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Sobriety Myth #10 - Alcoholism is a disease



I am sure this is not going to sit well with a lot of people, but I do have a strong belief in regard to this idea. Obviously, I am not a medical professional and I have not studied biological science nor do I have any expertise in the field of disease. Nevertheless, I do have some thoughts regarding whether or not alcoholism is a disease, and I feel my thoughts have some validity especially when taken into consideration the place from which I am drawing my beliefs. I do not believe people are victims. I believe they are conductors in the symphony of their own lives. Each movement, decision, and action taken by a person has an equal and opposing reaction in the universe around them.


Before I officially make my belief about alcoholism and disease known, I have to admit that when looking at the definitions of disease I can see from where people have drawn the notion that alcohol is a disease. Especially this definition: Any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition; as of the mind or society. Okay, yes I can see where alcoholism fits into the definition of disease from this perspective. I still don't like it, and I'll tell you why.



Sobriety Myth #10 - Alcoholism is a disease


Disease, when I hear this word my mind goes directly to illness. As in, a foreign entity within a person's body that is harming the body's normal ability to function. Even when looking at the four main types of diseases: infectious, deficiency, hereditary, and genetic; it feels more like something that is occurring in a body to make a person sick, not something a person is doing to their body to make them sick. This is where I get a little lost in the translation of the definition of the word disease.


More to the point, my struggle with the correlation between the words disease and alcoholism is not necessarily from a place of semantics; my struggle comes more from a place of concern regarding the ramifications of looking at something as damaging as alcoholism and trying to pin it on something outside a person's realm of control. This bothers me because if I believe that I had no part in alcohol's place in the disintegration of my life, then I am merely a victim and I do not believe the victim mentality has any place in recovery and eventual sobriety. Is alcohol addictive? Of course. But you have to make a series of conscious decisions before you actually become addicted to alcohol and subsequently suffer the consequences associated with the destructive nature of the substance.


Let's take a closer look at the decisions leading up to addiction. First, a person has to look at the alcohol before them, knowing the impending effects it has on a person, and decide for themselves that it makes sense to consume it. Once they make the decision to actively put it in their body they have to acknowledge that first, the smell is revolting (it literally makes animals run away), and secondly that it tastes awful. I do not know of many people who have stated that their first drink of alcohol was delicious. Now, we know it tastes and smells like shit, which, should turn us away forever because we do not normally consume things that taste and smell horrible, but we don't. We then make the decision, knowing all the above information, to consume it once more. This process goes on for years for some people. They drink because they feel the need to socially. They drink to fit in. They drink because they have seen people drinking their entire lives and assume they are simply supposed to do it. There are literally thousands of choices made by a person before the actual addiction takes hold of them.


Yes, it can be, and it is argued that addiction starts with the first drink. That is fair and I will concede that, but I will not concede that a person did not consciously make the hundreds of choices to continue "trying" it out before the addiction really contributed to a person's inability to choose not to drink. Let's take this a step further. Even after addiction has set in, and a person finds themselves in a position where alcohol is consuming their lives, they are still making choices that I believe are conscious and can be perpetuated in an effort to quit drinking forever. I have mentioned Laura Mckowen's book "We are the Luckiest" several times in my blogs and more specifically the part where she states the yoga instructor's response to a student proclaiming they do not think they can quit drinking. The instructor simply responds, "Of course you can, are you drinking now?" It doesn't get any simpler than that. Even as addicts, there are points in the day where we are consciously making a decision not to drink. If we were not, we would be dead from alcohol poisoning within a day.


The biggest issue I have with the idea of alcoholism as a disease is simply the fact that it enables the belief that quitting is harder than it has to be. I have been saying for a long time that there are two types of sobriety; easy sobriety and hard sobriety. The choice really is up to the individual person and I think the idea that alcoholism is a disease inhibits a person's emotional ability to believe they can choose the easier path.


Sobriety Truth #10 - Alcoholism is a choice


Again, I know this will not sit well with a lot of people, but I think the sentiment is important enough that it needs to be said more often. Once an addiction is in place, I agree that a person may not have the same ability to make positive choices to help pull them out of the addiction as they did in the beginning, but they do still have the ability. The reason I believe it is important to view alcoholism as a choice is that the word choice offers two options. Many diseases do not offer the same ability to make a choice whether or not to suffer from the symptoms of the disease.


With alcoholism, you have a choice every single day. You can choose to continue down the road of addiction or you can choose to go down a different road to recovery. Each day, you are literally standing at the fork of a road and it is truly up to you which road you choose to walk down that day.


Remember the yoga teacher's question. "Are you drinking right now?" Each moment you do not drink is a choice not to drink.