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What is Alcoholic Thinking?

The NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) reports that more than 6% of Americans aged 18 and older suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD). In addition, research on individuals between the ages of 12 and 20 indicates that one in every five people is grappling with this issue.


Among those who are 18 to 25, two out of every five people report binge drinking. However, many individuals mistakenly believe that alcohol does not carry the same risk of abuse as other substances since it isn't subject to the same level of regulation.

Alcoholic Thinking

If you've ever attended an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting, you know the extensive vocabulary of catchphrases used by those in sobriety. One of these sayings uses the word "insanity" to describe the signs of the condition. Although addiction does not make people crazy, it might make it challenging to consider their actions rationally.


Contrary to popular belief, most alcoholics are capable of high levels of cognitive function. Alcoholic thinking refers to the thought patterns of drinkers who are still high functioning and haven't hit "rock bottom."


AA meetings often stress that drinking and alcoholic thinking may lead to prison time, hospitalization, and even death if left unchecked. There are a few general characteristics of alcoholic thinking that are worth noting:


  • Thinking in terms of "all or nothing."

  • The inability to control one's intake.

  • Living in denial about self-destructive or harmful activities.

  • Being able to explain away or excuse harmful actions.

  • The ability to persuade oneself that falsehood is the truth.


Most of the alcoholic's thinking process occurs in the individual's subconscious. It's possible that, as time goes on, these patterns will build on top of one another and become more apparent.


The propensity of alcoholics to employ certain language loopholes is another facet of their thinking that has been well-researched. For example, an alcoholic could use the term "probably" rather often in their speech. When you use language like this, it's easy to be ambiguous about your intentions. The following are a few instances to consider:


  • "Even if I take a drink, it will probably be the only one I have..."

  • "You can count on me to show up, probably around six."

  • "I'd love to, but..."


The following are examples of other loophole-related terms and phrases:


  • Should

  • Could

  • Possibly

  • Maybe

  • I want to

  • I want to do this

  • I wish

  • I need to


Using such language enables the speaker to state something while giving no guarantees and without really committing.


Alcohol inhibits the brain's capacity to reign in impulses, which makes it much easier to agree to something in the heat of the moment without much thought or consideration. There are many additional characteristics of an alcoholic's thinking that, over time, may lead to damaging actions.

Medically Reviewed:


Rolling Hills Recovery Center

Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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The Consequences of Alcoholic Thinking Are Always Harmful

An alcoholic thinker doesn't have a middle ground; everything is either all or nothing for them. As far as they are concerned, there is no room for negotiation or compromise in their viewpoint. This further confuses what drinkers can make sense of since they deny their destructive behaviors (to themselves and others).

"They Should Understand My Situation"

Alcoholics often display a sense of entitlement and self-pity. Many alcoholics believe they are entitled to a certain level of privilege. To them, a stressful life justifies irresponsibility, carelessness, and selfishness in their behavior. You may deduce that they believe the world owes them something just by watching their actions. Self-pity and the belief that they're victims of circumstances engulf the active alcoholic. They demand less and less of themselves while they desire more from others.

"The Drinking Problem Isn't That Bad"

When a person's drinking gets worse, this is sometimes called "bottom." People in recovery frequently say that they haven't hit rock bottom yet. In the mind of an alcoholic, there is always a desire for more drinks. On the other hand, the brain of someone with AUD gets dominated by a chemically dependent desire to drink as much as possible.


On the one hand, a person with AUD has a chemical dependency that drives them to want to consume the most amount of alcohol as possible. It means that the brain has become reliant on alcohol to produce dopamine, a chemical that causes pleasure. The brain's difficulty in getting the intended impact is increased by continuous fluctuations in tolerance levels, which create a persistent craving for more alcohol.


There's always more that could happen, more that might grow worse, and more that could go wrong on the opposite side of that coin. Alcoholic thinking is delusional and twisted. An alcoholic generally cannot understand the damage alcohol is doing to their life or the reality that alcohol is at the root of their issues.

"It'll Be My One and Only"

"Too little" (or too much) of something is a phrase that does not exist. Rather than looking at the final drink, the first drink defines whether or not someone is an alcoholic since an alcoholic's brain can only comprehend one sip at a time. This process may continue endlessly as one drink morphs into the next.

"I'm In Control of It"

Continuous, excessive alcohol drinking clouds one's judgment. Alcoholics often cannot see the truth of their predicament because of their sense of entitlement, stubbornness, and manipulation. According to the 12-step concept, one reality that needs to be "smashed" is the delusion that an alcoholic may normally drink like other people. Only by eliminating the cause of alcohol abuse from one's life can the disease of alcoholism be declared "under control."

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The treatment process requires tackling addictive behaviors and harmful mental patterns; you will need aid with this, and we can provide it. Your mind, body, and soul will benefit from the balance and restoration our all-encompassing approaches to treating addictions, including "alcoholic thinking," may bring back into your life. Get in touch with us now if you (or a loved one) have any concerns or queries regarding the treatment programs and services we provide.


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Alcoholic thinking
The consequences of alcoholic thinking are always harmful
If you have a drinking problem, consider getting help

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