If once you start drinking you can not stop or once you stop you can not stay stopped; then perhaps you are suffering from the disease of alcoholism.  Notice that the word “or” is used in the preceding sentence.  This means that you do not have to have both traits to deem yourself an alcoholic.

Truthfully, only you have the power to diagnosis yourself an alcoholic.  Once you have conceded to your innermost self that you are suffering from the disease of alcoholism, then and only then can you begin taking the necessary steps to achieve life long sobriety.

So what does that mean?  What exactly does the disease of alcoholism involve?

Throughout history, doctors, philosophers, and spiritual advisors have tried to define alcoholism.  They have tried to fully explain why some have an adverse reaction to alcohol, and others do not.

Experts have conducted significant alcoholism related research, but there still exists much debate over the disease concept of alcoholism.  Some professionals say alcoholism is a choice, while others believe an individual’s problems with drinking are related to a disease that can be treated.

Prior to the introduction of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, there had been many doctors who thought of alcoholism as an illness, but they were never really able to describe what it was.  It wasn’t until after the “Big Book” was published that alcoholism was defined and accepted as a disease, and many years later was subsequently recognized as such by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “disease” is defined as, “any departure from health presenting marked symptoms; malady; illness; disorder.” The disease concept of alcoholism is a model that, along with the twelve steps, has been used to successfully help thousands of people recover from alcoholism for over sixty years.

Alcoholism can be Treated

In the late 1930’s, Dr. William Silkworth, a doctor specializing in alcoholism, made an important discovery about the alcoholics he was treating at Towns Hospital in New York.  Due to Dr. Silkworth’s observations of the alcoholic and his interpretation of the disease of alcoholism, he has since been known within the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous as a medical saint.

Through years of intensive work with alcoholic patients, Dr. Silkworth developed the idea that alcoholics suffer from a physical allergy to alcohol.

When an alcoholic puts the substance in his or her body, the alcohol produces a physical craving.  This intense desire for more makes it impossible for them to stop drinking.  He said that this is not the biggest problem with the real alcoholic.  The problem is that the real alcoholic cannot keep from drinking.

Consider that in most cases, heavy or moderate drinkers can simply quit drinking with little or no struggle at all.  According to Dr. Silkworth, when the real alcoholic stops drinking, their mind plays tricks on them, and they focus only on the way alcohol made them feel.  The idea becomes so convincing that it outweighs the knowledge that they cannot safely drink.  This persistent feeling causes the alcoholic to start again every time.

The concept of alcoholism concludes that if you cannot drink safely, and you can not keep from drinking, then you are powerless over alcohol.

Alcoholism is a Three Part Disease: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual

From this observation, Dr. Silkworth developed the idea of “The Doctor’s Opinion”; an important chapter for the first edition of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous.  Silkworth explains that alcoholism is a disease of a three fold nature: a physical allergy, a mental obsession, and a spiritual malady.

Dr. Silkworth says that not only is the body of an alcoholic affected by alcohol, but the mind is as well.  The mind is quite as abnormal as the body when it comes to drinking.  From this information, Dr. Silkworth introduced the idea of an allergy to alcohol; the allergy is represented as a physical indication, a manifestation, or reaction to alcohol.

Webster’s definition of an allergy is, “an abnormal reaction to any food, beverage or substance.” When a person is allergic to strawberries and that person eats a strawberry, an allergic rash occurs.  For an individual who drinks milk and is lactose intolerant, the manifestation is dysentery.  Similarly, an allergy to ragweed will produce itchy and watery eyes.

For the real alcoholic, any alcoholic substance is manifested by the phenomenon of craving.  This is an actual physical craving for more.  Dr. Silkworth goes on to say that the chronic alcoholic manifests the symptoms of an allergy when paired with a phenomenon of craving after they take a drink, but not before.

Normal drinkers, or even heavy drinkers, do not have this allergy.  They will not have a drink and physically crave more.  When a normal, social, or moderate drinker consumes alcohol, they begin to feel dizzy, tipsy and out of control. In most cases, these physical and mental symptoms will discourage the continued consumption of the beverage.

On the other hand, an alcoholic reacts very differently to the substance physically and mentally; alcoholics feel more awake, confident and in control. Once an alcoholic takes a drink they must have more, no matter what the consequences or repercussions could be.  They begin to lose all control over the amount they consume.

In addition Alcoholism involves a spiritual malady, which means a lack of spirituality.  This describes the “ism” in alcoholism.  Untreated alcoholics without a spiritual solution feel irritated, angry, or empty inside without alcohol.  They may feel insecure and separate from the rest of the world.

Alcohol becomes the solution to a number of emotional issues.  Excessive feelings of guilt, shame, worry, and fear build up within.  Without a spiritual solution, their problems pile up to the point that they feel utterly hopeless.

The final component of alcoholism includes the mental obsession or the delusional thinking when it comes to drinking that untreated alcoholics experience.  The disease of alcoholism centers in the mind, which indicates that alcoholics suffer from a mental obsession.  For example, when an alcoholic has been sober for a period of time, their mind may tell them that a drink will make things better.  The brain sends signals that suggest that the disconnection will be resolved with a drink.

An untreated alcoholic who is struggling with the mental obsession will tell themselves insane lies and justifications when it comes to drinking.  They may tell themselves that because they have been sober for a period of time, they deserve a drink. Alcoholics think only about what alcohol does for them and not what it does to them.  They forget about the divorce, car wreck, job loss, or arrest. That feeling of ease seems worth it, while the consequences become rather unimportant.

Suffering alcoholics, or dry drunks, obsess over the feeling of comfort and release that comes from a drink.  They fantasize about the sense of control and confidence that alcohol gives them. In this stage, an alcoholic loses any bit of will power they may have had.  After all, will power is only there when the mind recognizes something wrong with what it wants to do.  Just before an alcoholic takes a drink, he or she sees nothing wrong with it.

Once the substance enters the body, the allergy is triggered and an alcoholic goes through the stages of their addiction all over again.  In a sense, the body destroys the mind and the mind destroys the body.  It’s at this point that an alcoholic has become powerless to alcohol.

Alcoholism and the Moment of Clarity

At some stage in their drinking spree, the alcoholic has a moment of clarity where they are overwhelmed by feelings of remorse.  He or she usually makes a firm promise to never drink again.  In this moment, the alcoholic has been given a window of opportunity to take the necessary action to overcome their alcoholic dilemma.

Finding a way to live without feeling disconnected is the only known solution.  Suffering alcoholics have to find a way to live free from overwhelming, uncomfortable feelings of despair. In order to recover, action must be taken during that moment of clarity to treat the spiritual malady.

Alcoholism can be treated, and alcoholics find recovery when they are sick and tired of being miserable.  Doing something different, like enrolling in an alcoholism treatment program initiates a new way of living with happiness and purpose.

If you or your loved one needs help finding the drug and alcohol rehab center, please call (800) 290-7150.

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