I have read many articles on the subject of alcoholism and AA. Most are full of misinformation, misunderstanding and untruth. This is my attempt, as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, to help you understand this cunning, baffling and powerful disease and how AA helps us live sober, one day at a time.
The disease of alcoholism, (yes, it’s a disease), is a threefold illness- physical, mental and spiritual. There is no cure for alcoholism. What we have is recovery and discovery. It is not a program of self-improvement of self-help. It is a program of self-discovery.
It is widely understood that about 1 in 10 people have the disease of alcoholism. That 10% of the population includes all races, creeds, ages, sexes, religions, and all other factors. Alcoholism does not discriminate any of these; it simple exists when the individual has the threefold illness.
The first aspect of the disease is physical. An alcoholic processes alcohol differently than the “normal" drinker. Of course the term normal includes all ranges of drinkers. But only the alcoholic develops what is known as the phenomenon of craving. In essence, an alcoholic is allergic to alcohol. This allergy manifests itself in this craving making it impossible for us to stop drinking. It is the FIRST drink that gets us drunk, not the last. When one drink is ingested it sets off this phenomenon of craving and makes us want more and more and more. We do not stop until we pass out, black out, go to jail, experience many consequences, and/or die.
The mental obsession is the second aspect of the disease of alcoholism. This obsession crowds out all other thoughts, including the reminders of all the pain, heartache, injury or other consequence that we have experienced. The disease of alcoholism centers in the mind. Therefore, the mind of the alcoholic cannot differentiate between the true and the false. We have just as much a thinking problem as we do a drinking problem.
If these two aspects sound grim, that is because they are what leads us to the desperation, futility and hopelessness that we feel while we are in the throes of the disease. We are either drinking, or we are thinking about drinking. Either way, we have no positive results.
This leads us to the third aspect of alcoholism- the spiritual. An alcoholic must experience an entire psychic change to overcome the physical and mental parts of our disease. There is a “black hole" that we feel and all we know to do is fill it with alcohol. Yet alcohol is only a symptom, our temporary solution to help us not have to feel. We self-medicate, and once we put any form of alcohol, including some in pill form, we set off this allergy/phenomenon of craving and we are gone. And, when we are not drinking, all we can do is obsess over the next drink- when and how we’re going to get it. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle which leaves the alcoholic in the most hopeless, despairing state.
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous utilizes the Big Book which is a 164-page spiritual program of action. The process of the 12 steps helps each alcoholic tap into a power greater than ourselves which will solve our problem. And it is not necessarily alcohol that is our problem; it’s a living problem. The steps of AA help us develop a relationship with a Higher Power of our own understanding, and allow us to have a personal connection with that Power. Each step builds on the previous step, and is a lifelong process, one day at a time. We continue this journey daily and incorporate all of the steps and principles into our lives.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program, not a religious one. It is personal and individual, while remaining a “we" program. We do it together, not alone. We have the help of each other, our sponsor and our home group. There is an AA meeting located anywhere any of us go. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is the path that affords us the opportunity to recreate our lives and be reborn.
Cindy Weir writes up-to-date commentaries, articles, and reviews for alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous, health, fitness and other related issues. http://alcoholic-anonymous.blogspot.com