By definition, an alcoholic is a person who has become dependent on alcohol and can experience withdrawals when they do not drink. Usually, they are a person who needs to drink in excess. For years the misconception is that an alcoholic is someone who cannot live or function without a drink daily. However, this definition is misleading. While this statement defines a non-functioning alcoholic, there are many more functioning alcoholics who are still in disbelief that they have a problem. 


Media and Popular Belief

When popular New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia made a public announcement that he was going to seek sobriety, this came as a surprise to fans. He is a dominant competitor, a Hall of Famer, so how could he be an alcoholic? Further criticism came when Sabathia expressed that he drank every three to four months, however when he did drink, he needed to become intoxicated. Most fans waved this off, expressing their own opinions that he was nowhere close to being an alcoholic. Fans began to believe that this was all an attempt to correct a recent altercation the pitcher had with a cab driver after leaving a club. Nevertheless, Sabathia sought sobriety, and as a result, his life changed for the better. He became healthier and even attributed his sobriety to allowing him to play a few extra seasons. Still, some fans scrutinized the sobriety as a hoax, remaining set in their definition of what an alcoholic is. This challenged some fans’ thoughts as to what defines alcoholism. Certainly, most people drink, but at what point should we become concerned?


Popular Misinformation That Supports Current Belief


  • Weakness: One of the stigmas surrounding addiction is that it is seen as a sign of weakness. This stigma can explain the negligence of many when it comes to admitting they are an alcoholic. Addiction is created through a series of complex behaviors, actions, and influences. Our genetics, upbringing, and the choices we make in life can also play a factor. While studies support the facts showing that some people are more prone to becoming addicts, the bottom line is that anybody can become an addict. Over 65 million Americans ages 12 and over reported binge drinking in the last month. The CDC reports that on average 88,000 yearly deaths occur as a result of alcoholism. 


  • It is a Choice: Statistics also show that drinking alcohol is a major part of our culture, leading to the theory that so many people discount the idea that they are alcoholics or have a problem drinking. In an article published in Quit Alcohol, Dr. Jaun Harris theorizes that many people do not view alcohol as serious as other drugs, and instead, view it as a social companion. This theory is based upon the belief that non-alcoholics can stop whenever they want where an alcoholic cannot. If you drink in moderation or only have one to two drinks, you are probably at low risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. However, we need to account for a large number of social drinkers like C.C. Sabathia, who may not drink for months on end but need to be intoxicated whenever they do drink. The early sign of a “problem drinker” is if you need to get drunk every time you consume alcohol.


Define an Alcoholic 

  • Serious disease: We might want to start with viewing alcoholism as a serious disease. It is easy to overlook this when offered a drink because most people do not connect alcohol and disease as they might with other substances. 


  • Habits: We need to evaluate why we drink alcohol and know where the red flags are. 


  • Do I drink to have a good time? 
  • Do I drink to feel better about myself? 
  • Do I drink to alleviate stress, depression, or anxiety? 
  • How do I act when intoxicated? 
  • How often do I drink, and do I need to get drunk when I do? 


Alcohol Alters Our Behavior

It is no secret that alcohol affects our brains in only negative ways. In C.C. Sabathia’s case, his intoxication led to an altercation with a sober person. In other, more serious cases, it can manifest into depression and anxiety. Studies show that alcoholism can also contribute to the early onset of brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. If any person feels their behavior is drastically altered as a result of intoxication, this is not only a red flag but also a sign that continued drinking could lead to more irrational thinking and behaviors. 


Last to Know

Finally, perhaps the reason many dismiss their drinking as not being a problem is that oftentimes the person who is addicted is the last to know. This idea is not intended to berate people who drink and can control their consumption, rather it is more of an attempt to take those who do admit having a problem more seriously. Also, it is to help people question why they drink in the first place. How has alcohol played a role in their family history? How do they behave when drinking and how often do they drink? Just because they feel the definition of being an alcoholic doesn’t apply to them, it does not mean that they aren’t an alcoholic or becoming one. If you think you have a drinking problem, seek help. 


Don’t let addiction sneak up on you. Educate yourself about what you are putting into your body just as you would any other food or drink. If you think that you might be developing a problem, don’t wait, act. True Recovery offers a variety of alternative methods to begin recovery and stay recovered. For more information, please call us today at (866) 399-6528