The American Medical Association has 3 primary tenets by which a "disease" is defined
1. It's Chronic - It cannot be wished away, willed away, ignored away, and it is inclined to periodically come out of remission (rear its ugly head again) even with the best known treatments being undertaken and all indicators of a full remission in place.
2. It's Progressive - In the absence of agressive and effective treatment it always gets worse, never better.
3. It's Potentially Fatal - There are no guarantees. Even though the sufferer's illness has been in remission for a substantial period of time, and their health relatively restored, should they be inflicted with another bout it could result ulitimately in their death.
To understand alcoholism or addiction a person needs to grasp and understand the pathology of the brain that is effected by it. This is where the disease we are addressing is centered. It is more operative as a neurological malfunction, that as a by product has physiological and behavorial symtoms.
That being the case, if a person has a neurological disorder/malfunction, how can we expect that brain to make good, healthy, wholesome decisions? Isn't that the same as expecting the abnormal to act normal?
I often have to work with the family of alcoholics and addicts that are coming into the homes in order that they might better understand some of the dynamics of this disease and how to better understand it as a neurological issue not a character issue. To do this, I have a animated illustration that I use that comes from Time magazine, and a video that I found on youtube.com. I will provide this information below for you to view.
So many times I hear a parent, wife, husband, brother, sister or adult child say, "This is absolutely insane! Why won't they stop??" They just answered their own question. The key word is "insane". (neurology) Thus in step two this is what we are seeking to be restored, our sanity. This takes time, effort, faith, and a great amount of environmental, and emotional support.
I hope this writing helps those with some questions better understand why alcoholism or addiction is defined as a disease and some of the internal dynamics of it that the eye can't see.
To view the animated illustraton go to:
To view speaker on the Physiology/Pathology of Addiction go to
-- Edited by John on Thursday 21st of April 2011 08:05:47 AM
-- Edited by canadianguy on Thursday 21st of April 2011 05:02:29 PM
" And what did we gain? A new life, with purpose, meaning and constant progress, and all the contentment and fulfillment that comes from such growth."
(Al-Anon's Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions,Step 3. pg 21)
Thanks John, I am the poster from the other post. Your post was very helpful. I read a book last night on the physiology of the disease and that helped too, I'm beginning to understand a lot better now and I hope with understanding will come empathy instead of anger.
I pray for empathy and a more rewarding weekend at work this weekend, I need one!
My empathy for my ex has expanded tenfold after viewing that video.
I'm sharing this video with our two grown sons, one who is a nurse, and other family members.
You have to go through the darkness to truly know the light. Lama Surya Das
Resentment is like taking poison & waiting for the other person to die. Malachy McCourt
This post should be a sticky, IMHO.
HBO did an excellent documentary called Addiction: Understanding Addiction and also issued a book (unfortunately I think it is only in hardcover and fairly expensive). I highly recommend them for anyone like me who prefers a "scientific" explanation.
Mahalo John for that post...I'll do the videos later. For the MIP/Al-Anon fellowship and especially our newcomers I also agree that this post should be a sticky along with other easy to read and understand items which reveal the "dis-ease" aspect of alcoholism and drug addiction. This is soooo valuable. ((((hugs))))
my vote: YES for making this a "STICKY"
Hello. As a recovering Alcoholic, I too struggled for years with the acceptance of Alcoholism being a disease...because I had always been taught it had to do with being weak willed,etc. How many times I cried out to God to free me of this horrible desire,crave,compulsion. Promised God this would be my last drink so many times just to find myself drinking again later. Finally, I lost hope and even my faith in God,which btw is one of the symtoms of alcoholism.
Now I finally have accepted Alcoholism/substance abuse as a disease, although I am not so sure about all the other so called afflictions that have more recently been called a disease, simply because of the fact that most of these other so called diseases i.e. sex addiction for instance,etc. have copied the A.A. promises and principles to aid them in getting a handle on many varying garden variety problems. But hey, if it helps so be it.
How I came to finally believe and accept alcoholism as a disease is simple...and not from a scientific viewpoint, although science has proven that there is a genetic link...is this:
From what I have experienced and learned from being around other alcoholics in recovery and being one myself is: As with any disease there are symtoms, and people who are practicing and non-practicing alcoholics all tend to have the same symtoms and they are physically,mentally, and spiritually much the same. If it looks like a duck,quacks like a duck, it probably is one.
Also personally, once I managed to abstain long enough the physical part of Alcoholism (the crave,inability to stop,body screaming out for more) would arrest, or go into remission/leave me. I learned from several relapses, that "the alcoholics body never forgets"...I can wake up my alcoholism again and may never be able to find my way back simply by drinking a drink. One is too many and 1000 is not enough,as they say. All hope leaves again,guilt,shame,fears,embarrassment,mental turmoil,depression,suicidal thoughts,etc. returns as a result.
