I would like to start this off by saying that I believe one hundred percent that how anyone identifies with (or without) regard to alcohol is a personal decision. And I respect each person's right to choose what works or doesn't work for them. My core belief is that recovery is a WIDE ASS ROAD - there is room for all of us, and it is not a one-size-fits-all deal. Live and let live, love for all.
That being said, lately I have been reading different pieces discussing the term "alcoholic" as a way of identifying - and I am learning that there are a lot of people out there who reject this label, do not identify with this label, or are against any type of label whatsoever. It is fascinating to me that all of us in recovery start from common ground (alcohol was negatively affecting us - I think we can all agree upon that?), but end up in so many different places when we define what that means for us and what works for us in terms of healing / recovery.
I am definitely an alcoholic. I have the disease of alcoholism. What that means for me is that I cannot drink in safety. Until I found recovery, I had both a physical craving and a mental obsession with booze, and there was no power on earth that was going to stop me from getting my fix. No amount of booze was ever enough. I always wanted more. At the end of my drinking, I was physically addicted. But it didn't start out that way. Outwardly, my drinking was "socially acceptable" for a really long time. And I wasn't physically addicted until the last year or two. I drank for 16 years before I got to that point. BUT I believe I drank alcoholically from the very start. I drank to shut off the noise in my head, to numb my feelings, when I was happy, when I was angry, when I was upset, when I was bored, because I didn't know what else to do, or because I didn't want to do anything else.
I have been in recovery (clean and sober and working a program of emotional sobriety) for almost six years now. But even so, I am still an alcoholic in my thinking, in my core. Example: I have not even wanted to drink since I have been sober, but I am still keenly aware of any alcohol around me. I still get anxious and borderline annoyed when I'm at dinner with a "sipper" (you know, the person who nurses the same drink for a full hour - WHAT EVEN IS THAT?!). Will that ever go away? I have no clue. It doesn't run my life like it used to, though, not even close. Another example: I still have the disease of more, whether it be with food, shopping, working, being lazy. My natural state is seeing and feeling only black or white, all or nothing. Moderation is just not in my DNA, even today. Which I have to keep an eye on.
So for me, other terms, such as problem drinker, gray-area drinker, unhealthy habit drinker, just don't cut it. This wasn't simply a lifestyle or health change for me. It was a life-and-death decision. So, yes, I definitely identify as an alcoholic. And there is not a damn thing wrong with that. I do not think it reflects poorly on me. ALCOHOLIC IS NOT A BAD WORD. In fact, today I believe that my recovery is my greatest asset - an asset I would not have, but for my alcoholism. And this is why I write and choose to recover out loud. To smash the stigma surrounding words like "alcoholic" or "addict" or "addiction" or "sober." And to let people know that it is okay if you do not choose to identify as an alcoholic, but it is also okay if you DO choose to identify this way. It's not a bad word. I am proud of all of me, even the alcoholic yuk bits that got me to where I am today.