Curious How Mindful Drinking Can Help You Thrive? 🎉🙌
Click Here
A person contemplating while looking at a wine glass
Drinking Habits

I Drink Every Night. Am I an Alcoholic?

November 20, 2023
19 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
November 20, 2023
19 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
November 20, 2023
19 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
November 20, 2023
19 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
November 20, 2023
19 min read

It starts slowly. First you might find yourself going out every weekend and having a couple of drinks. Then you start planning your Fridays and Saturdays in advance, making sure that wherever you end up going, there’ll be booze there. Soon, your weekends are starting on Thursdays, Tequila Tuesday becomes a thing — and before you know it, alcohol is part of your daily routine.

Many of us have found ourselves in this position, and, inevitably, at some point someone (often our own inner voice) asks the dreaded question: I drink every night — am I an alcoholic?

Part 1. What Is Considered Alcoholism?

The term “alcoholic” has a lot of baggage, and the term isn’t always clearly defined. That why many professionals are shifting to alcohol use disorder (AUD) instead. Clinically speaking, AUD refers to a chronic brain-based disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative social, occupational, or health consequences.

What is considered alcoholism (or AUD) by doctors and scientists? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), here’s the criteria a doctor would use:

  • Loss of control. Drinking more or for longer periods than we intend to is a classic sign — our willpower seems to have gone out the window.
  • Unsuccessful efforts to cut back. Repeated unsuccessful attempts to reduce or quit alcohol our consumption despite genuine desire to do so is one of the most painful and frustrating symptoms.
  • Time spent on alcohol. Spending a significant amount of time obtaining alcohol, consuming it, or recovering from its effects can be an indicator. 
  • Cravings. A strong, persistent need or urge to drink that distracts us from other tasks or makes us feel restless is one of the classic signs. 
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities. Repeated failures to fulfill major responsibilities at home, work, or school due to drinking often come with the progression of AUD.
  • Interpersonal issues. Continued drinking even when it harms relationships and causes or worsens social problems is common. This can mean conflicts with family, friends, or colleagues directly related to alcohol use.
  • Foregoing activities. Hobbies, family gatherings, and plans with friends falling by the wayside due to alcohol use is a red flag.
  • Risky behaviors. Drinking in situations when it's physically dangerous, such as driving under the influence or mixing alcohol with prescription meds, is often a wake-up call.
  • Increasing tolerance. Needing more alcohol to achieve the desired effect or finding that the same amount doesn't have as strong of an effect anymore is one of the most surefire signs.
  • Withdrawal. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea, sweating, shaking, irritability, anxiety, or depression when alcohol effects wear off) or drinking more to avoid these symptoms is a big sign. 
  • Persistence despite problems. Continuing to drink even when we know it’s jeopardizing our health and quality of life is a hallmark of AUD (and one that can be the most difficult for others to understand).

To make an AUD diagnosis, doctors usually look for a certain number of the above signs:

  • Mild: 2 to 3 of these symptoms are present
  • Moderate: 4 to 5 symptoms are present
  • Severe: 6 or more symptoms are present

Here’s the key takeaway from all this: AUD exists on a spectrum. It's not a matter of "having it" or "not having it", but rather, "to what extent?" Knowing where we stand can be the first step towards seeking help or making a change.

Why Do We Turn to Alcohol Nightly?

Part 2. If I Drink Every Night, Am I an Alcoholic?

Based on the definition, simply drinking every night doesn't necessarily mean someone has AUD. But if there are negative consequences tied to it and an inability to cut down, it's worth exploring further.

Why Do We Turn to Alcohol Nightly?

Several other factors are at play when it comes to nightly drinking. Here are a few common ones:

  • "I feel happier with a drink." Alcohol stimulates the release of dopamine, our primary pleasure and reward neurotransmitter. When we drink regularly, especially in enjoyable environments or situations, it doesn’t take long for our brain to latch on to a pattern: alcohol equals pleasure. Over time, this link strengthens, making the ritual of a nightly drink feel rewarding. The brain comes to expect and crave it, pushing us towards that evening drink.

