Drinking alcohol is a common social activity, especially among veterans. In fact, alcohol use can be a staple of bonding among military personnel. But while it’s true that not everyone who drinks has a drinking problem, alcoholism can affect anybody, and it’s important that veterans be especially wary due to their predisposition to certain mental health issues.
If you’ve ever asked yourself “Am I an alcoholic,” here are some factors that you may want to consider. Bear in mind that no online resource can tell you if you have an alcohol abuse problem. However, we can provide resources and information to help you determine if you need help.
What Are Substance Use Disorders?
Drinking alcohol is, to an extent, a normal and accepted behavior. In fact, more than 85 percent of adults have drunk alcohol, and most of them never become addicted.
Although alcohol is a socially accepted behavior, especially for people in the military, there’s no doubt that it can turn into a major problem for some people. The difference between normal and problem alcohol use is that one is a mental health disorder; in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V), it’s classified as substance use disorder.
What’s the difference? Well, a disorder, by definition, has to disrupt daily life. So if you find yourself drinking casually with friends once or twice a month and not thinking about alcohol outside of that, you may not have a problem. However, if you think about alcohol a lot or struggle to complete daily tasks because of alcohol, that points to an alcohol use disorder.
Substance use disorder is a serious problem, and around eight percent of people in the U.S. may suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Moreover, veterans suffer from this disorder even more than the general population; studies have shown that around 11 percent of military personnel meet the criteria for substance use disorder.
Why? Well, invisible wounds of war can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both of which make it easier to develop a substance use disorder. Without proper coping skills, drinking can seem like an easy and simple fix. This is not due to a flaw of character, only untreated mental health issues, and you can recover with the proper help.
Substance use disorders are serious mental health conditions, and it’s important that you look out for warning signs that you may have one. The DSM-V clearly lays out the symptoms of substance use disorder. The official diagnosis criteria of the disorder are:
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to.
- Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
- Cravings and urges to use the substance.
- Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.
- Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
- Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
- Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
- Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.
- Needing more of the substance to get the desired effect (called developing a tolerance).
- Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.
When diagnosing substance use disorders, most mental health practitioners and addiction specialists have clear guidelines. To be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, you must have experienced at least two of these symptoms in the past 12 months. If you’ve experienced six or more of these symptoms, then you may be suffering from a severe substance use disorder.
Am I an Alcoholic? Signs of Drinking Too Much
Some people have an image in their head of what an “alcoholic” looks like: penniless and completely ruined by their addiction. But even if your life is holding together and you’re maintaining your job and relationships, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a drinking problem. Every addiction looks different, and alcoholism can affect anyone.
On top of the official diagnostic criteria above, some everyday signs that you’re drinking too much alcohol are:
- You’re drinking to escape the problems in your life.
- You’re drinking when you have flashbacks or to try to forget war memories.
- You’re drinking when you’re sad or stressed.
- You find it hard to stop after one drink.
- You put limits in place before you start drinking, only to find that you can’t stay within those limits.
- Other people have made comments about your drinking behavior.
- You drink until you blackout or you can’t remember what happened while you were drinking.
- You’re drinking alone or in secret.
If you’re still not sure if your drinking is a problem, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a questionnaire you can take. Going through this questionnaire with a licensed professional is a much more surefire way to know if you’re drinking too much alcohol than taking an online alcoholic quiz.
How to Quit Drinking Alcohol
The truth is that if you’re reading this article, then it’s possible that alcohol has become a problem in your life. If you find yourself looking for reassurance that you are not an alcoholic, that may indicate that you need help.
But the good news is that as a veteran, you have people in your corner who are ready to help. At Heroes’ Mile, we specialize in helping veterans with substance use disorders and mental health issues, which means we’re ready to help you fully recover from alcoholism.
Treatment begins with a thorough alcohol detox, where you can safely deal with alcohol withdrawals under 24/7 medical supervision. Not only does this keep you safe and comfortable, but it also vastly reduces your risk of relapsing in early recovery.
Following this level of care, most people transition to residential rehab. This is where you will learn the strategies that can lead you to lifelong recovery. From group therapy to EMDR therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy, residential rehab is where you can mentally heal from addiction. Moreover, this level of care also takes mental health issues and past trauma into account to provide a comprehensive recovery.
Finally, you may elect to enroll in an outpatient program, where you can live at home but receive treatment on site. This may be a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program, or both. These programs differ by the hours you spend in treatment, but they follow the same core principles: They take the lessons you learn in residential rehab and help you apply them in real-world situations as you encounter them. In this way, they help bridge the gap between rehab and long-term sobriety.
Are you ready to get help? Call our admissions specialists at 888-838-6692 or ask questions through our confidential contact form. If you find yourself asking “Am I an alcoholic,” especially as a veteran, then it’s time to reach out for professional help.
The only way to know for sure if you suffer from alcohol abuse is to get a professional evaluation. Some warning signs are drinking more than you intended to, drinking alone or in secrecy, and trying to stop or cut down on your drinking and not being able to.
Alcoholism has been shown to be hereditary. Many genes contribute to the risk of developing alcoholism, and environmental factors (like child abuse) can raise your risk as well.
Alcohol is both physically and mentally addictive. While not everyone becomes addicted from drinking alcohol, it has quantifiable addictive properties. Signs of addiction include physical alcohol withdrawals and scheduling your life around alcohol.
Yes, there is a great amount of evidence that suggests that alcoholism and addiction definitely have a genetic factor. Note that not every child of an alcoholic develops a substance use disorder. But if you have a parent who is an alcoholic, then your risk of developing alcoholism increases.