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What is an Alcoholic? Everything You Need to Know

Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 02/22/2023

Alcoholics are people who struggle with urges and cravings to drink alcohol. Most alcoholics also experience alcohol withdrawal when they stop drinking. According to NIAAA, there are about 14 million adults in the United States with an addiction to alcohol. What’s more, the same NIAAA data found that millions of children and teenagers in the United States are also alcoholics. Learning more about alcoholics and alcoholism can prevent you from developing alcohol and may help you save someone you love. 

We’ll take you through everything you need to know about alcoholics. We cover topics like their behavior, how to identify alcoholics, and even how to help them. Read on to learn more below.

What is an Alcoholic? 

An alcoholic is someone who is addicted to drinking alcohol. Someone is considered an alcoholic when they drink above a specific threshold provided by the CDC each day or week. For men, that threshold is more than 4 standard drinks per day or 14 standard drinks per week. On the other hand, the numbers for women are 3 standard drinks per day and 7 standard drinks per week. Alcoholics feel a strong and uncomfortable urge to drink and experience withdrawal from alcohol when they don’t drink.

Binge drinking is also alcoholic behavior. Binge drinking occurs when someone drinks several drinks rapidly to feel drunk faster. Many people will binge drink before going out to bars to drink more alcohol. Someone who drinks this way will exceed the limit on standard drinks rapidly.

What are the Types of Alcoholics? 

There are several types of alcoholics. The types of alcoholics are broken down into subtypes. We list these subtypes below.

  • Young adult subtype
  • Functional subtype
  • Intermediate familial subtype
  • Young antisocial subtype
  • Chronic severe subtype

The types of alcoholics determine how an alcoholic behaves. Some subtypes are also restricted by age. For example, most functional alcoholics are older and young subtypes stop being young after ages 20-30.

Do Alcoholics Talk to Themselves?

Yes, alcoholics will talk to themselves but this isn’t unique to alcoholics. Most people talk to themselves, so it’s not uncommon.

Can You Be an Alcoholic at 21? 

Yes, you can be an alcoholic at 21 years old. In fact, you can be an alcoholic at any age. Teenage alcoholism and youth alcoholism are major problems in the United States, even if the legal drinking age is 21. Children and adolescents get their hands on alcohol by using fake identification or tapping the shoulders of strangers. Some alcoholic parents may also let their children drink or siblings may provide children with alcohol.

What do Alcoholics Drink? 

Alcoholics drink any type of alcohol. Some alcoholics drink beer and others may consume wine or liquor. Some studies show that people who drink more liquor are more likely to become alcoholics. More research is necessary for this area to form any conclusions about the type of alcohol.

How do Alcoholics Behave?

Alcoholics may behave like people who aren’t addicts when they’re not drinking alcohol. However, there are a few behaviors that alcoholics share when they’re sober and drunk. For example, many alcoholics will joke about knowing they’re an alcoholic without seeking treatment for their condition. An alcoholic may feel that addiction is not as bad if they know they’re an addict. 

There are many examples like this and we list several more below.

  • Alcoholics will hangout in bars more often
  • An alcoholic will make friends with people who like drinking
  • Most alcoholics will stay up late or come home late
  • Alcoholics will make messes when they’re drinking and forget to clean them up
  • An alcoholic may get irritated or angry faster than someone who isn’t an addict

These are only some of the behaviors that alcoholics exhibit.

Are Alcoholics Toxic People? 

Alcoholics are toxic people who will often harm themselves and the people around them. However, some alcoholics may be less toxic than others. Regardless of how friendly an alcoholic is, that doesn’t mean their behavior is acceptable. Alcoholism always increases the risk of death, illness, and losing friends.

Why Do Alcoholics Put Other People Down?

Alcoholics will put other people down to lift themselves up. An alcoholic may comment about someone to make themselves feel better about their situation. Alcoholics may also put people down to make them feel bad about not drinking with them. Overall, it depends on the alcohol. In fact, alcoholism causes mood changes, so they may be going through a behavioral episode.

Can You Trust an Alcoholic? 

