The controversial phrase “almost alcoholic” has many people talking right now and wondering if they fall into this ambiguously-defined grey area. Harvard clinical psychologist Robert Doyle and Joseph Nowinski coined this now infamous phrase in their recently published work “Almost Alcoholic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drinking a Problem?” and this book aims to shatter the traditional sense of the word “alcoholic.”

If you’re wondering where you fit on the spectrum or if you’ve crossed the line into full-blown alcoholism, it’s important to define an “almost alcoholic” and how to seek treatment if you determine you are one.


What is an “Almost Alcoholic?”

For many years, the term “alcoholic” was the standard by which all people determined their medical dependence on the substance. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as the symptoms of alcoholism:

  • Building a tolerance for alcohol. The abuser is forced to consume more alcohol because they’re developed a tolerance for the substance.
  • Inability to limit the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • The strong need or compulsion to drink.
  • Drinking in secret or while alone.
  • Those that experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they cease the consumption of alcohol – including shaking, nausea or sweating.
  • Disinterest in activities or hobbies that formerly brought the person pleasure.
  • The establishment of a “drinking routine” and annoyance when that routine is disrupted.
  • Having financial, legal or familial problems stemming from drinking.
  • Storing alcohol in secret places throughout your home, workplace or even automobile.

Basically:  you were either a diagnosed or determined to be physically and chemically addicted to alcohol or you were a casual, social drinker. There was no grey area, which left several people that were more than just a social drinker, but not quite an alcoholic, sitting in the dark. The coining of the phrase “almost alcoholic” provides people with a deeper understanding of the abuse spectrum and lets others see that their persistent social drinking is actually more of an issue than they first considered.


Signs and Symptoms

The term “almost alcoholic” is in its infancy and the new spectrum it creates can still be confusing for many. There are people that simply consume drinks as a social lubricant or a way to overcome their shyness and anxiety in a group setting. The definition of “almost alcoholic” can include these people, but also moves past a simple social drinker and encompasses those that could be considered borderline alcoholics. There are still a few signs and symptoms that should raise a red flag, and help you determine if you’ve moved into the “almost alcoholic” category. They include:

  • You drink to relieve stress.
  • You look forward to your daily glass or wine or beer after work.
  • You drink to stave off boredom or loneliness.
  • You feel uncomfortable in social situations unless you’re drinking.
  • Your drinking is beginning to affect your performance at work.
  • You drive sometimes after drinking.
  • You continue to drink to maintain your “buzz.”


Changing Your Lifestyle

The term “almost alcoholic” is intended to be a wake-up call for people that aren’t clinically an alcoholic, but need to get a handle on their drinking and make lifestyle changes. For some, this could simply mean cutting down on their drinking or discounting the use of alcohol as a way to cope with stressful situations. For others, it’s a more serious situation, as alcoholism is most always a progressive illness. If you feel you fall into the “almost alcoholic” spectrum and are worried your drinking is becoming an issue, it’s important to seek professional help and change your habits and lifestyle.


Still Confused?

Love it or hate it, the term “almost alcoholic” is fast becoming a hot topic for people across the country. It’s being touted as revolutionary by some and utterly useless and confusing by others. At the end of the day, the idea of the “almost alcoholic” is intended to help people determine if their drinking is becoming an issue and if they need to seek treatment or help. One of the main goals of Nowinski and Doyle’s book is to encourage people to notice the signs and symptoms of “almost alcoholism” in themselves, and to find social or professional support to work through the issue.

Whether the controversial book “Almost Alcoholic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drinking a Problem?” is going to be considered a piece of groundbreaking science, or merely another psycho-babble waste of time, is yet to be determined. At the very least, the piece has coined a phrase that has people talking about this serious and potentially damaging subject that was before so often ignored.


This Post was written by Ricky Stanton on behalf of  Ricky has over 10 years of experience working in a heroin rehabilitation program, and hopes to continue to help educate others about the dangers of drug and alcohol addictions.

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