Do I have an alcohol problem?

If you’re worried about whether or not you might have a problem with drinking, there are various tests which are commonly applied by therapists and other health care professionals. Two screening measures which are commonly used are the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the CAGE questionnaire. The AUDIT asks ten questions, concerning questions around the amount you drink as well as the impacts of your drinking behaviours, whereas the CAGE questionnaire focuses more on your subjective understanding of the impact of your drinking on yourself and those around you.

I prefer the CAGE questionnaire as, when I was a drinker, I found tests like the AUDIT test quite overwhelming. Simply answering the questions made me realise that, yes, I did have a problem! It didn’t necessarily make me want to do anything about it though. I remember the first time I took a test along those lines – it was when I was about 20 and it was featured in a newspaper article – and at the end, my score was as high as it could be for ‘Do you have an alcohol addiction?’. At that age, I found it quite amusing that I’d scored so high – I was a full on drinker! As I got older, and the addiction was less fun, I took similar tests over the years – always aceing the ‘heavy drinker’ score. They made me feel bad, but that was about all. Is that to say that the AUDIT test is bad? No – but I can see it’s limitations for some people.

Instead of bomarding you with yet another questionnaire, I’m going to go through some of the questions on these forms, one by one. Instead of skimming over a list of questions and feeling overwhelmed in the process, perhaps you can take a few moments to consider the question I’m posing. The question isn’t designed to judge you or categorise you – it’s just something to have a ponder over for the rest of the day.

The question – taken from the CAGE questionnaire – is, ‘Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?’. Instead of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, let’s really look at this question (if you’ve got a pen and paper, you could write a list – or take some notes on your phone!). I’m going to expand this question out a bit.

What incidents have contributed to your feeling you should cut down your alcohol intake?

What feelings have contributed to your feeling that you should cut down your alcohol intake?

How do you feel you would benefit by cutting down your alcohol?

When you think about cutting down your drinking, what is happening in your body (if you can, take a moment or two to close your eyes and just focus in or how you’re feeling RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT).

This one question, ‘Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?’ is a huge question which demands way more than a yes or no. Don’t rush the question. Let it sit with you. Note what comes up for you. Not the positives and the negative feelings which you experience as you ponder this question. I’ll be looking at the other questions in both the CAGE and AUDIT questionnaires in future blogs and I’d encourage you to go through, one by one, to address the question, ‘Do I have an alcohol problem?’. fff

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