No, you can’t always trust an alcoholic. Alcoholics are trustworthy about some things but you shouldn’t trust them when they quit drinking. Only trust an alcoholic when they quit drinking if they’re going to support groups, attending meetings, or going through alcohol rehab. Otherwise, alcoholics may be lying to you.

Do Alcoholics Ignore You?

Yes, alcoholics will ignore you in some cases. Whether or not an alcoholic ignores depends on a few factors. Alcoholics may ignore you when they make new friends who drink with them or if they’re hiding their alcoholism from you.

How to Drink Socially for an Alcoholic? 

Alcoholics should never drink socially. Drinking socially as an alcoholic increases the risk of relapse and becoming addicted to alcohol again. There are only some cases where drinking socially as an alcoholic is acceptable. These include people who are following the Sinclair Method who take their medication and people who drink non-alcoholic drinks. Otherwise, social drinking is not acceptable and will cause relapse.

How to Know if Someone is an Alcoholic

There are several signs and symptoms of alcoholism that may show you someone is an alcoholic. However, these signs may not be the same for everyone.

We list the most common signs and symptoms of alcoholism below.

  • Frequently drinking
  • Hiding their drinking
  • Flushing
  • Dry or cracked skin
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Yellow eyes or skin that’s caused by liver damage
  • You can smell the alcohol on them
  • Cravings or urges to drink
  • Not being able to stop drinking
  • It takes someone more drinks to get drunk
  • Someone can’t sleep well or wakes up tired because of alcohol consumption

These are the most common signs that someone is an alcoholic or suffering from alcoholism.

Can You Tell an Alcoholic by Looking at Them?

No, you can’t tell if someone is an alcoholic by looking at them. You may notice things like flushing, wrinkles, or other types of bodily damage, but that doesn’t mean it comes from alcoholism. Plus, most of the damage caused by alcohol comes from inside the body.

How to Know if Your Husband or Wife is an Alcoholic?

There are a few signs that point to your husband or wife being an alcoholic. There are some variations between alcoholic men and women but the signs are usually similar.

We list the signs of an alcoholic husband or wife below.

  • They’re drinking more than they should
  • Your spouse needs more alcohol to get drunk or feel “Buzzed.”
  • Withdrawal symptoms are evident when they don’t drink alcohol for 12 to 24 hours
  • Your spouse craves their next alcoholic beverage
  • They seem like they’re constantly hungover
  • Hobbies are starting to become less important to your husband or wife
  • Your husband or wife doesn’t care that they’re drinking is ruining the relationship

These are the best ways to determine if your husband or wife is an alcoholic.

Why Do Alcoholics Hide Their Empty Bottles

Alcoholics hide their empty bottles to prevent someone from catching them drinking. When someone hides empty bottles of alcohol it’s often a sign that they’re an alcoholic or on the path to becoming one. Alcoholics may also hide bottles to prevent fights with spouses, children, or parents. When you start finding empty bottles in hidden places it’s important to have an open conversation with them.

Are Alcoholics Messy?

Yes, most alcoholics are messy. It’s not uncommon to find empty alcohol bottles around an alcoholic’s home. Furthermore, you may find food wrappers, cigarettes, and other drugs around the home of an alcoholic. That said, not all alcoholics are messy. At the end of the day, it depends on the person.

What to Do When an Alcoholic Goes Missing?

Studies from several large surveys show that addicts are more likely to go missing than people who don’t drink or do drugs. There are a few things you can do when an alcoholic goes missing but the most important thing to do is avoid panic. We’ll take you through some steps below to help you with an alcoholic who has gone missing.

  1. Don’t assume they’ll return
  2. File a police report or missing persons report
  3. Prepare a plan for a long investigation
  4. Keep hope alive and don’t panic

1. Don’t Assume They’ll Return

Never assume that an alcoholic will return home. Even alcoholics who go missing for several days at a time may not return home. Assuming that they’ll return home may make it impossible to find them later. Unfortunately, the longer you wait the harder it gets to find a missing alcoholic.

