ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE AND ABUSE:
The first most important element of beginning treatment for any type of addiction, including alcoholism, is to arm yourself with the facts. One of the best places to begin is with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (more affectionately known as the DSMIV). This book is the go-to manual for all professionals dealing with any mental disorder and list all the facts and symptoms regarding every single mental illness in existence. Alcohol Intoxication, Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Abuse are each listed and defined in this book. A person who has trouble with their drinking or cannot stop drinking despite a strong desire and hig/her best intended efforts can begin here. Notated symptoms, such as "a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking." (symptom of Alcohol Dependence) can lead to an informed decision about whether or not you ned help with your drinking.
NOTE ON OTHER ADDICTIONS:
If you are not someone who struggles with alcohol abuse (or at least it doesn't feel like you do), you can also substitute any other external thing in the definition above (i.e. "a persistent desire to cut down or control crystal meth use, or sexual interactions or gambling or exercising...) You get the idea. ANYTHING you need to control has control over you.