HOUSTON -- Tis the season for a toast or two, but the lines between a social drinker, a problem drinker, and an alcoholic can easily be blurred.

Many think it s black and white. Dr. Robert Doyle, a psychiatrist, researcher, and author explains, People were either alcoholics, or they weren t. They had a problem, or they didn t.

The alcoholism expert sees it as a gray area. The doctor adds, We re seeing alcohol problems as a spectrum.

Dr. Doyle is focusing on the zone, between normal use and alcoholism diagnosis the so-called almost alcoholic range. Here, the risk of things like insomnia, diabetes and cancer can increase.

You don t have to be alcoholic to have major problems with alcohol, says Dr. Doyle.

Brenda Wilhelmson believes she was an almost alcoholic. She confides, It turned into a way that I rewarded myself at the end of the day, and it just escalated from there. I was basically drinking myself to sleep every night.

Brenda can pinpoint the exact moment she crossed the line to full-blown alcoholic. I could have gone either way that night, and I just went for it.

Doctor Doyle believes millions who become addicted pass through the almost alcoholic phase, and he thinks a lot can stop the problem there. Dr. Doyle shares, We re not trying to put labels on people. In fact, we re trying to prevent people from getting the label of a very serious condition.

Do an honest assessment by asking yourself things like: Is alcohol affecting my sleep? Do I depend on alcohol to de-stress? Am I drinking to help deal with a medical problem? If you feel you might be heading toward a problem, try cutting back.

Dr. Doyle suggests, If you re having four beers on Friday night, see how you do with two beers.

Small changes could make a big difference in where you end up on this spectrum.

You can assess your own drinking habits by taking a self-assessment. Visit this link:

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