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Should You Call Yourself an Alcoholic After You Quit Drinking? What Then?

by | Stop Drinking Alcohol | 14 comments

“You are what you believe yourself to be.” Paul Coelho

Should you call yourself an alcoholic after you have quit drinking? If not, what then? That’s the question this week.

For me, alcohol was a part of my past. It was something I used to do. Fair enough, by the time I stopped using alcohol it had become an integral part of my life, so just stopping alcohol wasn’t enough. I had a lot of work to do in eliminating all those connections from my life. That included me thinking about myself as a drinker. That doesn’t disappear overnight. To stop thinking of yourself as a drinker you have to stop drinking, first and foremost.

Then you have to tell yourself you’re not a drinker. You have to tell yourself over and over. You need to do this because your past habitual behaviour is still trying to kick in. Your triggers are still firing, which is the first step in your old programming. When this first step fires, your initial reaction is to go to the next step and the next, following the sequence that you have always followed.

Which leads to you using alcohol and getting drunk. But you don’t drink any more so you have to tell yourself you don’t drink, you have to tell yourself that you’re not a drinker.

In the beginning you don’t believe it yourself. You’ve got all this enthusiasm for it, you’ve got the determination, the reasons to quit, but underneath it all is the click, click, whirr of the automatic programming that has been built up over years and years. This is very disconcerting. It’s like you’ve got one side of your brain pulling in one direction and the other side pulling in the opposite.

With the best will in the world, the habit is still strong in the beginning. That’s what makes habits so sticky and hard to break. So you keep telling yourself that you’re not a drinker any more, that you don’t use alcohol. The more you tell yourself you’re not a drinker, the more you believe it, the less you will have this internal conflict.

underneath it all is the click, click, whirr of the automatic programming that has been built up over years and years

What do you think is going to happen if you tell yourself you are an alcoholic, that you will always be an alcoholic, that all it takes is ONE DRINK and you’ll be right back to where you started? What do you think it will do to you to believe you have a disease that cannot be cured, that it’s a part of some fundamentally faulty genetic code that you inherited from one of your ancestors?

I used to smoke, I don’t call myself a smoker any more, or an ex-smoker, I only say I don’t smoke. I don’t eat meat. I don’t call myself an ex-meat eater or a meat eater. When I was a young boy I used to wet the bed, now I don’t. Do I still call myself a bed-wetter?

There’s an old saying that says, the sky is the limit to what you can do. But your limits are set in your mind not by the sky. You are what you believe you are. If you believe you’re an alcoholic, you are an alcoholic, even if you don’t drink alcohol. That one thought will have a knock-on effect on many other areas of your life.

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” Dale Carnegie

If you believe you are an alcoholic, you will see alcohol as a threat, you’ll see bars and drinkers and supermarket shelves and bottles and advertising all as a big threat. You’ll see yourself as damaged, weak, limited, trapped. How will that affect the way you think about your abilities in other areas of your life?

Just as we’re manipulated into believing we’re doing the normal by drinking this poison, we’re also manipulated into believing that when we stop doing it, there’s something wrong with us, that we are the ones who can’t handle it, that we must have a bad genetic makeup, a disease of our brains.

Is that the way we look at people who stop taking any other drug? Do we look at smokers who quit smoking and say they must have a genetic abnormality, that they are quitting because they can’t handle the nicotine, that they have a disease? What about heroin users? Cocaine users? What about people who are addicted to eating junk food? When they stop eating this crap and lose the weight, do we say they can’t eat junk food any more because they have a mind disease? A gene malfunction?

We do none of that. We applaud these people for finally coming to their senses, for finally stopping doing something that everyone else knows is bad for you.

Cigarette smoking is bad for you, everyone knows that. Eating junk food is bad for you, not many would disagree. Using heroin is bad for you, not many people do it because most people know that it’s a bad thing to do if you want to live a good life.

Do we look at smokers who quit smoking and say they must have a genetic abnormality, that they are quitting because they can’t handle the nicotine?

It wasn’t always the case. We didn’t always look at heroin as bad. It used to be sold across the counter in pharmacies. Doctors used to recommend their favourite brands of cigarette? And fast food was an invention that promised a better way of life, unhooking people from the drudgery of the kitchen, giving them the freedom to eat when they wanted with little fuss and lots of great taste. Times change.

We are surrounded by people who are brainwashed into consuming this drug as if it were a normal part of our everyday lives. Every which way we turn, we are being manipulated by companies who only see us as a market, an open wallet, a number at the end of a balance sheet. Because this manipulation has been happening all our lives, it takes a long time, and usually some very uncomfortable events, for us to see it for what it is.

Most drinkers don’t see themselves as drug users. They don’t see the drug they are taking as a drug. They see it as a normal beverage. They don’t even see it as alcohol, not really. They see it as a glass of wine, a pint of beer, a shot of whiskey. We live with a big disconnect between reality and fiction.

Most drinkers don’t see themselves as drug users

If you don’t see alcohol as a drug, how can you see the benefit in someone else quitting using it? Or how can you applaud someone for stopping using a drug when you are still using that drug? We applaud people for quitting smoking or using heroin because we fundamentally see those things as bad, dangers to the person. You don’t blame the person, you blame the drug, and you accept that anyone who quits using the drug is doing a good thing in their lives.

