Very few things in this world are black and white; your fitness level, your mental health, and your political ideologies all fall along a spectrum. The same goes for your alcohol use, yet many people don’t see it that way.

Unfortunately, our societal understanding of a “drinking problem” is very polarized. In the eyes of society, you either have a drinking problem...or you don’t. However, the societal acceptance of alcohol has blurred the line between what it means to drink responsibly and drink recklessly. This creates a grey area of drinking that lies between hitting rock bottom and being a functional drinker. The issue with this is that even the definitions of “rock bottom” and “functional drinker” are arbitrary and vary from person to person. One person’s idea of a responsible drinker could be the same as another person’s idea of someone who is out of control.

The term “alcoholic” often perpetuates this black and white thinking. It’s important to remember that there is no chart or test that can determine whether or not you are an “alcoholic” or have an Alcohol Use Disorder. Sure, you can take those “Am I an alcoholic?” quizzes on Google, but even those often end with the phrase, “do not consider this a proper diagnosis.”

However, these quizzes and tests can be a good benchmark for determining your drinking habits, or for determining if you fit the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder. But, it’s important to remember that the decision to quit drinking is entirely up to you and no matter what the internet tells you, you decide whether or not alcohol is serving you and if you want to make a change.

The point is, you don’t need to identify as an alcoholic to want to cut back or stop drinking alcohol. You don’t even have to hit “rock bottom” or be at your “lowest low”. You are allowed to question your relationship with alcohol at any time and make the necessary changes that will help you feel your best.

Now that we understand how drinking habits lie on a spectrum, it’s important to realize that sobriety lies on a spectrum as well. There is no one, all-encompassing definition of “sobriety.” Some people think that being sober means abstaining from any and all mind-altering substances (including antidepressants and antipsychotic medication). While others call themselves sober if they are abstaining from alcohol, but not other drugs like prescribed medications or even marijuana. The point being- the amount of definitions are endless and sobriety can mean whatever you want it to mean as long as you are living a lifestyle that keeps you happy, healthy and safe.

Don’t let the world’s polarized idea of what it means to have a “drinking problem'' or to be “sober” deter you from questioning your relationship with alcohol. You are allowed to question any and all actions you take, at any time; whether that means total abstinence, moderation, or harm reduction. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you deserve informed consent to make the decision that is best for you.