Drinking Problem? How Do I Know if I Have One?

drinking problem man in dark bar

If you are concerned about your drinking, you probably have a drinking problem.


Our Admissions Specialists regularly take calls from people on the fence about whether they have a drinking problem. The caller is often in trouble, but they don’t see it. Or don’t want to see it. We appreciate these calls because they provide a non-threatening forum to discuss addiction and the treatment options available in our continuum of care at Sanford Behavioral Health.


Warning Signs of a Drinking Problem

There have been volumes written about “the warning signs of alcoholism.” For example, drinking first thing in the morning or getting in barroom fights regularly is a drinking problem. Or if you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s obvious you need help. But what if the signs are subtler than that? For example:


  • What if your spouse thinks you have a drinking problem, but you think it’s under control?
  • How about the first thing you do when the going gets rough is to pour a stiff drink?
  • Or you wake in the morning (after an incident) and tell yourself you will not drink today, only to have a “small one” by 5:00 pm?


These behaviors may not scream addiction. They may even be explained by stress or living through difficult times. But, at Sanford Behavioral Health, we say, “If drinking is impacting your relationships, you have a drinking problem, no matter how much alcohol you can handle.”


Here are some key indicators of drinking problems you might not have considered:


  1. Do you lie about where you’ve been and under-report how much you drink?
  2. Do you have a feeling of uneasiness or emptiness?
  3. Is there a hiding place (in your winter boot or the back of a drawer) where you keep a stash of alcohol for “emergencies”?
  4. Is a drink necessary to calm you after a tough day?
  5. Has working from home become an excuse to drink during the day?
  6. Do you need alcohol to “be yourself” and socialize?
  7. Are voices in your head asking questions or telling you what to do?
  8. Do you feel isolated, lonely, and unable to seek telehealth or virtual help?
  9. Do you seem to hurt the ones you love without understanding why?
  10. Does it seem like everybody is mad at you? Have you sidelined friends?
  11. Has your schedule changed to accommodate your drinking?
  12. Are you embarrassed by how much alcohol you buy – so you visit different liquor stores? Do you have alcohol delivered to your house?


Do you think these questions are annoying and an overreaction to a little boozy fun? Keep reading. Here are ten more questions:


  1. Does drinking feel like a full-time job?
  2. Speaking of jobs, have you missed work or childcare responsibilities?
  3. Are you skipping important events and discounting milestones?
  4. Do you drive or do anything else dangerous while drinking alcohol?
  5. Have you been arrested?
  6. Is drinking still fun? Not so much?
  7. Have you tried to moderate your drinking and fallen short of benchmarks?
  8. Do you have heart palpitations or panic attacks?
  9. How’s your memory? Your balance?
  10. Have you stopped reading for pleasure when you crawl into bed at night?


The first rule of thumb is: if you are concerned about your drinking, you probably drink too much. Answering “yes” to even a few of the above questions is a red flag and can signal the beginnings of an alcohol use disorder. If you identify with any of these warning signs, continued use can lead to escalation and the inability to choose how your life will progress. A word(s) to the wise is sufficient.


There is a famous Alcoholics Anonymous quote by Joe B. that goes like this: I knew I was an alcoholic by the way I felt sober. Think about that.




Rae Allyson Green, JD, MA, LPC, CAADC, is the Founder & President of Sanford Behavioral Health. After extensive experience working in residential treatment centers, Rae sought a new treatment approach for addiction and co-occurring disorders. Together with husband, David Green, she established Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers in 2015. Their mission was to elevate the effectiveness and availability of treatment for individuals diagnosed with substance use disorders (SUDs). Today, Sanford is an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving the state of Michigan and beyond.