When you don’t see the drug as a drug, you can’t blame the drug. When you don’t fundamentally see the drug as bad, despite it causing over 3.5 million deaths per year, about one death every 10 seconds, you can’t blame the drug.

When you use the drug but don’t consider yourself as a user, you can’t blame the drug. You can only blame the person. There must be something wrong with them. They are weak minded, they have a disease, they are alcoholics, they come from alcoholic families, they can’t handle the booze, ….. they are to blame.

After all, there are so many people in the world who drink alcohol and have no problem. But this is pure fantasy land. How long did it take for you to admit to yourself that you had any sort of problem with using alcohol? Years! And it’s normally when something happens that forces your eyes open, screams at you to look what the fuck is happening to you and your life.

Look at what you’re doing to yourself. You know where the blame lies. You know what is causing this to happen. Now once you understand the problem, once you understand the connection of you drinking alcohol and bad stuff happening in your life, how do you now look at your past life using alcohol? Suddenly you can see the problems that using alcohol has caused.

something happens that forces your eyes open, screams at you to look what the fuck is happening to you and your life.

When I finally opened my eyes to what what happening, I began to see the downhill trail of destruction that I had left behind me. All the lost memories, the injuries, the bad words, the foolish decisions, the cost of alcohol use in my life were many and were everywhere. My past was littered with the cost of lost opportunities.

Most alcohol users are living in denial. Most alcohol users are, by any stretch of the definition, alcoholics. Look at them. Watch the people around you and you’ll see that what I’m saying is true. Alcoholism is defined through dependence. Most drinkers, those who have been drinking for any length of time are dependent on alcohol for one reason or another.

When I finally opened my eyes to what what happening, I began to see the downhill trail of destruction that I had left behind me.

So if you don’t call yourself an alcoholic once you quit, what do you call yourself then? If it’s to do with alcohol or drinking alcohol? Nothing! You don’t have to call yourself anything.

When you stop drinking, keep telling yourself that you don’t drink alcohol any more. You don’t drink alcohol. It doesn’t take very long before the triggers for your alcohol using sequence stop being triggered.

Once that happens, you will think about your old habits less and less, you’ll have less of a disconnect in your mind between you telling yourself you don’t drink, that you’re not a drinker, and you feeling like you’re not a drinker. I guarantee you that if you consistently don’t use alcohol and consistently tell yourself you are not an alcohol drinker it will become part of who you are.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes.” Gandhi

Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!

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  1. Russell newcomb

    I really like this way of thinking by saying to my self I don’t drink any more.im going to use this.thankyou.

  2. Peter Keithly

    Great video! This is exactly how I feel about alcohol. Too many others have cast themselves into an “alcoholic” mindset and will forever see themselves as somehow different and even abnormal. Not a place I want to be and AA is not a club I want to belong to for the rest of my life. 5 months sober on my own and getting stronger every day.

    Cheers, Peter

  3. Linda Andre

    Love this video – LOVE this way of thinking. “As we think, so we become.” It’s Day 10 and I say I don’t drink. Thank you Kevin! Onwards & upwards!

  4. Knog Knebronson

    Hi Kevin, Well done & well said!

    I “LIKE” this VLOG a lot. I don’t use social media so this “LIKE” will have to do.

    I too, do not use terms like “Alcoholic”, “Diseased” ETC… to define myself.
    I find them to be destructive to my beliefs. I do have power over alcohol (Alcohol Mastery) and I do possess the power of choice! I am not “damaged goods”!

    Merry Christmas,
    Knog Knebronson

  5. Mark

    Thank you, Kevin! This makes so much sense to me. This mindset is a far more healthy approach than attaching a label to one’s self that is a constant reminder of something negative “being an alcoholic” when you can just as easily approach it from a positive perspective…”being a non drinker” Kudos.

  6. Bradd Bledsoe

    Kevin you hit it right on! God Bless you! Keep up the great work and be very proud of your very prolific message…..

  7. Parth Galen

    Thanks Kevin. I am 70 days sober and still consider myself “alcoholic” although for me the label is liberating and got me finally on a path to getting sober. I found it not debilitating to admit that to myself. I know I do not drink anymore but more importantly for my sobriety, I believe I CAN’T drink anymore. Will that belief change over time where I believe that I have mastery over alcohol and I will be one of those select few former alcoholics that that believe they can drink in moderation and successfully do so? I don’t truly know. What I do know is that I am becoming a better person in every sense of the word than I ever was before. I am becoming an entirely new person at age 51. And that feels great. If part of that means admitting that I am an alcoholic, then that is OK with me. Slight digression: I am also a chocoholic. I can’t just eat one piece of chocolate. Once I start, I have to have multiple pieces of chocolate. Should I stop eating chocolate forever so that I don’t have to consider myself a chocoholic but just someone that doesn’t eat chocolate? After all, chocolate is not all that “dangerous” but I know I can’t just have one piece. To me it comes down to allowing a name or label to limit you and that’s where the true power lies. For me, the label “alcoholic” is not limiting me or giving me an excuse for past behavior. It just is what it is. I am one, but I also know that alcohol, like chocolate does have a real hold on me once I have that first helping.

