What is the Difference Between Hard Drinking and Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a destructive disease that entirely overtakes one’s mental, physical, and spiritual health. It reaches a point where a person is entirely unable to stop drinking despite any negative consequences they may face. It is difficult to determine at what point a person’s drinking crosses the threshold into alcoholism, but there are a variety of warning signs that may indicate a person is suffering from alcoholism.
There are three major types of drinkers: moderate drinkers, hard drinkers, and those who are suffering from alcoholism. Moderate drinkers can take it or leave it; they don’t feel a strong desire for intoxication in the same way as hard drinkers or those who suffer from alcoholism. Hard drinkers, on the other hand, may engage in risky drinking and alcohol abuse. They may even be impaired both physically and mentally from their drinking.
The main text of Alcoholics Anonymous, generally referred to as the “Big Book”, presents the major difference between a hard drinker and a person with alcoholism: “If a sufficiently strong reason– ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor– becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.” Therefore, it is even possible for a hard drinker to show signs of physical dependence to alcohol without suffering from alcoholism.
The central characteristic of alcoholism is an entire lack of control despite consequences. Ill health, falling in love, changing environment, or being warned by a doctor will have little effect on a person who is suffering from alcoholism. There is a difference between physical dependence and addiction or alcoholism. For example, a person may become physically dependent on a prescribed opioid medication without suffering from the disease of addiction. Likewise, a person can become physically dependent on alcohol without suffering from alcoholism. More likely than not, however, physical dependence is indicative that a person is suffering from addiction or alcoholism.
If a person is unsure whether or not they are suffering from alcoholism, they can look at their relationship with alcohol. Physical dependence is a strong indicator, as are consequences and previous failed attempts to curb their consumption. Consequences, however, do not have to be external. Certainly legal, financial, and personal problems indicate that we are suffering from alcoholism, but so too does our emotional health and sense of wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to look at how drinking has affected our personal and spiritual well-being to determine whether we need to seek help. Yet, if we are in the position where we are asking ourselves whether or not our drinking has progressed into alcoholism, it most likely has and we should seek help immediately.

Your story doesn’t have to be one of pain and suffering as a result of alcoholism. You can begin to treat your mind, body, and spirit by making the courageous decision to seek help now. Oceanfront Recovery, a modern and effective Substance Abuse Disorder and Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Center in the heart of beautiful Laguna Beach, is staffed with a passionate team of clinicians and care providers to create the perfect environment for you or your loved one to begin the process of healing from addiction and alcoholism. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777