How to Truly KNOW If You Have a Drinking Problem

It Only Takes One Test to Find Out.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

“The measure of a man is not how much he suffers in the test, but how he comes out at the end.”
― Neal Shusterman

For many years I felt that I didn’t have a problem with alcohol. I would drink as much as I desired and still wake up the next day and get most of my work done.

Alcohol didn’t cause me to do poorly at work or hurt my personal life in any major way. In fact, I attributed much of my success to my ability to schmooze my clients as a salesperson for my company, and I had lots of friends because I was the guy who you could count on to always meet you for a drink to have a good time.

It’s interesting because now that I’m over 18 months alcohol-conscious, I recognize that all the various signs were there that told me my relationship with alcohol was not healthy.

It was there with the arguments I would get into with my friends or whoever I was dating at the time.

It was there when I would wake up with a raging hangover from the night before and tell myself that I wasn’t going to drink today only to find myself uncorking a bottle of wine 12 hours later.

And it definitely was there when I wrecked my car because I was driving under the influence of alcohol…twice.

Undoubtedly, there were so many warning signs screaming at me to examine my relationship with alcohol and assess if it was really helping or hurting me in life.

If you have a problem with drinking, I’m sure there are numerous warning signs for you as well, but sometimes we figure out ways to ignore them or just rationalize them as normal.

However, there’s a sure-fire test that you can apply to yourself to determine if you have a problem or not and it’s a simple as pie.

You don’t need anything else to do it, and the results will let you know if you are fine or if you are developing a problem without a doubt.


This one simple test consists of asking yourself one important question and being completely honest about the answer:

Can you STOP drinking after only one or two drinks?

That’s it. Nothing crazy. No major mathematical equation or deep psychological dive into your mind to know how you are feeling and what you’re using alcohol for which to cope.

This simple test is based on the daily recommended maximums for men and women. Are you able to stop at that first or second beer or do you have such a strong uncontrollable urge to continue drinking that doesn’t allow you?

That was me when I was drinking. I had absolutely no control over how much I drank. I was one of those people who thought it was better to have nothing instead of having only one or two.

I was of the frame of mind that you drink for ONE reason – to get drunk. And if you weren’t going to do that, then what was the point of drinking. This led to a number of long nights in which I don’t remember.

However, because I was able to get up each morning and be decently productive, I always felt that I had everything under control. I didn’t understand that this one simple test was the true barometer of if I had a problem or not.

The fact that there was no way that I could have only one or two drinks at a time should’ve been a huge red flag that something was wrong and my relationship was beyond my control.

However, because I always had so much fun and always seem to bounce back the next day, I refused to look at this as a possibility


There are those who can answer this question with a resounding YES. You’ve seen them. People at cocktail parties or happy hour who will have one or two beers and then call it quits because that is all they desire.

Do they have the same urges that many people get due to the cycle of endorphin and dynorphin release that CREATES the need for us to drink more to get back to a baseline of homeostasis and feel normal?

Perhaps. But at any rate, it is not at the level of those of us who feel we have to continue drinking to keep that euphoric feeling going and stave off a drop back to reality. This feeling urges us to continue imbibing the mood manipulator to keep the high and exciting feeling it provides.

Scientists have not quite figured out what causes some people to take or leave alcohol after starting to drink, while others will begin drinking, and their bodies immediately begin to crave it.

They are beginning to think it has something to do with the size and effectiveness of a part of our brain known as the lateral habenula, which helps with making decisions and learning about punishments.

It’s hypothesized that genetically we are born with different levels of effectiveness of this part of our brain.

And it’s the effectiveness of our habenula that helps control our decision-making to tell us to stop drinking before we succumb to the addictive effects of alcohol. This is why it has been theorized for some time that alcoholism can be hereditary.

For some, it happens very quickly after only drinking for a short period of time, while for others, it may take years for their cravings to take over their ability to say no. While even for some others, this feeling may never happen.

The spectrum of alcohol abuse is wide. Many times, individuals feel they don’t have to worry about whether they have a problem, as they feel that they are so far away from what you one would consider an alcoholic, they are safe.

However, if you are able to pass this one simple test, then you will have a good sense of where you sit on this spectrum and if you should be worried or not.


There are some rules about when and how to administer the test.

The test is simple. You just have to go about drinking at any function as you normally would do and then decide to cut yourself off after you passed your daily recommended limit.

You have to do this out and about to ensure you are able to say no in the midst of the social pressure to drink more. If you can say no at home while you’re by yourself, that’s a step in the right direction.

However, to truly test if you will not be overpowered by the allure of alcohol, it is good to also mix this at times in social functions to make sure the conditions are what they would be when really tempted to drink more than the recommended amount.

If you are able to do this with no problem, then voila. You should be good…for now.

However, if you do it and find it extremely difficult and are having an intense internal battle to not have another drink, then there is a good chance that you are close to escalating on the alcohol abuse scale.

And you can’t just pass this one time and then you are good to go. The development of alcohol use disorder happens over time, so you have to be able to pass this time, EACH and EVERY time you drink.

I could go anywhere and have only one or two once or twice, but it was always an intense battle for me to do so.

The minute you realize that you have gone from “take it or leave it” to “I need at least ONE more,” then you have crossed over from the “in control” stage to the “at-risk” stage.

This has to be consistently monitored because you are never truly SAFE from developing a problem with alcohol no matter how long you have been able to drink without an issue.

Someone can go from having no issue with alcohol to having a problem from one week to the next. This is becoming increasingly apparent, as late-onset alcoholism is becoming a trend for individuals in their 50s and 60s.

Therefore, you have to stay vigilant in applying this test consistently to ensure that no craving has developed that is beyond your control. As soon as it does, it’s probably time to look at cutting back on the consumption for some time or perhaps quitting altogether.

It may seem like a simple test, but it’s monumental in its ability to ensure you keep your boundaries in check. You must administer this each time you drink to make sure those boundaries stay so.

If not, one drink will turn into two. Two drinks will turn into three. And three drinks will turn into a problem.