Friday, December 18, 2009

Am I an Alcoholic?

Shortly after I joined Al-Anon in earnest and began working a program, my sponsor suggested I attend open AA meetings to help develop compassion for the alcoholics in my life.

I attended the first meeting as an Al-Anon. I attended the second as an alcoholic.

The question had always plagued me. My parents were alcoholics. My daughter found her way to Nar-Anon. Did I think I was immune? Why shouldn't I be an alcoholic?

I had history. Years of binge drinking. Black outs. Things I did under the influence that filled me with shame the day after. My husband and I drank every day.

My AA meetings quickly became my favorites. They were raucous affairs, with much laughter. Coffee and cookies were served. By contrast, Al-Anon meetings seemed somber affairs. Instead of cookies there was Kleenex on the table. There was a lot of crying.

But I was also aware that I didn't fit the pattern. My first assignment from my sponsor was to read the AA Big Book. At the AA meetings I attended, parts of the Big Book were read at the opening of every meeting.

Everything I read about Al-Anons seemed to fit me to a tee. But the readings at AA didn't. For one thing, the AA literature said that alcoholics grow worse, never better. That wasn't true of me. I had to go back 30 years to relate to periods of heavy drinking and feeling out of control.

I had six months of sobriety in AA before my Al-Anon sponsor said she wasn't convinced that I was an alcoholic. She encouraged me to explore the possibility. She put me in touch with other Al-Anons who had partied heavily but who were not alcoholics. I re-read the Big Book and the Merck Manual. It was true. I didn't seem to fit.

One Al-Anon and a friend in AA both suggested "the test" in the Big Book. Non-Alcoholics, it said, could go out, have a drink or two and then quit. A "true" alcoholic couldn't. I knew I could do this. I had done it many times. I had quit drinking for years without missing it. But I tried the test again. I had no problem having a drink or two and stopping.

I quit introducing myself as an alcoholic at AA meetings. Finally, I had an answer. I was not an alcoholic. I felt comfortable in that for the first time in my life. I was not an alcoholic. For some reason, that part of the disease had passed over me. How lucky was that?

Just one more thing to be grateful for.


  1. Thanks for this post. I have wondered about whether I was an alcoholic, too. I've done my share of partying, but the disease never picked me as a dance partner.

  2. What a wonderful post! What great sponsorship you had to lead you to the truth. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there that says "if you think you might possibly be an alcoholic, you are one." And unfortunately, there are people sitting in AA meetings (as members) who do not have this thing, and it leads to all kinds of problems.