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BANGKOK 21 April 2019 03:23

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pedro01

Alcoholism - why believing it is a disease could be damaging

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We hear lots of talk of alcoholism being a disease as opposed to s self-inflicted problem.

Yet we never hear that people addicted to drugs, cigarettes, sex, coffee have a disease. We know full well that people are responsible for those addictions through poor life choices.

The pioneer of "Alcoholism is a disease" was Benjamin Rush, who in the 1800's, without any scientific backing proclaimed that

  • Those who drank too much were diseased
  • That this should be used as a reason to prohibit alcohol
  • That dishonest and political dissention were also diseases
  • That being of African-American descent were diseases

So a real stand-up guy, right?

This is the basis of alcoholism is a disease.

In addition many are told...

  • The disease has no cure
  • The disease can only be diagnosed by yourself
  • Following a certain program is a remedy for an incurable disease

I think this is the only disease on planet earth that can not be diagnosed by a specialist. What a peculiar disease that only the sufferer can diagnose. How peculiar that this disease has no cure and can never have a cure, despite the world moving on, new medications and new approached to addiction treatment, alcoholism is immune to everything and is incurable.

So what is the damage done?

Well there's a few ways this hurts people

  • When they relapse, or if they do not like certain treatment approaches, they can give up because they first learn they are incurable and if the cure doesn't work for them, they lose hope
  • They are psychologically programmed to make alcohol
  • The concept of having a disease, effectively strips the addict of their personal responsibility - it's not their fault, they have an ailment - which in turn absolves them of responsibility in a relapse and the recovery process itself - hence the "higher power"

In other words - the belief that alcohol is a disease can lead to worsening their habits because they are now no longer responsible or it's a hopeless task. They have been programmed to fail outside of the treatment program that taught them it was an incurable disease.

Alcoholism is not a disease scientifically speaking because it has no physically measurable symptoms. There is no way to diagnose an alcoholic or test for the signs of the disease in it's development. For instance, if you took a Muslim that had never had a drink, there would be no test that would identify that person as an alcoholic. The only way to tell is when they start drinking - because there is nothing there to see.

The dropout rate at AA us roughly 95%. That's 95% of people that make the first meeting are no longer going after 3 months. Many of these people leave with the belief that they have an incurable disease as opposed to the fact that they have a substance abuse issue. So whilst many people abstain through AA, it is by no means the "last resort" or the only means of treating the addiction.

For those that got to recovery through AA, I salute you.

For those that found it not for them, do not give up hope, you are in the vast majority of people that do not stick with that program. This does not mean you are stuck with something for life. You may well have to accept responsibility for where you are now, that you are not diseased but addicted.

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I say bull. No symptons but the day after and what about instant behaviour. Hah, alcohol is good for you; to a certain extent of course.

Kills the germs, kills your bad mood and then kills you too. Hahaha, this is bull too.

If it wouldn't give me gout. That hurts and then again that's a disease right?

Leaves me to proclaim that alcoholism is a voluntary disease. Might not be covered by Obama.

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I recommend 90 meetings in 90 days. It just might help you to get past your denial.

Last drink I had was New Years eve - and that was three beers and what felt like 3 kilos of food...

If I'd asked the guys at AA 10+ years ago if I was an alcoholic based on my consumption of 4.5 liters a day, they would have said "it's up to you to decide", I could have then self-diagnosed myself with an incurable disease.

If I asked them today if I was an alcoholic, telling them I had to go out of my way to find weak English bitter to drink on NYE because that's what I like, that I drank 3 of them and then stopped - whilst all around me were getting drunk - I think they'd tell me I wasn't an alcoholic. Or at least that i was driving.... It doesn't fit the narrative of the progressive incurable disease to have someone addicted to alcohol to go back to light social drinking.

So yes - I did definitely have a drinking issue, no different to anyone else's really. It was my fault, to be honest, I wasn't happy with where I was in life (read "wife") and I slipped into a habit that was hard to shake off. Even when life got better, the drinking was still with me. I'd screwed up big time. My fault entirely.

Trouble is like most people - I didn't have the tools to stop.

It was absolutely an addiction.It required a lot of pain and misery to stop, it took a number of wrong turns in the process of to giving it up and a longer time to get back my health. I completely went off the grid for 6 months and when I did venture into a pub again, drinking soft drinks, a couple of Landlords made a joke about profits dropping with me being dry.

It is absolutely horrible - like having an itch that can only be scratched if you drink a beer. But there are things you can do - AA does help a lot of people and I'm all for that - but I think they need to drop the pseudo-science because it does them no favors at all and causes harm to the drop outs.