So yes, I came to believe Alcoholism is a disease. I believe, for many alcoholics this inability to get themselves some sober time, because of thier not accepting and knowing that alcoholism is a disease has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in getting well.
I have learned too, alcoholism being a physical illness takes on many other facets, as with any disease. Alcoholism like for instance diabetes must have maintenence. I have heard it said,alcoholism is but a symtom of the disease, but in saying that I personally believe, that all the things that come along as a result of the alcoholism are just symtoms of the disease. Alcoholism never goes away,and alcoholism kills. And that is why we must always practice with daily reprieve,support,work on things that kept us sick, change playmates and playgrounds, and practice our spirituality to keep us mentally in touch with this fact. For the alcoholic, it is far too easy to kid ourselves into thinking that alcoholism is not a disease. i.e. Come On...why can't I have that little glass of champagne at the wedding for instance.
I am using this true metaphor as a further example: I have a brother who is unfortunately schizophenic. It was not long ago it was and even today still is somewhat stigmatized. My own father rejected my poor suffering brother breaking my heart. Saying it was all in his head etc. In reality it is. He has a diseased brain. And sadly schizophenia was once considered demonic possession.
He is stabilized by medication now, but it took him years to accept his disease. He'd get to feeling better because of his meds and think he did not need them anymore and he would stop taking them just to become very ill again needing hospitalization. This happened I know at least 5 times over the years before he finally accepted that he must keep taking his medications.------------------------------------------------------------------
The good news in science however, regarding alcoholism is that there are new drugs that have been developed to help in the treatment of alcoholism. I am so glad for this and I personally hope I can partake of such a helpful aid in my continued sobriety. These new drugs are suppose to take much of the desire/crave for alcohol, nothing like the old days of antabuse...where if you drank on that drug one would get violently ill, and was not too often a deterrent. Not to a true alcoholic anyway.
My dear friends, I wanted to share this with you from a recovering alcoholics point of view in the hope of more understanding.
(I am not an advocate of alcoholism with all the pain and suffering it causes but merely to contribute to the topic on the concept of Alcoholism, as being a disease.)
"Alcoholics are not bad people who need to get good, but sick people who need to get well".
"There is no disgrace in being an alcoholic, but there is in not trying to get well".
Thank you for allowing me to share.
-- Edited by Vearl on Wednesday 6th of July 2011 01:35:04 PM
I love this quote:
I thought God would open up the "gates of heaven" and let me in. He didn't. He opened up the "gates of hell" and let me out.
Thanks, I really love that quote--also I have heard another good one in that vain: religion is for those who don't want to go to hell & spirituality (like of this program) is for those who have already been there.
No one can take away your peace of mind unless you let them.
That video is something else. Should be mandatory viewing for life!I formerly worked providing direct care to developmentally disabled adults living in their own apartment homes. Most were moderately retarded, but I had some residents with severe retardation, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, and other things. Many were incontinent and all had struggles with simple tasks such as cooking food and doing laundry. At the same time, they were adults with adult issues and situations. The work was hard and a lot of it was unpleasant, but I undertook it with compassion and care because I knew that they were limited in their abilities due to their various disorders. And, I experienced such wonderful times with many of them. Frank would love to go for long drives with me along the coast, jamming to rock music, and stopping for a Pepsi at the 7-11. Miss Bee loved to watch the President on the television and would cackle and say he was her husband. She also loved to call 911 when she was lonely, but that is another story. My point is that it was easy to be gentle and forgiving with these adults because I understood they were not capable of understanding cause and effect, or of taking care of themselves in many ways. This video on addiction reminded me of my former clients. I wondered why I could not see my AH with the same eyes. Not that he is retarded, but his brain is genuinely not firing effectively. So thank you deeply for sharing this video. It has helped me understand the tragedy of addiction, and eased my anger at my AH, who has been an addict since he was 15. There is a real, biological reason why he behaves the way he does. I used to think he lacked character and had poor values...now I see perhaps it has more to do with the damage he has done to his brain.
-- Edited by Dolly Llama on Tuesday 17th of April 2012 04:04:51 PM
Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us. -from Pema Chödron's When Things Fall Apart
Thank you for posting this valuable information and too bad its not mandatory viewing. Bettina
If you are concerned for his life then the best action to take is call 911.
In my prayers.
Second guessing someone's threats of suicide is not suggested by me. They threaten, 911 or the crisis mobile unit gets called right away. There is no second chances to do things different once suicide is taken as an out. Don't wait for the second chance, do what needs to be done now, and don't worry about what the son does or doesn't think of yo for doing it. If he didn't need or want help, he wouldn't be talking and threatening such a action.