2. File a Police Report or Missing Persons Report

File a missing persons report with the police the second you realize an alcoholic is missing. You don’t have to wait and a report can be filed almost immediately. Getting the police involved sooner rather than later may save their life.

3. Prepare a Plan for a Long Investigation

When someone is missing it, especially an addict, always prepare for an investigation that will take time. Alcoholics may end up with people they don’t know, in different states, or even in derelict buildings. Therefore, it’s important to plan for a long investigation. We recommend aiding the police when necessary and being open with the police about their whereabouts.

4. Keep Hope Alive and Don’t Panic

Always keep hope alive when you’re searching for an addict. Addicts go missing but that doesn’t mean they won’t come home. Even if the individual hasn’t been found for weeks or months, keeping hope alive is important for the survival of their case. It’s also important to grieve whenever you feel it’s necessary to not let your emotions get the best of you.

Can You Report an Alcoholic? 

Yes, you can report an alcoholic to the police or even to some addiction treatment centers. Reporting an alcoholic may result in them getting the help they need, so it’s not a bad idea to have an intervention if they’re not listening to you. Also, you can report alcoholics missing if they don’t turn up.

Why do Alcoholics Go Missing?

Alcoholics may go missing because they’ve wandered off, died, or got into trouble with the police. Because there are many reasons for alcoholics to go missing, it’s important to assume they won’t be back and to file a police report immediately.

What Programs are Available for Alcoholics?

Alcoholics don’t have to recover from alcoholism alone. In fact, alcoholics have a better chance of recovering when they have support from treatment centers, friends, and family. Programs also differ in intensity.

What are the Treatment Options for Alcoholics? 

Alcoholics have access to several treatment options. Treatment options consist of inpatient alcohol rehab, outpatient alcohol rehab, and much more. Most treatment options will include a combination of therapy and medication to help someone recover. severe cases of alcoholism will require partial hospitalization to monitor patients to prevent conditions like delirium tremens.

Below we list the treatment options for alcoholics.

Always consult with your doctor or another healthcare provider before committing to alcoholism treatment.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous? 

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is a treatment method for alcoholism that consists of a support group. It’s a support group that helps people recover from alcoholism spiritually by following the 12-Step principles. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Bill W. and Bob Smith as an alternative to alcohol rehab. 

Many people who complete alcohol rehab programs and want to remain sober will also participate in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Peer support groups are a great way to recover, especially when you have an accountability partner like a sponsor.

What are the Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous are support groups that are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous but with a few differences. Many alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous focus on treating alcoholism without spiritual teachings, while others focus on online support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous and the alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous are equally as effective, so it comes down to what’s best for you.

How Do You Stop Someone From Becoming an Alcoholic?

It’s not easy to stop someone from becoming an alcoholic but there are some ways you can help a friend or family member. The biggest thing to remember is that you don’t want to give them ultimatums or try to force them to change. Instead, you want to show them that they have a problem with evidence. In other words, don’t lead with emotion and lead with data.

Below we list some tips to help you deal with an alcoholic friend or family member.

  • Be open with them and communicate. It even helps if you share some weaknesses with them to build trust.
  • Make them feel comfortable to engage with you about potential underlying causes of alcohol consumption
  • Give them concrete evidence of situations where drinking was a problem (staying out too late, drunk driving, anger).
  • Never give them an ultimatum
  • Recommend treatment options

Some alcohol rehabs also have intervention programs you can try. However, we always recommend coming from a place of trust and caring first. Remember, it’s never easy to admit to being an alcoholic.

What are Some Other Resources for Alcoholics?

Several other resources are also available for alcoholics. Treatment options like alcohol rehab are always the best option but companion options are also available. Good companion options for alcoholism recovery are types of media like books, movies, and podcasts that tell a powerful story about addiction and how to overcome it.

We recommend the following types of media to aid in your alcoholism recovery.

When Should You Leave an Alcoholic?

There is no right or wrong answer regarding when you should leave an alcoholic. For some people, it’s reasonable to leave an alcoholic after a few weeks, but for others, it may take years. Leaving an alcoholic usually comes down to how long you’ve known them, whether or not you love them, and if they’re in recovery. That said, we recommend moving on when someone’s alcoholic behaviors begin to make you feel sick or wear you out.