So - your "90 day/denial" messages is very smart - but what you should do is back up your beliefs with some evidence. If you disagree with what I say (which I presume by the smartass comments), should you not be able to defend your position with facts?

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I say bull. No symptons but the day after and what about instant behaviour. Hah, alcohol is good for you; to a certain extent of course.

Kills the germs, kills your bad mood and then kills you too. Hahaha, this is bull too.

If it wouldn't give me gout. That hurts and then again that's a disease right?

Leaves me to proclaim that alcoholism is a voluntary disease. Might not be covered by Obama.

The 'symptoms' of alcoholism occur only when you stop drinking. But these are not symptoms of alcoholism, they are symptoms of excess or withdrawal from an addictive and harmful substance.

Alcoholism is unlike any other disease. It can only be detected once you drink. So you could be walking around with this disease but never know it because you were Mormon or Muslim.

Alcoholism is a disease with no known clinical test. You can't go for a blood test to detect alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a disease with no cure according to a book written in the 30's, yet medical science has moved in leaps and bounds in that time, yet AA will tell you quite firmly that there is no cure.

I don't know where to fall on the "a little booze is good for you" because we don't even know what foods are good for us. One year butter kills you, the next year it's good for you. Same with eggs - one year bad, next year good. So I tend to tune all that out because as you get older, you get sick of being told what was good is bad and what was bad is good.

Gout is not alcoholism, it is an excess of uric acid. That can be brought on by eating too much chicken but you don't get called a Pollo-holic for eating chicken and causing gout.

In the narrative, the 'disease' of alcoholism is said to be with you from birth. It is when you drink that you discover you have alcoholism but it was already there. Alcohol does not cause the disease, you already have it.

A disease is defined as

"a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury."

Yet alcoholism 'the disease' has no symptoms, it is a disease that causes you to not be able to control your drinking. The consequent drinking then causes health issues - but the drinking is not the disease. The incurable disease is one that causes you to not be able to control your drinking. A 10 year old could be an alcoholic and not know yet because they didn't try their first drink. So alcoholism has no symptoms at all.

It is quackery. It is not backed by science, people buy into it because they are at a low point and questioning the pseudo-science at that point is the last thing on their minds.

Like I say - if AA helps, that is great - but for the 95% drop-outs, it sure doesn't help for them to leave thinking they are incurable. Not in the slightest.

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Wow, what an ideal thread for the 'reformed' brigade.

I can control it, they cannot.

I have no problem whatsoever, I can take it or leave it.

They HAVE to LEAVE it, then tell the whole world about the 'evils' of alcohol !

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I recommend 90 meetings in 90 days. It just might help you to get past your denial.

Last drink I had was New Years eve - and that was three beers and what felt like 3 kilos of food...

If I'd asked the guys at AA 10+ years ago if I was an alcoholic based on my consumption of 4.5 liters a day, they would have said "it's up to you to decide", I could have then self-diagnosed myself with an incurable disease.

If I asked them today if I was an alcoholic, telling them I had to go out of my way to find weak English bitter to drink on NYE because that's what I like, that I drank 3 of them and then stopped - whilst all around me were getting drunk - I think they'd tell me I wasn't an alcoholic. Or at least that i was driving.... It doesn't fit the narrative of the progressive incurable disease to have someone addicted to alcohol to go back to light social drinking.

So yes - I did definitely have a drinking issue, no different to anyone else's really. It was my fault, to be honest, I wasn't happy with where I was in life (read "wife") and I slipped into a habit that was hard to shake off. Even when life got better, the drinking was still with me. I'd screwed up big time. My fault entirely.

Trouble is like most people - I didn't have the tools to stop.

It was absolutely an addiction.It required a lot of pain and misery to stop, it took a number of wrong turns in the process of to giving it up and a longer time to get back my health. I completely went off the grid for 6 months and when I did venture into a pub again, drinking soft drinks, a couple of Landlords made a joke about profits dropping with me being dry.

It is absolutely horrible - like having an itch that can only be scratched if you drink a beer. But there are things you can do - AA does help a lot of people and I'm all for that - but I think they need to drop the pseudo-science because it does them no favors at all and causes harm to the drop outs.

So - your "90 day/denial" messages is very smart - but what you should do is back up your beliefs with some evidence. If you disagree with what I say (which I presume by the smartass comments), should you not be able to defend your position with facts?

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Wow, what an ideal thread for the 'reformed' brigade.

I can control it, they cannot.

I have no problem whatsoever, I can take it or leave it.

They HAVE to LEAVE it, then tell the whole world about the 'evils' of alcohol !

Of course, I am sure there are people that are better off totally abstaining.

