Is Alcoholic a Bad Word?

There seems to be a lot of controversy over the term alcoholic. For some people it is a dirty word, while others use it constantly to define their relationship with alcohol. I think “alcoholic” and it’s parent term “alcoholism” generally follow the disease model of diagnosis and treatment. Some people find it helpful to believe that they have a disease, while others find it limiting. I am still deciding where I fit on this spectrum. Whatever works for you… I think that is my stance. Being an alcoholic shouldn’t be an excuse for bad behavior and a lack of personal responsibility. It does help explain some behaviors, though.

I have referred to myself as an alcoholic on this blog. Not so much because I think I have a physical disease, but because I drink in a dysfunctional and unhealthy way. I haven’t found another word that describes my relationship with alcohol very well. Problem drinker doesn’t quite cut it for me. Drunkard isn’t very nice. Lush, maybe? Boozer? Umm, no way man.

Alcohol issues run in my family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that alcoholism is a disease that I inherited. I could have learned things from living in a dysfunctional drinking environment while I was growing up. Who is to say what exactly happens that causes one person to drink problematically and another person to be fine with having one or two? My paternal grandparents both had alcohol issues in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, but they eventually quit drinking altogether. My father is an alcoholic who tried to drink moderately for decades before finally giving it up last year, hopefully for good. His long-term struggle with alcohol is something that I do not want to repeat, and is a huge motivating factor for me to quit forever. Let’s say that while I was growing up he was a functioning alcoholic who didn’t always function so well. My maternal grandfather spent half of his days at the local tavern in his small town, but nobody remembers ever seeing him drunk. My mother drinks three to five beers almost every night, but has no physical addiction, and does not believe she has a problem. My brothers both have serious alcohol problems. I have traits from both sides of my family, and they fall on various sides of the “alcoholic” continuum.

So am I an alcoholic? Yes, absolutely, I am sure of it. Do I wish there was a better word to describe me? Yes I do. But the main thing is that I am sick and tired of alcohol being such a big deal in my life. Absolutely done with it. So whether I refer to myself as an alcoholic or not, I am committed to quitting for good. I would rather not have the stigma of “alcoholic” on my back forever, but at least I am a sober “alcoholic” today. 14 days!

What are your thoughts on the term “alcoholic”? How do you describe yourself?

4 thoughts on “Is Alcoholic a Bad Word?

  1. Love this post! I had to share it with my husband. I can certainly relate to everything you said. Thanks!

  2. I don’t have a problem with labelling myself an alcoholic, in the end only by admitting that this is what I am can I deal with it and change it. I was at one point scared to put anything on Facebook where most of my old friends and family knew nothing about where I was with my problem, but when I recently posted about reaching 500 days sober and praising God for the strength to make it that far, the response from people I would never have expected was unbelievable, the kindness and support brought tears to my eyes, so I will never be afraid to admit what I am any more, but I can be proud that I am fighting it everyday and still winning.
    I’m with you all the way on your journey, just let me know if I can help in any way.

    • Thanks so much Wayne! That is very kind. I have been calling myself an alcoholic, too. For me it means admitting that I cannot drink normally. Thank you for reading and congratulations on 500+ days!

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