The alcohol consumption adjudicative guideline is one of several criteria that can affect a security clearance holder’s eligibility (in addition to other criteria like personal conduct if they lie about it, or criminal conduct if there were any incidents associate with alcohol use).  Those who may have been advised by a superior regarding alcohol consumption or encountered challenges in work, social, legal, financial, or health aspects due to drinking may also face implications in the security clearance process.

But what if there are no incidents on paper, but using the sauce caused issues in your marriage?

One subscriber writes:

“I’ve read numerous posts/blogs that indicate if you’ve gotten a DUI, been arrested for possession, disorderly conduct, etc., it is always looked upon favorably when you follow the court orders and attend the classes, work the program, go to therapy, and so on…

But what if you recognized you had a problem and stopped drinking/using on your own? In every scenario I’ve read about, it involves some legal or professional consequences and the person having been told/ordered to do something about it… but nothing like that happened for me. My wife helped me realize my drinking was a problem a little over 3.5 years ago, so I came up with a plan, and stopped. I stopped smoking pot more than 5.5 years ago so I could change jobs, and just never went back to it. Then once I quit drinking too, I decided it was best that I just leave both alone for good.

Reading about others’ experiences, it sure sounds like it almost would have been better for me to get a DUI and been ordered to seek treatment because that would have been documented. It’s a pretty discouraging thought…

How can I mitigate concerns around these two items? If I talk about the changes I made to my work-life, home-life, and personal habits, will that be enough? Signed attestations from my wife/family/friends? Any suggestions/insights would be appreciated. Thanks.”

Those with alcohol or substance abuse problems sometimes need a big consequence to feel like they hit rock bottom or make a change in their habits. Lucky for the original poster, it didn’t take something like a documented DUI for them to change their ways.

With no arrest or any other sort of legal trouble, there really isn’t anything to tell when it comes to filling out the SF-86 for the drug or alcohol related sections, unless they held a security clearance at the time. One investigator notes, “In this case I think the passage of time is the best mitigating factor. I don’t think you’d even have to answer “yes” to any of the questions unless you were cleared at the time.” However, if an investigator does ask about your use, be honest about why you quit and how you’ve personally mitigated the problem.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a  lot of questions for applicants. For this reason, ClearanceJobs maintains – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed  on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum, emails received, and comments from this site.

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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