That's a VERY good question. One most of us had to come to terms with SEVERAL times of doubt.
As Ms. Pickle said, the AA book chapter 3, "More about alcoholism" talks all about that question. I'll add chapter 2, "There is a solution". VERY helpful distinctions made there.
(pssst ... sshhhh ... don't tell anybody ... if you go to a meeting and raise your hand when they ask, "Is anyone visiting their very first AA meeting anywhere?", just say your name and that you're just wondering. You're likely to get a free
I found it helpful to read it replacing the words we
and see if it sounds familiar to YOU.
The AA book is so comprehensive and simple that I thought it was written about ME. Really. It's all about ME.
I had to do what is nearly impossible for an alcoholic to do while drinking - I had to be brutally honest with myself. Not to talk myself into
it blindly, but also not to rationalize my way out of it. If I caught myself explaining to myself why I don't fit that statement, I was lying. I went with my initial gut feeling instead. You, know, the hair on the back of my neck, face-flush, tummy flutters .. the things that happened when mom caught me with a magazine.
Young people have a wonderful opportunity to avoid the pitfalls at an early age that we disdain in old folks. (At 56, I say "we" because I never grew up. And now I blame alcoholism for stunting my maturity.) I said, "I'm not going to be like that, so I'm going to do things different, disregarding experienced advice. Woops. Turns out those old folks said the same thing young and got the same results anyway. DOH!!!!!
Please pay attention to yourself young. You have a chance to avoid all the crap you see around you, to nip it in the bud. Difficult young. Not impossible!
When I came in, I was in a desperate state. IT was OBVIOUS that booze was the problem. So, knowing what I know now from reading the AA book, I went back all the way through my drinkng career to see how it started and progressed. I'll share what I found out about myself. Pretty much just what you will read in the book:
1. My dad was a flamin' alkie. A warning sign I ignored deciding not to "be like him".
2. As a teen, I did the teen thing, get drunk and do outrageous things. Warning: Drinking to get drunk on purpose.
3. Happy hour also called "Attitude Adjustment Hour". Warning: Drinking to change moods. Feel bad - drown my sorrows. Feel good - celebrate.
4. Drinking socially, but more than most others - Warning: abnormal normal drinking.
5. When my drinkin' buddies
said I drink too much or get stoopid (usually laughing over last night's foibles) - Warning: Huh?
My drunk buddies think I'm a drunk????
6. Drinking alone - Warning: Drinking for NO reason, just to drink.
7. Drinking to "tie one on" - Warning: Reverting to teenage. Akin to bingeing.
8. Drinking before and during work - Warning: Incorporating drinking into functional life.
9. Drinking all day, every day - DOH!
Once one has the knowledge that alcoholism, like most diseases is progressive, he can start watching for what stage of the disease he might be in. NOBODY knew they were alcoholic at their first drink in life. I was quite happy and actually excelled in some areas for a couple of decades of drinking alcoholically. But things progressively, under my nose onmy back, were gradually unravelling unnoticed.
Alcoholics are alcoholic at their first drink. The symptoms just aren't recognizeable ... YET.
Frankly, if you are wondering ... normal drinkers usually have no reason to wonder. (If you just put yourself in the "usual" category, keep wondering. That's another subtle alcoholic lie, "I'm the exception to the rule". It's a good idea to fully research it and recognize where you are on the line of progression, if you are on the line.
Aw, geez, I went off again. Sorry to say too much. You're probly like Charlie Brown when the growed-ups talk now ... "Waah wawah waah wah wah ..."
It was a good exercize for me to remember so I never forget and start wondering again.
Good luck, girl. I hope you're not an alcoholic. But, then again, I've found it to be a wonderful oportunity to finally become the man I was always intendd to be at this late age. Never too late. Never too early. It's always the right time to live a better life!