Why do People Fall in Love with Alcoholics? 

People fall in love with alcoholics for many reasons. Some people fall in love with alcoholics because they don’t know the person is an alcoholic. In other cases, people fall in love with alcoholics because they’re also alcoholics or enjoy drinking. There are some rare cases where people fall in love with alcoholics because they want to help or “Fix” their partner. Regardless of the reason, it’s always important to find help for an alcoholic.

Do Alcoholics Love Themselves? 

Some alcoholics love themselves, while others don’t. Many alcoholics are addicted to alcohol because they’re unhappy with their lives but others may enjoy binge drinking to have fun. Therefore, whether or not alcoholics love themselves depends on who you ask. One clear thing, though, is that the majority of alcoholics don’t love themselves. This is especially true for people with late-stage alcoholism.

How to Leave a Recovering Alcoholic?

To leave a recovering alcoholic there are a few things you need to prepare for because you want to approach the situation with sensitivity and respect.

Below we list some tips to help you leave a recovering alcoholic.

  • Be honest: It’s essential to communicate your feelings honestly and directly with your partner. Let them know how you feel and why you are considering leaving.
  • Be supportive: It’s crucial to show your partner support in their recovery journey. Make sure you let them know that you care about them and that you want them to succeed in their recovery.
  • Be safe: If you are leaving due to issues of abuse or violence, it’s essential to prioritize your safety. Seek help from a domestic violence hotline or shelter if necessary.
  • Take care of yourself: Leaving a relationship can be emotionally challenging. Be sure to take care of yourself by seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist. Self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or journaling can also help you cope with the stress and emotions of this situation.

Remember, leaving a relationship is never easy, and it’s okay to feel sad or guilty. Ultimately, it’s essential to prioritize your own needs and safety when you’re leaving an alcoholic partner or someone in recovery.

Should I Give Up on My Alcoholic Boyfriend/Girlfriend? 

It’s hard to know if you should give up on an alcoholic boyfriend or girlfriend. That said, we have some warning signs to consider that will show when it’s time to give up on a boyfriend/girlfriend. We list these factors below.

  • You feel unsafe around your boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Your mental health is declining or being neglected
  • If you have children, you notice that they’re unhappy
  • They’ve gone through alcohol rehab but nothing changes or they keep relapsing
  • Your alcoholic spouse doesn’t want to get better
  • It’s hard to take care of yourself and your kids
  • Other people have told you to move on or leave; friends, parents, family members, friends and family of the spouse

When you begin to notice these factors piling up it’s a good time to leave your alcoholic boyfriend/girlfriend.

Examples of Alcoholics in Popular Culture

Alcoholics in popular culture are not uncommon. While many alcoholics are glorified on television or act in strange ways, there is something we can learn about alcoholism when it’s depicted in artworks like movies and television shows. We’ll take you through a few television and movie alcoholics to see what we can learn from them.

Why Does Lip Become an Alcoholic?

Lip Gallagher is a character on the television show Shameless. Lip becomes an alcoholic for a few reasons but the main issue is that he has a family history of alcoholism. According to the CDC, people who have a family of alcoholism are more likely to become alcoholics. Unfortunately, alcoholism is hereditary. While that doesn’t mean someone has to become an alcoholic, the events of the show and Lip’s decline in mental health cause him to abuse alcohol. Therefore, Lip likely inherits the alcoholism gene from his father, Frank, who is also an alcoholic on the show Shameless.

Was Nusrat an Alcoholic? 

Nusrat was a Pakistani singer and songwriter who came out with many famous songs. In fact, the New York Times considers him to be the best qawwali singer of his generation. Nusrat passed away at the young age of 48 years old but not because of alcoholism. He was not an alcoholic but did consume alcohol sometimes. His death was the result of kidney issues.

Does House Become an Alcoholic?

House is an addict and an alcoholic in the show House. However, in season 6 House does overcome his addiction. House overcomes his addiction by going through detox, which is challenging because of his addiction to alcohol and painkillers.