Alcoholism is a fatal illness for which there is no known medical cure, and many of its victims are forced to wage a losing battle, not only against the ravages of the illness, but also against the ignorance of a society which largely refuses to regard the alcoholic as a sick person.
To many people, the word ‘alcoholic’ means someone who is perverse and weakwilled. “Why on earth doesn’t he control his drinking?” they ask.
Those of us who are alcoholics, and who have tried to control our drinking know just how impossible a task that is.
This is because alcoholism is an illness
While we stay away from drink, we function much like other people. But if we take any alcohol whatsoever into our systems, something happens both physically and mentally which makes it difficult or impossible for us to stop.
We have lost control of our drinking, but…
What is alcoholism?
The action of alcohol on the alcoholic is similar to the manifestation of an allergy. It is compounded by an overwhelming craving for the very thing that can only worsen the effects of physical suffering, irrational behaviour and increasing isolation. The practising alcoholic’s mental and physical condition is thus so affected by continuous use of alcohol that everything except its procurement is neglected or ignored for long periods. Sooner or later, whether indulgence is continuous or periodical, it results in a total disruption in all family and social relations.
The main problem of the alcoholic centres in the mind rather than the body. If you ask why he or she started on that last bender, the chances are you will be offered any one of a hundred alibis. Once in a while you may get the truth. And the truth, strange to say, is usually that the alcoholic has no more idea why than you have.
The characteristic of alcoholics which precludes all possibility of ever becoming social drinkers is explained as a physical allergy and a mental obsession, and the only relief for the chronic alcoholic is total abstinence from alcohol.
Don’t Misunderstand Us
Not all drinkers are alcoholics. Many people can drink normally and suffer no physical, mental or social ill-effects. Alcoholics Anonymous has nothing to offer these drinkers. For them, alcohol is not a problem and we can only say “May it always stay that way”.
This message is directed only to those of us for whom it is a very different story: one of craving and compulsion sending us ever deeper into bewilderment and despair… And that is only the beginning.
Alcoholism Is a progressive illness, often of gradual onset.
No alcoholic starts as a down-and-out. It is our drinking and the behaviour which accompanies it that in time may lose us our homes, families and jobs. Accidents, jail sentences, hospital admissions, suicides and murders are frequently linked to alcoholic drinking. We know because we are alcoholics.
WE KNOW what it is like to give up drink, and then wait in agony for the off-licence or the pub to open.
WE KNOW what it is like to spend money that we cannot afford; to be driven to steal; to hide drink in half-a-dozen places round the house; to wake up not knowing where we have been or what we have done, or knowing only too well.
WE TOO have felt those terrible feelings of loneliness, despair, depression, remorse and self-hatred that this illness brings.
THROUGH COMING TO THE FELLOWSHIP OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS we found out how to stop drinking, and how to stay stopped. Furthermore we have discovered that life without alcohol is not only bearable but positively enjoyable. We were able to start to get better as soon as we stopped fighting the idea that we were alcoholics.