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Am I Really an Alcoholic?

Bo Brown
| March 26, 2018

Since the day I first began my recovery, many of my friends have asked me if I think they have a drinking or a drug problem. I always tell them it is not for me to decide. I always tell them addiction is a self-diagnosed disease. Only they would know if they are an addict. But how did I know that I was an alcoholic?

I always kind of knew that I was susceptible to the disease because I came from a family that had experienced substance abuse issues.

I also knew I was an alcoholic before I got help. Long before I got help for my addiction, I came to terms with my drinking and drug use.

I always figured I would get help once my mom and dad were gone. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to the family. Thankfully for me, the time for treatment came before they were gone and they got to see me get help and live sober. For that I am thankful. I am what I am. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict that commits to my recovery each day of my life.

I have had multiple conversations with other people who are also in recovery who question whether or not they are still alcoholics or addicts. Even in some low points in my recovery, I have questioned that theory myself. When I went to treatment, I never thought that I would be able to maintain a life in recovery. I somehow thought deep in my mind it was just a chance to get clean for a while and I would be able to go back to my old lifestyle eventually. Thank God, that has not happened.

Somewhere during in my third week of treatment, I called my best friend and told him where everything was in my house and to get rid of it. That was a pivotal point in my recovery. I had decided to take recovery seriously. When I have low moments and think for some strange reason I am not really an addict and think that I can handle it on my own, I think back to what really got me to the point where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

My addiction took a toll on all my personal relationships. Family, friends, partners and co-workers all suffered due to my substance abuse. I distanced myself from all of them so that my relationships would not interfere with my addiction. I lied, schemed, and argued my way to isolate myself from all human interaction. My addiction made me lose interest in activities that I once loved. I lost interest in my career and my love for my second job, teaching in the arts.

My addiction caused many health problems. It damaged my pancreas to where it does not produce insulin and has made me a diabetic for the rest of my life. When I was in active addiction, I was suffering from serious depression that led me to contemplate suicide on many occasions.

My anxiety was through the roof that in the last two months of my active addiction; I could not leave my house without having a panic attack that would only be alleviated by starting off each morning with a drink. My addiction affected every element of my life. Therefore, I knew I was an alcoholic.

There are many articles with questionnaires that you can take to determine if you are an alcoholic. I took many of these tests before I had my realization moment of my own addiction. When recently looking at some of these articles, I came across some subtypes of alcoholics and I recently found the categories that describe my own alcoholism.

My subtypes of alcoholism included:

  • Functional Subtype – The functional subtype is the furthest from the alcoholic stereotype. They are usually successful with stable jobs. In this subtype, 62% work full-time and 26% possess a bachelor’s degree or higher. This subtype makes up 19.5% of the alcoholics in the United States.1
  • Intermediate Familial Subtype – In the intermediate familial subtype, most are employed and average in age from 38+. In this category 50% come from families with multigenerational alcoholism and have experienced clinical depression.1

The help of an inpatient dual diagnosis treatment center and months in an intensive outpatient center and a quality sober living facility helped me re-enter the real world with solid tools to cope with the disease. I also had the help of 12-step meetings and a sponsor. The last thing that I contribute my sobriety to is a strong base of a few friends that hold me accountable and expect the best of me.

One of the most poignant things I heard in a 12-step meeting stays with me to this day: “An alcoholic is someone whose life gets better when they stop drinking.” That was me. My life got better, but I also had to put in a lot of work to make it better.

Today, I know that I am 100% a recovering alcoholic. I am responsible for how I act upon my disease. With hard work, honesty, and a personal determination, I have been able to navigate myself through real-world everyday life in recovery.

If you would like to share your story you can contact me at or hit share on the home page and submit your story. When you share your story with Heroes in Recovery you help to break the stigma associated with substance use and mental health disorders. Please feel free to comment and share my blog. I love hearing from others!

Much love,



National Institute of Health. Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes. 28 June 2007.

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