The Disease of Addiction
Alcoholism, and indeed all addictions, is a chronic, progressive, incurable, and potentially fatal disease characterized by loss of control over alcohol or other drugs.
Alcoholism, and all addictions, is a disease. Alcohol is a drug. The only difference between alcohol and other drugs is that alcohol is legal and readily available.
Addiction to any drug is a disease. A disease is anything which causes the body dis-ease, discomfort. A disease is anything that interferes with the ability of the human being to function normally.
Alcoholism interferes with normal life even more than other disease because it lasts so long and because the person suffers from it for so many years before anybody really detects the problem and tries to help.
The average adult alcoholic that receives treatment today has had at least ten years of alcoholism and significant physical and emotional problems caused by drinking before getting help, before treatment. Therefore, alcoholism is a true disease.
Alcoholism is chronic. In medicine a disease is one of two things – chronic or acute. If it’s acute, it happens all of a sudden like acute appendicitis. Chronic, on the other hand, is self-explanatory. It lasts a long time. I’ve already mentioned that the typical adult alcoholic will have ten to fifteen years of sick drinking and lots of secondary problems before getting help.
Alcoholism is progressive. Progression is fascinating. It is one of the unique features of addiction, and one of the reasons why a lot of people don’t like alcoholics and addicts. A lot of people try everything to get the alcoholic sober-doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, financial advisors and none of it helps. The first chance the alcoholic has he or she drinks again. So that is part of progressive-it goes on and on and demoralize everyone involved. It tends to make them say “what’s the use?” almost from the beginning.
The other part of progressiveness, is that as the alcoholic continues to drink the disease gets worse. So if an alcoholics stays sober for twenty-five years, and then starts drinking again for whatever reason, usually within thirty days, the symptoms that the alcoholic will show are the same symptoms that occurred when drinking was stopped twenty-five years before. And usually worse.
Alcoholism is incurable. There is no pill or surgery to make it better. This is the treatment. Treatment and AA are the treatment. An alcoholic can lead a normal life, but only as long as drinking is stopped completely.
Alcoholism, and all addictions, is characterized by loss of control. What loss of control means is that once the alcoholic takes that first drink, he can’t predict with any reliability whether he’s going to have a normal or abnormal drinking episode. He is lost the ability to predict his drinking behavior, and that’s what loss of control means. He no longer controls alcohol; it controls him.