems with the role alcohol plays in your life, especially when it comes to using booze to make yourself feel better about being lonely. You might, however, want to think about the lonely part as the bigger problem than the booze part. If every time you felt lonely, you watched a movie to distract yourself, we wouldn't call you a movie-holic, but we might suggest that you do something to actually resolve your loneliness instead of trying to distract yourself from it.
posted by decathecting at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is no hard and fast 'test' for alcoholism. It's not a (self-)identification that can be arrived at through scrutinising the quantities consumed: you wouldn't 'certainly' be an alcoholic if you were drinking two glasses of wine a day more, any more than you certainly wouldn't be one if you were drinking one less. It is, as others have suggested, more about your relationship to alcohol (and therefore by extension, about your sense of self). There are numerous questions you can ask yourself about your relationships to your drinking, but alcohol can be powerfully cunning, and so if you are prepared to probe this issue (and by asking the question, you seem to be), you must also be prepared to be absolutely scrupulously honest with yourself. There's no hard and fast list of questions, but some have been posed upthread. When you're drinking, do you sometimes wish that you weren't? Is it hard to imagine routine life that doesn't involve drinking? Do your daily glasses of wine seem to conspire to corrode an sense of interior self-security? Do you look forward to the first drink more than you think that you should? Are you drinking more than you were a couple of years ago, and does that amount seem as though it's only going to increase? No-one can tell you that you have (or don't have) a drink problem; only you can say that. All problems start somewhere. Sometimes they can be headed off at the pass early. There's help, good help, available for people who have problems with drink, and much good advice is contained within the AskMefi walls. Good luck.
posted by hydatius at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you're an alcoholic, but I think that the reason you're questioning your drinking is probably that you don't want to be drinking anymore. It doesn't seem like it's productive or leading you to new and interesting places. If I were you, I'd stop drinking by myself for a month. We all have 'easy outs' (mine is using the Internet) that are detrimental to our lives whether or not they are addictions. You wrote this question because you feel that your life isn't in your control. If it weren't the wine, it'd be something else.

Drinking wine is pleasurable. Being the person you want to be is more pleasurable.
posted by 200burritos at 8:00 AM on October 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Okay, the CAGE test is NOT useless. Obviously it's not perfect but as many patients have a tendency to lie about (or misremember, or be in denial about) how much alcohol they consume, asking outright how much they drink is not really the best way for professionals to assess the situation. the CAGE test has actually been proven (through studies) to be a pretty sensitive and accurate tool for professionals to use in identifying patients at risk for problem drinking, so they can be followed up with appropriately. it is not a tool for self-assessment, and it doesn't give a diagnosis. Alcoholism is a complicated disease, of course there's no perfect test that says yes or no, you are or are not. Especially based on the quantity one drinks, since people really do metabolize alcohol differently.

So. I think it's a gray area. The amount you drink sounds a little high to me but you're not me and men can drink more and still fall in the category of 'normal' just because they metabolize it faster. I think what matters is whether you're able to stop and how it makes you feel. Try skipping the wine for a week. Can you?

If you're really worried though, talk to your doctor. Not us. This is a very common medical problem that they are trained to help you with!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:06 AM on October 28, 2011

I have 2-5 drinks per day. Am I an alcoholic?

For years I have wondered whether or not I have a drinking problem ... I drink a lot.

... I love wine, I love being tipsy, and I love just holding the glass all night long ...

I get real lonely sometimes and I don't go out; I just have another glass of wine .... I think I'd drink less if I had a girlfriend, but then again, I don't know if I drink too much anyways.


Or to put it another way, you're drinking every day, and you feel it's "a lot," you're doing it to cope with loneliness, you have a strong attraction to wine and being tipsy ... so you have an "unhealthy relationship with alcohol."

You're not staggering drunk, but it's still bad for you.
posted by zippy at 8:10 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Alcoholic" is such a loaded word that I am not sure it's productive. You run up against questions like yours that talk about intake quantity as if there's some magic drop where it goes from okay to not okay. You get into this question of whether it's an ability to stop or start that makes you an alcoholic, which fuzzes the issue. Then there's a metric fuckton of controversy and argument about the various ways people treat alcoholism - google turns up a ton of folks who are sure to the bone that AA is a cult, for example.

I think your question is more usefully sectioned out into pieces.

* Are you happy with how your life is?

You say you get real lonely sometimes. But that's not unique to people who are loners or who have good or bad lives - we all sometimes feel alone. We all sometimes feel X, where X is some unpleasant feeling that's the result of the choices we've made in life or some things that have befallen us.

