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When Does Alcoholism Begin?

Keeping an eye on recovery-related news items, we often find ourselves drawn to research stories and industry headlines. But opinion pieces do catch our eye as well, especially when they come from respected journalists. This past week, noted New York Times writer Nancy Wartik authored a personal and informative story on alcoholism titled, "What Does It Mean to Have a Serious Drinking Problem?" 

The essence of the article delves into the fine line where social drinking ends and a true dependency begins. We, for one, thought Wartik did a fantastic job outlining warning signs and chronicling her own journey through addiction. 

"Although I’d grappled for decades with my relationship to alcohol, I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic," Wartik explained when discussing her internal battle. "And yet, alcohol was also medication. I drank to quiet angst or because I was lonesome. I drank, it took years to realize, because I had clinical depression. Eventually I treated the depression but kept drinking. Alcohol was my stress reducer, my reality fighter, the conferrer of artificial joys." 

As she goes on to describe, there was a turning a point in her life. A point where casual nights out led to issues with coworkers, ongoing hangovers and personal struggles that would not go away. Helping to define that threshold, Wartik shared a useful tool that not many people are aware of.  

The World Health Organization actually has an online survey that tests for drinking problems. The AUDIT Quiz (which stands for Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) offers anyone the opportunity to rank their level of alcohol dependency. 10 simple questions are provided, on topics which range from drinking frequency to remorse. From there, you get an actual score which can help guide how serious your problem may be. 

Wartik took the test and did notice a level that illustrated "risky patterns." She then advised readers to measure themselves against the Centers for Disease Controls' regulations. According to that scale, anyone who has more than 10 drinks a week should have some level of concern. 

For Wartik, that was evidence enough and she ultimately outlined the journey she took toward sobriety (which included ongoing support from family and friends). Describing her life now, Wartik did admit that things can still be challenging. But it is crucial to know that the problem exists and needs to be addressed. 

"Sobriety can still be a challenge," she concluded. "These days, though, I awaken clearheaded. I’m closer than ever to being the mother, wife, relative and friend I want to be. It feels good."