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Is Alcoholism a Disease

I don’t know, and as a recovering alcoholic, really, I don’t care.

As a recovering alcoholic, all I have to know is that I didn’t make some kind of a bizarre choice to spend twenty-four years in misery. To think being an alcoholic drinker is a choice defies all logic, and that notion can only be perpetuated by those who have zero understanding of what it’s like to be addicted to alcohol.

On any given day, we long-term alcoholic drinkers enjoy about ten seconds of euphoria after taking the day’s first swallow, then that’s followed by hours and hours of underlying despair as we keep drinking even though we don’t want to. No one is going to choose to continue doing something that is so painful. We’ve known that since B.F. Skinner observed his first pecking pigeon.

As far as I’m concerned, we alcoholics have no need to define our condition. We just need to know it’s not self-inflicted so we’ll start doing something about it instead of wasting time beating ourselves up.

Now, there’s no doubt alcoholism acts like a disease. Disease can be defined as being a condition that is progressive, chronic, and fatal. Alcoholism fits that definition. If you’re an alcoholic and keep drinking, your condition will inevitably worsen over time, so it’s progressive. Without some kind of intervention, either from others or yourself, you’ll likely continue to drink until you die, so it’s chronic. And, unchecked, alcoholism will kill you eventually, unless, of course, you die of something else first.

There’s also evidence that alcohol interacts with our midbrain’s pleasure center in the way it uses dopamine. When I read that theory, it makes sense to me. I’m no medical doctor or biology professor, so I’ll let you look that one up.

I call my affliction a disease in everyday conversation because I’ve got to call it something. But, disease or not, I believe this to my core: I did not choose to be an alcoholic and my reaction to the substance is beyond my control without help of some kind. I suggest you leave this definitional quibbling to those who aren’t desperately trying to survive the disease, or whatever the heck you want to call it. For the alcoholic to get caught up in all that just provides an excuse to fail to do what it takes to get sober.

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