I think it's more useful to question whether you have the emotional connections in your life that you wish you had. Not now and then, but overall. If not then you should be able to do something about it.

* Is the booze substituting for taking action?

We all do things in life that make us feel better. Eat a cookie, ignore some work to read metafilter, drink a beer, treat ourselves to a movie, whatever. The problem isn't doing something to get the dopamine reward, it's choosing that transient or bad-for-you-in-large-quantities thing over the things we should be doing.

So if you're drinking because you like it and it's not interfering with your health, mental or physical, then it's not something I'd worry about. But if you're choosing it over any of those things then it is.

* Are you drinking because it's easier than change or because you can't stop yourself?

Either way, if you decided you're using it as a replacement for really living your life, you need to do something. But what that is could just be kicking yourself out of a rut. Or it might mean seeking treatment. Or any number of things.

Which is my long-winded way of saying I think you should put away the labels for now and instead focus on whether you're happy and what you can do about that. Trying to put down the sauce for a period of time is not a bad idea, as an experiment if nothing else. Or maybe just as a more concrete thing you can change that maybe will goad you into changing something else, once your routine is upset.

"Am I an alcoholic?" just seems like a question in search of a problem. "What's wrong here?" seems more on point.
posted by phearlez at 8:21 AM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Do you have alcoholics in your family? If you don't at all, I wouldn't say you are alcoholism-proof, but you are in a lot less danger. If you do, you are playing with fire at this point.

Overall, I agree with amanda and add: you can drink daily for quite a while with no apparent problems, but what if something happens to upset your routine? Do you see yourself drinking less, or more? Let's say you are going through a breakup or an upheaval at work and start using alcohol to get to sleep. (That is, thinking you need it to get to sleep, because it doesn't really help.) Then you are pretty much screwed.
posted by BibiRose at 9:08 AM on October 28, 2011

The part about "I like to be tipsy" struck me. You are using alcohol to alter your mood. That's not good. If you want to change your mood there are better ways to do it. Tell yourself, "Just for today, I'll skip the wine." Then go for a walk - to the library to read, or to the store to pick up some flowers, or wherever. Then the next day, do it again. Tell yourself "Just for today, I'll skip the wine." Then see what happens.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:12 AM on October 28, 2011

Like others have said, being alcoholic means being addicted to alcohol. If you don't have withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink, you're not an alcoholic. (You quit smoking. That was hard, right? Is this similar? If not, I wouldn't worry too much about actually being addicted.)

Drinking one or two glasses of wine a day is associated with health benefits, drinking four or more daily over a long period of time can lead to health problems. (Two seems to be about optimum. Look up "Mediterranean diet" and related research.)

Your consumption pattern would be totally normal, and pretty typical, if you were French. Health-wise, your consumption edges into the level where it's correlated with health problems, but just barely. The best thing to do would be to ask your doctor about this and see if they think it's a problem.

I'm assuming you're American. Protestant denominations which consider all alcohol consumption sinful have been fairly prominent here, and this has colored the way we think about alcohol, whether you're actually a member of one of those denominations or not. I think you're allowing this affect your thinking about this. You're asking 'is this potentially a health problem' and you're also asking 'I like to drink a glass of wine with lunch, and I also like to drink wine after dinner, does this mean I'm a bad person?' (I think the answers are 'no, you're not a bad person,' and 'maybe you should cut back a bit.')

If you think you don't get out enough, by all means, change your schedule and get out more. However, I doubt if it's wine that's preventing you from doing that. You just need to get out more.
posted by nangar at 9:18 AM on October 28, 2011

Rather than ask whether you are an "alcoholic" you ought to ask whether your relationship with alcohol is an unhealthy one. Winston Churchill drank enough on a daily basis that nowadays, we'd call him an alcoholic. But he also claimed that he "took more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me."

Spending half your day under the influence of alcohol is probably not good for you, and will certainly have an effect on your judgment. I would knock off the lunch wine during the work week, except occasionally when socializing with others. I'd also consider cutting back your evening consumption to two generous glasses and see where that gets you. Again, I'd make a more moderate consumption your average state, with a few exceptions once in a while.

Among other things, you may discover that you sleep better when you drink less in the evening.
posted by Hylas at 9:46 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

phearlez, I wish I could upvote you.
"Am I an alcoholic?" just seems like a question in search of a problem. "What's wrong here?" seems more on point.
That was beautiful.

