Convinced is a good word for me. I knew I had a problem almost as soon as I started drinking. I understood I was an alcoholic very early on. I was unable to stay away from alcohol with that knowledge and understanding for a very long time.
I had some small understanding of alcoholism before I ever drank. I was born in 1962, and I went to good schools in a liberal area of the US. I don’t know if my understanding came from school or from culture. I know I even looked into a bit on my own at that young age. My father had died from alcoholism when I was 6 and he was 33. I knew a little bit about it and I knew, pretty much as soon as I started drinking, that I had a problem.
I started drinking at 16. I had a small list of things I would never do while drinking. One that I remember is that I promised myself I would never drive anyone else in my car when I had been drinking. Now that was the late 1970s. No one I knew wore a seat belt, the drinking age was 18, people gave their children and their children’s friends alcohol at their Sweet Sixteen birthday parties, and the bars where they didn’t check IDs were abundant. I see now that I would be a terrible menace on the road whether or not I had a passenger, but I didn’t see that then.
Anyway I broke that promise. I drove the car with my friend in the car, as we went to a pet store to do something or other about pet hamsters. I was a child. I was very lucky. But the self-realization was creeping in, even at that early time.
I furthered my understanding as I had contact with AA. I talked to the people and I read the books. One memory I have is of sitting at a young people’s meeting. The topic was the first step, and when it came to me I said I had no idea what they were talking about. A young woman gave me her phone number because she could relate to that, and she did become my first sponsor.
I grasped key concepts fairly quickly, like it’s the first drink that gets you drunk, or that any number of bad things hadn’t happened to me yet, but still I drank again and again and again and again.
So initially, just learning about alcoholism convinced me I had a problem.
What convinced me to surrender to the problem is another story. That would be six hard years of trying to drink, and six hard years of failing to do it successfully, or even minimally functionally.