    But here's the kicker: as we continue to drink, it might take more alcohol to achieve the same dopamine hit. It’s a tricky cycle that can quickly escalate, making it difficult to feel happy without booze.
  • "It melts my stress away." Life is riddled with stress — from work, personal challenges, and global events — and alcohol can seem like a quick escape. As a depressant, it momentarily mutes the buzz of anxiety and stress. This can set a pattern: after a challenging day, the brain craves relief, and alcohol might be the go-to solution that temporarily turns off the negativity. Unfortunately, however, it mutes all the good stuff as well: authentic pleasure, inspiration, and connection with others. Besides, the stress always comes back — usually stronger than ever. 
  • "It's just part of my evening ritual." We are creatures of habit, and consistency is the glue that makes habits stick. What might start as an occasional glass of wine with dinner can slowly morph into a nightly ritual. The sensory aspects — the clink of ice, the swirl and smell of liquid, the fizz of a can opening — can become cues that signal relaxation time.
  • "I need booze to socialize." The need to “fit in” or “loosen up” in social settings can feel like a compelling reason to pour that drink. If our social circle often meets over drinks or if we’re surrounded by a culture that equates socializing with drinking, our daily drinking habits get fueled by a powerful force that acts at a subconscious level.

    Once again, though, it’s a double-edged sword — by relying on alcohol to socialize, we keep ourselves from developing social skills that can serve us throughout life and are ultimately missing out on authentic connections. Many people find themselves looking back on a period of time — maybe years or even decades — of feeling like a social butterfly only to find that they have nothing to show for it in terms of lasting connections.
  • "It numbs my emotions." When faced with challenging emotions or memories, some people find solace in alcohol's numbing effects. The temporary escape from sadness, loneliness, or anxiety can make alcohol a go-to emotional band-aid — one that ultimately fails in the long run.
  • "It helps me sleep better." A common misconception is that alcohol helps with sleep. If we’re under the impression that it's improving our sleep, it's easy to see why we might continue with the nightly ritual. However, while alcohol might help us drift off faster, the quality of that sleep is often compromised.

Is Drinking Daily Harmful?

It depends on the amount. That said, the most recent guidelines say that no amount of alcohol is actually “safe,” so a better answer is that it’s very likely harmful to some extent, but might be a matter of degree.

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined differently worldwide, but often it's considered to be up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks for men as it is in the U.S.

If we’re talking about chronic heavy drinking, however, the facts are undeniable — it can lead to numerous health issues, including liver disease, cardiovascular issues, and an increased risk of accidents. Moreover, if drinking causes distress or harm in any area of our life, it's a sign to reassess.

Chronic heavy drinking poses several health risks:

  • Liver damage. One of the primary concerns is the risk to the liver. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, and consistent heavy drinking can lead to conditions like fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
  • Heart health. While some argue that moderate drinking might have cardiovascular benefits, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, cardiomyopathy, and an increased risk of stroke.
  • Brain health. Chronic heavy drinking can affect the brain, impairing coordination, memory, mood regulation, and increasing the risk of dementia in the long term.
  • Digestive issues. Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach, leading to gastritis and interfering with the stomach's ability to produce acid necessary for digestion.
  • Weakened immune system. Regular heavy drinking can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections.

Part 3. Breakdown by Bottle: Daily Consumption of Different Types of Alcohol

Finally, it's important to recognize that not all alcoholic drinks are created equal. The type of alcohol — whether it’s beer, wine, or hard liquor — can influence both the quantity and the effects on our health when it comes to daily drinking. Let's explore these distinctions:

"A Cold One Every Evening": Drinking Beer Every Day
  • What's inside? A standard beer (12 ounces) generally contains about 5% alcohol. But there are many beer varieties — ranging from lighter lagers to potent IPAs — with varying alcohol contents.
  • Health implications. Regular beer drinkers might take in more liquid than those consuming wine or spirits, leading them to feel full or bloated. There's also a risk of weight gain, given beer's calorie content. 
"A Glass of Red to Wind Down": Drinking Wine Every Day
  • What's inside? A standard glass of wine (5 ounces) has an alcohol content ranging from 12% to 15%, depending on the type of wine.
  • Health implications. Drinking more than moderate amounts can negate any benefits that are often cited when it comes to moderate wine drinking, contributing to health issues such as liver problems, increased cancer risk, and sleep disruptions. Additionally, wine can be acidic, leading to dental problems and heartburn.
"A Splash of Spirits to Cap the Night": Drinking Hard Liquor Every Day
  • What's inside? Hard liquor or spirits such as whiskey, vodka, or rum have a much higher alcohol content. A standard drink (1.5 ounces) ranges from 40% to 50% alcohol, though this varies.
  • Health implications. Given its potency, it's easier to go overboard with hard liquor unintentionally. Regularly drinking high quantities can lead to severe liver damage, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system. Moreover, mixers used in cocktails can add hidden sugars and calories, leading to weight gain and metabolic disruptions.

