Can't Stop Drinking?
Are you an alcoholic?
Those of us who have admitted that we are alcoholics look back at this question with a mixture of humor and horror. Horror because the journey to self-identify as an alcoholic often takes longer than it really needs to, and humor because our attempts to disguise the negative impact of alcohol on our lives could be absolutely hilarious.
Here are a few:
"I didn't crash because I was drunk. I always run that stop-sign, even when I'm sober."
"My manager just had it out for me. Didn't like it that I was smarter and more talented than him. My 'performance issues' were just an excuse. I'm sure my next employer will appreciate my 11-1 pm work schedule."
"Honestly, I just want to be left alone. I'm glad when my friends don't call."
It's really OK. Alcoholism is truly baffling. You can see that in its definition. The American Psychiatric Association classifies Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as ".... a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences."
There are plenty of people who can experience poor consequences from drinking and who can manage their use to avoid any further problems. But there are approximately 15 million people in the United States who cannot.
To be diagnosed with AUD, you need to meet certain criteria.
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn't?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
- Wanted a drink so badly you couldn't think of anything else?
- Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?
Did you nod your head twice or more?
You have been self-diagnosed with AUD. If so, you are in good company.
How an AA meeting can help
Bottom line: AA meetings help you get sober and stay sober.
There have been a bunch of studies over the years examining AA's effectiveness in helping alcoholics achieve sobriety. The evidence has led researchers to conclude: "Alcoholics Anonymous, the worldwide fellowship of sobriety seekers, is the most effective path to abstinence." (Kelly, J. F., Humphreys, K., Ferri, M.).
AA is free.
There is no charge for going to a meeting. As a worldwide organization AA does rely on the charitable contributions of its members; however, no one is expected to pay anything. The most common donation is $1 or $2 for attending a meeting, making AA a long-term option for anyone suffering from AUD.
Open to anyone.
All are welcome. Most meetings are marked "open," meaning that anyone can join whether they self-identify as alcoholics or not. AA offers a variety of meetings, including meetings for people of color, women, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming folks, beginners, young people, atheists, and agnostics, many all-inclusive meetings for anyone with a desire to stop drinking, and new meetings are being added every day.
Doesn't Take Money from Non-AA Sources
A long time ago our members decided that we needed to focus exclusively on sobriety and stay neutral on all other affairs. So we do not take money from outside sources.
Many of us find it extremely helpful to hear what other alcoholics have been through. To know that we are not alone, that others understand what we have gone through, is a true gift.
More information... Talk to an alcoholic
Call anytime: (215) 923-7900
Dial in, wait for the prompt and press 1. Or if you'd prefer there are plenty of aa meetings in the area you could attend in-person, by web conference or phone.
You can also contact us by email here.
Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs for alcohol use disorder. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews Kelly, J. F., Humphreys, K., Ferri, M. 2020; 3: CD012880
"Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA)". Niaaa.Nih.Gov, 2021, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-use-disorder.