Question about alcohol addiction

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,329 The Mix Honorary Guru
Content warnings/trigger warnings: this post discusses alcohol addiction, suicide, overdose, trauma, self harm, purging, weight concerns, anxiety and insomnia.


I stopped drinking two years ago. I am trying to figure out if I had an alcohol problem at an earlier point in my life. I want to know this because I’m not sure what language to use to describe my experience and also because I might start drinking again in a couple of years and knowing what my past experience was might help me to know whether that’s a safe idea or not.

In my mid-teens alcohol was definitely a problem in my life (although I have never described it as ‘an alcohol problem’). However, from when I was 17 to when I was 18.5 (which is when I stopped drinking), alcohol was not an actively destructive force in my life (though it was a source of anxiety for me). My decision to stop drinking was gradual.

These are reasons that I think that I may have had an alcohol problem in my mid-teens:

I could almost never just have one drink. I do remember a few times when I got up in the middle of the night to down one or two glasses of my parents’ wine to help me sleep (I have insomnia) and then went to bed without drinking more. However, from what I can remember, 90% of the time, me having one sip or one drink would end with me being so drunk that I either vomited naturally or made myself throw up because I couldn’t bare the nausea (even if the original plan was to have one or two drinks).

My first thought any time I felt upset was that I needed to drink. This started from when I got drunk for the first time when I had just turned fourteen. I was feeling very low and anxious because of something that was happening the next day, so after school me and my friend went and bought a lot of alcohol and drank it together in the park. I drank some mini shot bottles, cans of beer and cider, and half a bottle of £5 glens vodka. I have a small body (in terms of height and dress size) and I wasn’t used to drinking more than a glass of wine or a few WKDs so this was a lot of alcohol for me. This might have been normal as a one off but after that it was what I did every time I felt overwhelmed by emotions or memories. There was one traumatic event from my childhood that still effected me and alcohol was how I dealt with my feelings around that.

I knew that it was dangerous for me to get drunk and I wanted to stop but I couldn’t. I attempted (unplanned) suicide twice when I was drunk. Another time I self harmed while drunk, and I sometimes made myself throw up after a couple of drinks (and then continued drinking) because I liked the sensation of making myself throw up and because I didn’t want to gain weight from drinking. When I was sober I could stop myself from self-harming and making myself throw up. When I was sober I was constantly terrified that I would kill myself the next time I was drunk. I think that I knew on some level that a solution to that fear was to stop drinking but I could never succeed in quitting alcohol permanently. The longest that I went without drink at that time was 3-4 weeks; that was because I had damaged my stomach from a painkiller overdose and was told in hospital that I needed to take a break from drinking because alcohol would worsen the damage to my stomach.

These are reasons why I think that my issues with alcohol may not be dependency/addiction:

Although I never successfully quit during that time, I did stop once for 3-4 weeks and another time for two weeks. In those weeks I was around friends who were drinking and was able to resist the alcohol by reminding myself of what was at stake if I drank (my life.)

I only drank alone a few times. This was when I drank one or two glasses of wine in the middle of the night to help me sleep. If I was upset (and therefore wanted to drink) I would invite a friend or a group of friends to get drunk with me. I remember thinking that getting drunk alone was crossing a line.

I usually only drank on one or two days/evenings per week.

Eventually, in my late teens when my mental health was a bit better, I did manage to drink less and to have longer breaks from alcohol. The last time I drank alcohol two years ago I only drank one can of cider. In the last year and a half before I stopped drinking I remember times when I only had four tequila shots or a couple of glasses of cider and was able to make a conscious decision to not have any more alcohol.


The reasons that I don’t drink at the moment is because I feel like being sober protects me from suicide, is better for my mental health and, on maybe more of a symbolic level, separates me from what my life was like when I was younger. I’m not depressed (I don’t actually think that I was necessarily even depressed when I was suicidal - it was more about not being able to cope with traumatic memories & fears). I have better coping mechanisms now and I’m able to talk about my emotions and experiences while sober.

However, for various reasons, I would find it helpful to know whether I had an alcohol addiction or dependency in my mid teens and whether this means that I am an alcoholic. I have read about alcohol addiction recovery through moderation (rather than abstinence). Did I have an addiction and experience recovery through moderation followed by abstinence? Or does the fact that I was able to significantly improve my drinking habits before I stopped drinking altogether mean that I don’t/didn’t ever have an alcohol addiction or dependency? What is an alcohol problem? Is it the same thing as addiction/dependency?

I hope this makes sense. I would really appreciate any advice that you can give me.