7 Action Steps To Reassess and Regain Control

Alright, knowledge in hand, what's next? If you're thinking of cutting back or quitting, here are seven science-backed steps:

  • Track your drinks. Begin by logging every drink you have for a week. This gives you a concrete overview and can spotlight patterns. (Reframe is a great place to start!)
  • Set clear limits. If you decide to continue drinking, set a limit. Maybe you decide to drink only on weekends or specific occasions.
  • Find alternatives. Replace the ritual. If you usually unwind with a drink, try herbal tea, a warm bath, or a short walk.
  • Engage in mindfulness. Mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of why you're reaching for a drink. Is it out of habit, boredom, or stress? Understanding your triggers can help address the root cause.
  • Seek social support. Talk to friends or family about your goal to cut back or quit. Having someone to encourage you can make a difference.
  • Consult a professional. If you're finding it challenging, don't hesitate to consult with a therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction.
  • Celebrate small wins. Every day you stick to your plan, give yourself credit. Positive reinforcement can go a long way.

Summing Up

"I drink every night, am I an alcoholic?" is a brave question to ask. While nightly drinking alone can’t serve as an AUD diagnosis, it's important to look at the broader context. How is it affecting your life, health, and relationships? With understanding and actionable steps, you can navigate your relationship with alcohol in a way that aligns with your well-being. Remember, each day is an opportunity, and it's never too late to make a change!

Summary FAQs

1. Why might someone drink alcohol daily?

Reasons range from seeking neurochemical rewards and stress relief, adhering to routines, social influences, emotional coping, to misconceptions about sleep benefits.

2. Is daily drinking harmful?

The occasional drink might not pose significant risks, but consistent daily consumption, especially in larger quantities, has a spectrum of potential health implications, both physically and mentally.

3.  How does alcohol stimulate pleasure?

Alcohol triggers the release of dopamine, our primary pleasure neurotransmitter. This creates a sense of reward and joy, leading our brain to associate pleasure with alcohol consumption.

4. Does drinking alcohol actually reduce stress?

While alcohol can offer a temporary sense of relief from stress due to its depressant nature, this is short-lived. Relying on it for stress relief can lead to increased tolerance and potential dependence.

5. Is drinking wine daily better than beer or hard liquor?

Each type of alcoholic beverage has its own set of considerations, and overconsumption of any type has its drawbacks. 

6. What's the risk with using alcohol to help me sleep?

While alcohol might induce drowsiness and help you fall asleep faster initially, it often disrupts sleep patterns and reduces sleep quality. Relying on it for better sleep can be counterproductive in the long run.

7. How can I identify if I might have an alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

AUD is diagnosed based on specific criteria like an inability to limit drinking, spending a lot of time drinking or feeling sick from aftereffects, and continued alcohol use despite problems it causes, among others. If you're concerned, it's essential to seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

Ready To Leave Your Nightly Alcohol Habit Behind? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Our Editorial Standards
At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
Our articles undergo frequent updates to present the newest scientific research and changes in expert consensus in an easily understandable and implementable manner.
Table of Contents
Call to action for signing up reframe app
Relevant Articles
No items found.
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
5 Star Reviews
Downloads (as of 2023)
a bottle and a glass
Drinks Eliminated

Scan the QR code to get started!

Reframe supports you in reducing alcohol consumption and enhancing your well-being.

Ready To Meet the Best Version of Yourself?
3,250,000+ Downloads (as of 2023)
31,364 Reviews
500,000,000+ Drinks eliminated
Try Reframe for 7 Days Free! Scan to download the App