I am simply saying it is not a disease and that people should considered the idea that some people can never control it because that is what they have been programmed to think. That they have been mentally conditioned to believe that 1 drink will lead to a full on relapse.

That does not exclude people never drinking again, though.

I don't really see many valid arguments for the "disease for life" hypothesis.

Even for the total abstainer, it is rather odd for them to keep going to meetings 30 years after having their last drink. We know these people exist. There's nothing wrong with them going to meetings - but do they really believe the meetings are essential 30 years dry because they still have the disease?

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I need a beer

Come to my place - there's a Hoegaarden in the fridge that is going to go mouldy if someone doesn't come and visit.

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As a long-term recovering alcoholic, I can tell you from the very start I drank for the effect. I liked the woozy switch off for my mind, and it seemed the panacea to all problems, just get drunk and the problems go away. Of course,I had to hit that rock-bottom, when the problems caused by my uncontrollable drinking caused living problems. Now, I would suggest, that 'normal' people don't drink this way. Additionally, 'normies' have something that tells them instinctively that they have absorbed too much alcohol and so stop, as they are poisoning their body. I believe the alcoholic doesn't have this warning system and just keeps drinking on the basis that if 1 or 2 drinks have a good effect - keep going, it must get better. Now, if this isn't an illness, I don't know what is.

The very basis of AA is step 1, powerless over alcohol, life becomes unmanageable. This reinforces the disease concept.If the OP can control drinking, all well and good. Just don't denigrate people like me who have the life answer in AA.

One of the biggest problems for the drinker seeking help is breaking through the denial element of what their drinking is doing, the 'reality' truth. So, what is the OP doing, reinforcing the rationalizations that avoid making the denial breakthrough? OK, go your own way, but don't push this kind of stuff that creates more harm than good.

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It's not much different than a peanut allergy.

Some people can eat all the peanuts they want. For others, one peanut will kill them.

Same with alcoholism. It affects different people in different ways. Some people do well with alcohol, others- not so much.

And it's not about willpower, character, or morality- any more than a peanut allergy.

And just like a peanut allergy, there is one solution that works 100% of the time. Don't eat peanuts. Thank God it's that simple. (Not easy, mind you- but simple)

Referring to it as a disease also has a lot of legal and societal effects when it comes to insurance coverage, licensing requirements for people who get paid to treat alcoholism, and how it must be handled in the employment arena.

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Did not read read the intro, just the headline, sorry OP, need to go to bed.

Had my 2 sometimes 3 monthly drinking evening/night/sometime a little morning like today.

Bottle is empty, I know what that means. Lovely bed 2 meters further from me.

To the point, I do this 2-3 times a month and I am considered an alcoholic. WHY?

Because I have no problem saying NO to the first one, but I will always say yes to the second one.

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Pedro I really don't know what this thread is about other than bashing AA. It reads like a troll. You've already had a go at AA and me in another thread telling me how I must feel because of my experience of AA which was so way off the mark as to be mildly entertaining. FYI I am still sober and still feeling good about myself and far away from the knife edge.

If you don't like AA, then move on. However I am concerned that you're not actually offering anyone an alternative beyond theories of disease and addiction. If you are rattling this morning, whether literally or metaphorically, what use is a debate about addiction or treatment? I am trying to conjure up a drunk waking up and thinking: Hey I have a big problem with booze, the problem is I don't know whether to go 12 step or controlled drinking model.

The notion of a desperate active drunk as someone with choices is absurd and is the exclusive construct of social scientists. I never met a drunk who ever did anything about their drinking unless there was some huge pressure on them equivalent to someone putting a sawn off shortgun in their mouth and saying: you better stop drinking. As a species we drunks only get it together when we absolutely need to : like when our liberty as at stake, or our spouses have walked out on us, or we are in the disciplinary process or a major health scare. True to form many of us revert to getting drunk the minute the danger has passed, regardless of the promises we made to bosses, judges and spouses.

So Pedro I have no problem with your views but I think as someone who purports to have turned the corner on their drinking, especially if you post here, bearing in mind that some fragile anxious folk might be reading this, you have a responsibility to provide them with some real alternatives and practical things they can do. In the alternative, i.e. you have nothing to offer in terms of what to do, I don't think you should bash any source of help because you might inadvertently drive people away from seeking help.

Whether you like it or not AA is probably the most accessible help for anyone who is rattling this morning wherever they may be in the world. People can make a phone call, send an email, and they will get some sort of response in the near future. You can attend an online meeting where someone will be happy to talk to you 121. Hell, you might get a car load of AAs arriving at your doorstep. There is no need to wait for an appointment or referral process.

While I am an AA myself I am not here to slag off any other service or approach. There are may ways to skin a cat. Good luck in your efforts.

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