The Nature of Alcoholism
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol
that our lives had become unmanageable”
Alcoholism is a disease. The alcoholic seems to have some genetic predisposition to drink. There are many texts and books on the medical description of alcoholism and treatment protocols. Our own experience of the effects of long drinking has shown us that “the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind. As part of our service work in AA., we often assist the suffering alcoholic in obtaining hospitalization and treatment. Our literature recognizes alcoholism to be “a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. While initial hospitalization and rehabilitation for detoxification is important for the suffering alcoholic, the ultimate solution to the alcohol problem worked out in the experience of recovering alcoholics in AA. is not found in hospitalization, treatments or physical cures. It is found “on the spiritual as well as an altruistic plane.”
Much has been written about the development of craving and the obsession to drink that so occupies the mind of the real alcoholic, driving her to yet another spree. It is with this obsession that the AA. recovery program begins. Hospitalization and medical treatment may often be required to stabilize the active alcoholic, relieve his physical suffering and dear his mind. But it is the obsession that leads this person back to the bar upon discharge from the hospital. And it is this obsession that becomes the focus of the spiritual solution. Our entire program of recovery comes into sharp focus at the point of the alcoholic’s obsession to drink. “AA.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.
When I first came into recovery, I wanted to know why I drank the way I did. But when I asked people, I was told that I drank that way because I was an alcoholic. “Look, Gregg, it’s your nature as an alcoholic to drink. Fish swim in water; you swim in a sea of alcohol.” This answer satisfied me for some months while I sobered up and dried out, but left me wondering afterwards. There was yet another, deeper, level to the question. If I drank because I had a disease with an obsession to drink, then why did I continue to drink after I understood my condition? Now that I had stopped, why would I ever start again? And yet that is the very tragic condition of the alcoholic. Knowing her condition, “the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.