And, OP:
I also drink four to six liters of water per day - an excessive amount, but I think it is because of all the wine

I'll agree it is a large quantity, but - excessive? You're displaying a pattern of faulting yourself.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hit the Post-Answer button too soon. As usual, it's Talk To A Therapist Time (TTATT).
posted by IAmBroom at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2011

You've left a lot of fudge territory in your self-assessment but you're probably drinking too much.

While these recommendations are going to tend to the conservative, the NIAA suggests a healthy limit for men/women of no more than 4/3 drinks in a day and no more than 14/7 drinks total in a week. So assuming you're a man, you're at the high end even in your most conservative approximation. And if you are like most of us you are probably low-balling whether your days tend more towards the 2 rather than the 5 side of the spectrum and whether 5 is really the top of the spectrum.

Incidentally that bottle of wine you open at dinner has FIVE 5 oz servings in it so if you had a drink with lunch (is it always just one?) and started and killed a bottle that night you're having 6 servings the way the doctor would calculate it. Five or more drinks at a time is the medical threshold for "binge" drinking by the way. Doing this seven days a week would unquestionably be bad for your health.

It may be a product of entering middle age but I feel like I'm starting to see a lot of relatively excessive drinking that is basically being gentrified by the fact that the potable of choice is wine. Try your story on yourself substituting shots of whiskey and see how it feels: "I have a shot of whiskey with lunch, another shot of whiskey before dinner, and three to five more shots during the course of the evening (I generally polish of a fifth every three or four days)".

As a forty year old I will tell you that while you may feel like you're physically tolerating this well now this will be less and less the case as time goes on, and from personal experience I'll tell you that there's a good chance you aren't really cognizant of how what a detrimental effect it is having on how you feel physically.

From what you're saying it is completely obvious that you have formed a dependency on drinking wine. You drink consistently during the day, you identify emotionally with the act of drinking and the state it puts you in.

As to the level of dependency, its effect on your life, what qualifies as alcoholism, who knows. Of anything fundamentally unnecessary my basic metric is quit, immediately and cold turkey, for a period of no less than two weeks. How much trouble this causes (or indeed if you can manage it at all) will tell you a lot about how big of a problem your dependency is. It is also long enough to start to get a feel for what the true physical and psychological detriments of your drinking may be.
posted by nanojath at 12:05 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

You drink consistently during the day - I mean by this that having a drink is a consistent part of your daytime schedule.
posted by nanojath at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2011

You are looking at the world through the prism of language - you look for words to define reality. And when the definition of a word is unclear, your view of reality becomes unclear. Step away from looking at the world through language.

Why do you ask if you are an alcoholic? Is it because if the definition of the word includes meanings such as "bad for health", "out of control" and contexts such as "will end up in the gutter"? If you accept from Poster A that the label "alcoholic" and what goes with it applies to you, you might take steps to cut back on alcohol. If however Poster B persuades you that the label "alcoholic" does not apply to you, you won't cut back.

Here's a giant clue: your liver doesn't care about who wins the definition/label "alcoholic". In a given culture, nobody may say you are an alcoholic, but your liver might disagree. And the other way around in another culture. No matter the furious discussion, the reality is there - completely independent of definitions and labels. Abandon them. Look at the reality as it is, not through the filter of labels. Reality, not labels ought to dictate your actions.

Ask not "am I an alcoholic", but concrete questions: am I drinking too much for optimal health? Am I likely to end up losing my job and relationships with this amount of drinking? How is it affecting my life? In none of these questions, is trying to divine the definition of "alcoholic" helpful.

There are huge individual differences between people. Some have the kind of physiology that they can drink huge amounts of alcohol for decades and still function. Others become homeless and die of liver failure after only a few short years of alcohol abuse at levels that are a fraction of the intake of a Churchill. I've seen both cases, and all kinds in between. I don't know you, so I can't - nobody can - tell you where you fall in this lottery.

What I can tell you is statistics. Statistically - which means for most people - alcohol starts adversely affecting their health if they consume over 3 drinks daily for men, and 2 for women. But look up what a "drink" is medically speaking - you'll be surprised how little. From your description, without question, you are drinking too much if you look at what the medical community consensus is. But you are an individual - you may be at a danger point, medically, drinking even less (if you are prone to certain kinds of cancer), or you might be able to afford to drink even more. I don't know - nor do you, I suspect - where you fall. If you trust medical science and gamble that you are "average", then yes, you're drinking too much.

Forget "am I an alcoholic". How is it affecting your life? Act accordingly.
posted by VikingSword at 12:24 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could consider looking at this as an opportunity, as something to be grateful for.