Thanks for reading this


  • SunshineSoulSunshineSoul Relationship Squadee Posts: 57
    Hi Sam,

    ​Thanks for sharing your experience and concerns with us here on The Mix. Firstly I would like to say congratulations for being sober for 2 years that's a great achievement and definitely something to be proud of - it's a great step in the right direction in terms of your physical and mental health. It sounds like you have had a tough time dealing with your mental health previously and have used alcohol as a coping mechanism, I hope it's fair of me to say this? I am no expert in the field of addiction however I will share with you my thoughts based on my experience of watching someone's life deteriorate and eventually end due to alcohol misuse, this was my uncle whom passed away recently and was battling with alcoholism for many years.

    ​To read up on the definitions of alcohol dependency and addiction click here maybe by reading the information on this page it can help you determine whether you relate to any of these categories. You can also get advice and facts which can help you with your decisions around drinking.

    ​Although you may or may not have had alcohol dependency/addiction I feel it is fair to say you had some sort of problem with alcohol as it affected you negatively and impacted on your health and your life. The social acceptance of alcohol and the fact that almost every adult drinks it makes it difficult for many to understand that it is a toxic substance that is highly addictive and dangerous to health in large quantities and because it is a legally available substance the fact that it is still a 'drug' is overlooked and it's destructive effects are often overshadowed. The risk of addiction is present for everyone who drinks more than the recommended daily or weekly amounts. From what you have shared it seems that you were unable to control your alcohol consumption in the past, this could have been a warning sign of going down the road to addiction however you said recently that you were able to make a conscious decision to stop, maybe as you got older you became more conscious about your health and were more aware of the dangers? I know when we are young and having fun with friends we can often go overboard so maybe when you were binge drinking this was because other people were too, I wouldn't get so caught up on your past habits and instead focus on your present mind-set and attitudes towards drinking. I am interested to know how you feel in yourself now that you are sober? .

    It's great to hear that you're now able to discuss your feelings and experiences, do you have support from friends and family? What are your current coping mechanisms? You mentioned that you have had suicidal thoughts in the past, have you spoken about this with your GP? Tackling your mental health issues in a healthy way such as talk therapies or holistic therapies may help you to overcome your struggles or at least allow you to deal with them without turning to substances especially if you feel you are susceptible to addiction in the long-term.

    ​With anything, moderation is the key, the government guidelines recommend 14 units per week, and although in my personal opinion this is too much still, it is something to go by if considering to drink again as you mentioned.

    ​Remember there's plenty of support out there if you need more information or someone to talk to.

    ​To find local help follow the link below:

    - Sunny :rainbow:


  • MikeMike Posts: 1,477 Moderator
    Hey Sam, and welcome (back) to the community. :wave: Good to see you round again.

    Really appreciate the content warning - very considerate of you.

    A huge well done for reaching out to us here. These things are never easy, and it can take a lot to put all of those feelings in to words. I hope you managed to find some relief in doing so - getting things down like that can be quite therapeutic for some. It sounds like you've been on quite the roller coaster, and talking about it is a really brave thing to do.

    Getting to the meat of your post, whether you had/have an 'alcohol problem' is probably best left to qualified experts in substance disorders and yourself to decide. Of course, this is a fine space to speculate and have a discussion about it, but it's important to note we can't accurately diagnose anyone over the internet. We have an article titled 'what is addiction' that might be of interest.

    This is a quote from Addiction Center about the differences between dependency and addiction:
    Mental dependence is when use of a substance is a conditioned response to an event or feeling. These are known as “triggers.”

    Triggers can be emotional responses to events, certain people, places or anything a person associates with using a substance.

    Something as simple as driving can trigger a desire to use. These triggers set off biochemical changes in a person’s brain that strongly influence addictive behavior.

    When the symptoms of mental and physical dependence are apparent, an addiction is usually present. However, the main characteristic that distinguishes addiction from dependence is the combination of mental and physical dependence with uncontrollable behavior in obtaining and using a substance.

    It's a little wordy, but that may help to clarify the difference. I've also heard people say (though I haven't verified this) that those who have recovered from substance addiction are almost always unable to return to the substance they were addicted to, which isn't always the case for those who have been dependent.

    I also just wanted to highlight what you said here as it really jumped out for me:
    Sam123 wrote:
    The reasons that I don’t drink at the moment is because I feel like being sober protects me from suicide

    This feels like quite a powerful statement, and might say something about how influential alcohol is for you, regardless of what kind of 'problem' you may or may not have. I'm conscious that the core of your thread seems to be about nailing down a definition of what you've been experiencing, so I'm not sure how helpful something like this is to say, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

    I'm intrigued as to what your feeling is on this - what do you think? :chin:

    Edit: @SunshineSoul post didn't show for me until I refreshed the page!
    "900 years of time and space and I've never met someone who wasn't important.”

     - The 11th Doctor
Sign In or Register to comment.