Heavy drinking is something that can be considered more than uncommon in our society today - it is not unusual to hear about someone having too much to drink from time to time.
People indulge in drinking, sometimes too much, almost every day, even to the point that it starts to cause issues.
The term "alcoholic" is thrown around rather easily today. People joke about calling someone else or themselves an alcoholic in lieu of periods of heavy drinking on several occasions. This underlies a misunderstanding in todays world as to what a true alcoholic really is.
Alcoholism has a genetic predisposition in people and has been termed by the American Medical Association as an actual disease with a biological background. For someone to be an alcoholic, it does not necessarily mean that they drink to excess every single day, or that they are always drunk.
This is a very common factor in the advanced stages of alcoholism, but does not necessarily fit the entire description of an actual alcoholic. Alcoholics suffer from a allergy of the body, and an obession of the mind. This means that they have a reaction to alcohol that drives them to obsess over the next drink.
This does not mean that when they drink, they break out into sores or start to swell up in certain areas of their body, but rather that when they drink, they have an unusual reaction, an abnormal one, one that causes them to stand out against the rest of humanity when it comes to being inebriated.
When they start to drink, the allergy of the body takes over and their personality completely changes. It is a common idea that everyone has their "drunk selves", wherein a certain few characteristics of someone's personality become more amplified when they get drunk, be it that they become more loving or more aggressive, they cry more and become more emotional, or become more funny, so on and so forth.
But with alcoholics, this is taken to much more of an extreme, where not only do their personalities become different, but they change completely. A nice quiet person suddenly becomes rude and aggressive, saying terrible things and being a problem to those around them.
An energetic person with a bubbling personality becomes someone who is remorseful and sad, dragging those around them down hard with the sudden onset of this unexpected depression. But the main characteristic of someone who is an alcoholic is that they simply cannot stop drinking once they start.
This does not necessarily have to be on a daily basis, but when alcohol enters the system of the alcoholic, the allergy is triggered and they become obsessed with drinking more and more, whatever the circumstances or the cost may be. They have one, then they have two more, and more and more until they pass out.
Those who are in sobriety have a distinction between someone who is an actual alcoholic and someone who is a heavy drinker. People who are heavy drinkers drink as an alcoholic does, but tend to be more disciplined about it, usually drinking only at home or while at a bar, then getting a taxi back to their place or some other kind of transportation other than driving themselves while drunk.
Heavy drinkers can stop if they really have to, like if they are in jeopardy of losing a relationship or maybe their job. It is an excessive indulgence instead of an actual biological addiction. For the layman, it is hard to distinguish between the two, because both are drinking to an unhealthy excess.
But with the alcoholic, drinking eventually becomes paramount to all other things - they simply will not care about losing their job, their relationships or their living space. It ultimately destroys their lives. A heavy drinker can stop the drinking or cut back to a more normal level if they have to, if necessity dictates.