  8. John Swisshelm

    Hey Kevin, love this video. I’ve been three months no Alcohol,i know there is alot of benefits to stopping the drink, but my biggest benefit is Peace Of Mind.
    My brain was a mess,there were times when i really wanted to end it all.something kept pushing me forward.Little by little day by day my mind seem to heal itself.Its like my whole life is better, the way i see things now is so awesome.
    I thank God i found your website your videos and books i really believe helped me
    through the hardest time of my life. God Bless you Kevin

    Merry Christmas to you and your family
    John Swisshelm

  9. John Pojawis

    Another amazing video by you Kevin, we always need more logic to fight our fight.

  10. Michele Replogle

    Thank you Kevin for helping screw the noggin on correctly. 10 months sober and don’t even think about it any more. You have helped me so much and it is your logic and honesty. I will be truthful I have lost some friends they just could not hang and don’t invite me around much…But the other things I have gained are tremendous, one is the huge growth in my business because I am never hungover and I have more energy. I am less stressed because I do not have the sugar rushes coming and going. And the best part is I can say I don’t drink with enough conviction to keep challenges at bay and with a quietness that keeps people from thinking twice about it.

    Also do you all want to know a secret there are others at parties drinking sparkling water and non-alcoholic drinks in red solo cups. I have rooted some of them out and found they stopped drinking a while ago. Go for it you won’t be sorry!

  11. Alasdair

    I like this approach and you hit the nail on the head when you said that someone that used to smoke (mysef included) but has quit does not call themselves a smoker despite not smoking. So, why stick yourself with a life-long label? It doesn’t make sense. Labels too often carry too much baggage as well, and one of the things we’re all trying to do in being sober is to get rid of baggage.

    Day 13 for me. Things are definitely looking upwards 🙂

  12. Brad

    Really glad I found this site. I have always thought the whole labeling oneself an alcoholic and adopting an “addict identity” to be really debasing and harmful. Once the consequences of my heavy drinking got to be too much for me, I finally came to my senses and said “enough is enough!” I now consider myself a non drinker, just as being a former smoker, I now consider myself likewise a non smoker. It’s very true that during the first few weeks, triggers can often be quite strong, but do tend to go away after a while. I recently passed 5 months since my last drink, and I feel great! My life, relationships and career are all now back on track. There is no way I would ever pick up another drink. My life is SO much better without it. I don’t fear alcohol, or relapses, and the thought of never picking up another drink again, which used to scare me, doesn’t anymore. In fact, even thinking about drinking again repulses and slightly nauseates me.

    It’s good to know there are other people out there who think the way I do about past alcoholic stupidity, coming to your senses and stopping, and moving on with your life, without having to carry the derogatory label “alcoholic” around and 12 step meetings for the rest of your life. I simply choose to not drink that poison anymore.

  13. Roy Finlay

    Hi Kevin, I like the way you come across,I came across your website months ago but didnt act. Something happened to me recently which as you say “opened my mind” Im done with this shit @ 56 I can also look back at all the mistakes etc and every one of them (the serious ones) was about alcohol.
    I dont know how relevant this is, but as part of my realisation I now know and absolutely sure this stuff is poison and should be banned completely.
    Is there anyone you know of who I can keep in touch with during the formative part of this process.
    I also live in Spain (Mallorca) Scottish Irish, I tried yesterday to get some help/advice with not much success, either a million miles away or rehab at 8000 Im not day to day dependent,so rehab is MAYBE not my way out, to be honest watching your video, made more sense than Ive ever heard.
    Ive been looking for reasons and frankly there all bullshit and excuses, so convincing in the telling my wife actually believes I have deeper problems,as I did or do (the jurys still out) maybe thats true but it was only today I realised they were ALL caused by alcohol, whether by myself family,friends.
    Looking back is scary, but I think I feel a bit of release by being able to be honest with myself first, my family and friends.

    Thanks Roy

  14. Mary Martha K.

    Finally, someone answered this question that I have had for almost two years since I quit drinking. My alcohol consumption was out of control, and I ended up nearly dead when my liver failed. However, I don’t know what I am. An alcoholic? A former alcoholic? People (sometimes insensitively) ask me why I don’t drink alcohol. I’m always embarrassed to say why. That I’m an alcoholic and can’t. But now, after reading this blog entry, I finally can hold my head up high and simply tell them that I don’t drink alcohol. They don’t need to know anything beyond that, and I don’t have to feel bad about myself. I quit and haven’t had so much as a sip, and I’m proud having fought and won the struggle. I will never drink alcohol again, because of the amazing transformation I’ve gone through having quit. So I made a deal with myself, that, although my friends and family would be disappointed if I drank again, no one would be more disappointed than me. And now, I have you to thank for presenting me with a more pleasant, less negative “label” for myself. A non-drinker. I’m going to work on that from now on, until it becomes who I am naturally. Thank you!!!


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