Have you ever found yourself Googling questions like “am I an alcoholic?” or “do I have a drinking problem?” late at night?

You’re certainly not the first person to do so, and you won't be the last. Perhaps that query even landed you here! But here’s the thing: this might not be the right question for you.

When our relationship with alcohol progresses to the point where we begin to question it—to wonder if we have a “problem,” if we’re an alcoholic, if we need to quit—there’s a decent chance that it has started to impact our lives in a negative way. After all, alcohol is an addictive substance that alters our mental state.

But the problem that so many of us run up against when we start those late-night Google searches is that alcohol use, especially problematic alcohol use, lies on a spectrum. It’s rarely black and white: people who can drink alcohol and people who cannot drink alcohol. And yet, our societal understanding or “problem drinking” still remains very black and white.

The truth is, terms like “alcoholic” and “drinking problem” have pretty arbitrary definitions. There are certainly screening tools that will tell you if the amount of alcohol you are consuming is harmful to your physical body, and we have markers for “binge drinking,” “heavy drinking,” and so on, but sometimes the line between being “fine” and “not fine” is a little blurry. Another person’s understanding of “fine” might be vastly different than yours.

So instead, what if we started asking questions about how alcohol is showing up in our lives like, “is alcohol shrinking or expanding my life?” or “am I living up to my full potential with alcohol in my life?”

These questions take our alcohol use out of the context of clinical definitions and into how it makes us feel.

As human beings, we have incredibly intelligent inner guiding systems that help us know what is aligned with our purpose and what is not. If we’re asking these questions—if we have a “problem,” if alcohol is harming our lives, if alcohol is preventing us from showing up to our highest potential—then that inner guidance system is giving us a really good clue.

Next time you find yourself considering your alcohol use in those black and white terms we’re so familiar with, see how it feels to plug into that inner knowing, instead.

Here at Reframe, we help you reframe the way you think & drink. Unlock the highest version of you with Reframe Thrive Coaching.