How Do I Know if I Have a Drinking Problem?




We get calls at Sanford House all the time, from people who are on the fence about whether they have a drinking problem or not. We call this “precontemplation,” because oftentimes the caller is obviously in trouble, but they don’t see it. Or don’t want to see it. We appreciate these calls, because it provides us with a nonthreatening forum to discuss addiction and the treatment options that are available.


There has been a lot written about “the warning signs of alcoholism”. If you are drinking first thing in the morning or getting in bar room fights regularly or experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s pretty obvious you need help. But what if the signs are subtler than that? What if your spouse thinks you have a problem, but you think it’s under control?


We say, if drinking is impacting your relationships, you have a drinking problem, no matter how much alcohol you can “handle”.


Here are some key indicators you might not have thought of (or if you thought of them, you might have found a way to explain or justify your behavior):

  1. Do you lie about where you’ve been and under-report how much you drink?
  2. Do you have a feeling of uneasiness or emptiness?
  3. Is there a hiding place (in your winter boot or in the back of a drawer) where you keep a stash for “emergencies”?
  4. Is a drink necessary to calm you after a tough day?
  5. Do you need alcohol to “be yourself” and socialize?
  6. Are there “voices in your head” asking you questions or telling you what to do?
  7. Do you feel isolated and lonely – even in a crowded room?
  8. Do you seem to hurt the ones you love, without understanding why?
  9. Does it seem like everybody is mad at you?

Is this bothering you yet?

  1. Has your schedule changed to accommodate your drinking?
  2. Are you embarrassed by how much alcohol you buy – so you visit different liquor stores?
  3. Does drinking feel like a full time job?
  4. Speaking of jobs, have you missed work or child care responsibilities?
  5. Are you skipping important events and discounting milestones?
  6. Do you drive or do anything else dangerous while you use?
  7. Have you been arrested?
  8. Is drinking still fun? Not so much?
  9. Have you tried to moderate your drinking and fallen short of benchmarks?
  10. Do you have heart palpitations or panic attacks?
  11. How’s your memory?
  12. Have you stopped reading for pleasure when you crawl into bed at night?
  13. And last, but not least, do you think these kinds of questions are annoying and an overreaction to a little boozy fun?


The first rule of thumb is: if you are worried about your drinking you are probably drinking too much. Honestly answering “yes” to even a few of the above questions is a red flag and can signal the beginnings of a drinking problem. If you identify with any of these warning signs, continued use can lead to escalation and the inability to choose how your life will progress.


There is a famous Alcoholics Anonymous quote by Joe B. that goes:

I knew I was

an alcoholic

by the way

I felt sober.

Think about that…



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Rae Allyson Green (JD, MA, LPC, CAADC ) is the Founder & President of Sanford House. Her extensive experience working with women in residential treatment centers inspired her to seek a new approach to addiction treatment. In collaboration with her husband David, Rae founded Sanford House to serve as a beacon for recovery and to inspire those suffering with substance use disorders, to achieve richer and more fulfilling lives in long-term recovery.