You aren't happy with your life -- you get real lonely, and don't go out. You want a girlfriend. You imply that your drinking is connected to your unhappiness -- "If I had a girlfriend, I might not drink so much."

A lot of people are unhappy with their lives, but have no idea where to start, what to change. You have something in your life that you could change.

A few different things might happen if you decided to stop drinking.

1) Nothing. Alcohol was a pleasant luxury, but had no other effect on your life. You feel all the exact same kinds of feelings now that you're drinking milk instead of wine. Oh, well. You tried.

2) Things might start to suck a lot. You're addicted to alcohol, and you're dealing with physiological withdrawal, as well as increased clarity about your loneliness and other negative things in your life. This will suck. It also means that things have the potential to get a lot better, if you're committed to quitting drinking.

3) Things might get better without going through the suckage. You're not addicted to alcohol, but it was messing with your moods, your sleep, your motivation, and your happiness in general, and you feel better off it. Awesome.

There's a lot of potential upside for you in a well-defined life experiment. If nothing else, you'll learn something.
posted by endless_forms at 12:56 PM on October 28, 2011

By the way, if you are physically addicted to alcohol, you might be not-quite-right about liking being "tipsy". It might be that the glass of wine is getting you to normal. . . and that if you can quit drinking, you might feel "better" in that same way most of the time, without alcohol at all.
posted by endless_forms at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2011

Substitute something healthy and non-alcoholic a few nights a week - this will address both the drinking and loneliness. Yoga, a martial art, a meditation group ...
posted by yarly at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2011

Ask yourself the questions put forward by hydatius. They cut to the heart of the issue. Alcohol is a problem when you drink when you don't really want to and drink more than you want to when you do. However, that is an evaluation upon which it is easy to fool yourself when you are afraid of the answer, so go to hydatius's questions. As for a test like stopping, I think a true alcoholic will find it harder to drink regularly, every day or many days a week, and limit each time to two glasses of wine or less. One theory on alcoholism is that it is what happens after the first or second drink which truly distinguishes the alcoholic from the rest.

A bottle of wine a day is by itself too little information, but that is a lot to be sure. Also, your reasons for this consumption are inline with alcoholic drinking. You could be headed for a problem, or perhaps it is already here. One bottle can progress to two and then who knows. How did you get to one? I suggest you ask yourself hydatius's questions and perhaps try to keep drinking while drinking less and see how that goes.
posted by caddis at 1:13 PM on October 28, 2011

The obvious counter-question is, what happens if you don't?

But as a general rule of thumb, if you find yourself wondering if you have a drinking problem, then you probably do.

If you're worried about it, cut back or quit for a while. At the very least, it will save you a lot of money. Put all the money aside and save up for something fun that you have wanted for a while, but didn't feel you could quite justify.
posted by ErikaB at 4:00 PM on October 28, 2011

See my answer to a related question from later today.

There's a fundamental misunderstanding in many of the answers above that makes them utterly wrong. Many people believe that addiction means that "when you stop bad things happen or it feels bad." That's a symptom, not a definition. And it's not even a symptom of all addictions. There are many, many alcoholics, for example, who can easily stop drinking for weeks or years at a time with no ill effects at all.

The idea that "if you don't have withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink, you're not an alcoholic" that nangar cites above is an outdated and dangerous misrepresentation; no addiction specialist would agree with that today.

The question is how the drinking you do affects your life, and the lives of those around you. If there are no negative effects (including health effects) and you're happy, then enjoy! But the fact that you're asking the question implies otherwise.

Or maybe it just means that you're taking a healthy, introspective approach to this.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:47 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I also drink four to six liters of water per day....

IANAD but isn't a high consumption of water/wine (or more accurately "thirst" or a desire for...) an indicator of diabetes? Have you seen a doctor lately?
posted by jamesalbert at 5:00 PM on October 28, 2011

IANYD but if you came through my ER and told me you drank a bottle of wine every day, I'd put you on the alcohol withdrawal protocol. You ought to get checked out. Please.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A bottle of wine per day seems excessive to me but, ultimately, only you can make that determination.
For what it's worth, the two central texts of Alcoholics Anonymous are 'Alcoholics Anonymous' and 'Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions'. You might want to read them and see if anything resonates with you.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2011

For a straightforward answer, see the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Alcohol FAQ, where they define heavy drinking, alcoholism, and alcohol abuse.

From your description, you satisfy all of the criteria for heavy drinking, and at least two of the three criteria for the definition of dependency on alcohol (alcoholism).
posted by zippy at 5:50 PM on October 29, 2011

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