The term “real alcoholic” doesn’t have any meaning outside AA. It’s just AA jargon. The more exclusive a group is, the more dense and peculiar their shorthand, and the less meaning it has for “normies.”

Not to be ironic, but look, for instance, at wine geeks who talk about “nose.” Everyone knows what a nose is — but when wine geeks talk about nose, it means something else. And when we get that they’re not talking about the nose on a face, we still don’t bother to adopt the term for our everyday use, when we’re talking about how something smells, because that would be ridiculous and no one would know what we’re talking about.

It’s similarly ridiculous to use the phrase “real alcoholic.” I mean, aside from the inherent fallacy that groovecat deftly pointed out in the PS to his comment on the subject, it simply wouldn’t make sense for me to insist that I’m a “real alcoholic.”

I think the reason we tend to balk at the phrase is that it is so dismissive of our own alcohol addiction — a phrase that makes so much more sense. I mean, when they say “real,” we seem to let that undermine our own experience, and tend to try to prove that we are indeed real alcoholics, when, in fact, the only thing “real alcoholic” means is that you worked the steps and had a religious conversion (kinda like, if you’re predestined to go to Heaven, you’ll behave like one of God’s chosen). It has nothing to do with your actual experience as a drunk. I think the reason we bristle is that, in plain English, “real” means valid, legitimate, true, and the phrase itself is a passive aggressive insult to what others have accomplished without AA.

On Planet Earth, insisting that there is such an objective thing as a “real alcoholic” is like insisting that one has real cancer, as opposed to everyone else’s pretend pee-pants cancer. It is just that bizarre. Objectively, it makes more sense to simply, and correctly, assert that you are, or were, addicted to alcohol, or even addicted to alcohol to the point of debasement, brain damage and debilitation. That would be a plain fact.

And another fact is that in order to be considered a “real alcoholic,” one must have had the AA religious conversion. If you’re a real alcoholic, and you work the steps the conversion will take — unless you didn’t do it right, or you are a sociopath. We can’t know if you’re a “real alcoholic” unless you have 1. worked the steps, and 2. are not drinking. If you meet the requirements, you can consider yourself a “real alcoholic,” unless/until you relapse, in which case, you can either say that you failed to honestly follow the steps, or admit that, while you may be a “real alcoholic,” you’re also a sociopath.

If all things can be equal, except for the fact that the “real alcoholic” is predisposed to AA’s spiritual epiphany, then, as opposed to suffering from an addiction, the “real alcoholic” is suffering from something more akin to demonic possession than an addiction, affliction, disease… The 12 Steps are a DIY exorcism.

“Real Alcoholic” belongs to AA. Among the reality-based community, addiction is more appropriate. You really should have no more interest in insisting that you’re a “real alcoholic” than you would to insist that you’re possessed by the spawn of Beelzebub.