It’s all in definitions. It appears that the accepted definition of a “real alcoholic” is one who cannot keep himself from drinking once he tastes a sip. I have a little problem with this definition as I have seen people who I had no doubt were alcoholics and who as I mentioned recovered to drink moderately. Whether they stayed that way forever, I don’t know.
As someone noted above, everyone’s different and these widely accepted templates don’t fit every person under the sun. When I turned 40, for example, I was told I should need reading glasses, and I was told that for years afterward, while I never needed reading glasses and I would demonstrate it to opticians, ophtalmologists, and professors at the Optometry School.
I've known and know heavy drinkers who function and likewise alcoholics.
My husband has treated both. The individual must ultimately decide or by horrid circumstances, have that decision made for him or her. Only the individual truly knows.
A true, helpless and hopeless addict, will always return to his or her intoxicant of choice.
However, powerlessness over alcohol, that is much more readily apparant. A person who drinks a drink, and then loses the power of choice on whether or not to have anotherandanotherandanotheranother and so on, until they are passed out, in jail, or in a hospital... that's a much easier call.
The official AMA definition of addiction (including alcohol) is "...the continued use of a mood altering substance or behaviour despite adverse consequences."