Maybe someone has said you are alcoholic, or maybe someone has said you are an alcoholic. Maybe someone has said you need to stop drinking, or even that you must. We do not do any of that here. We just try to help you decide the matter of alcoholism for yourself, then share our experience with permanent recovery.
Sorting these things out was not always easy, and especially not while anyone was pressuring us. We knew alcohol had been (or had begun) causing trouble in our lives, but we also knew we still had a right to drink…and even a certain kind of need to do so. What we had not understood, however, is why or how we had become unable to drink like other people.
The human body deals with alcohol by trying to metabolize it and expel it from our systems as quickly as possible. For some of us, however, the components for doing that have become compromised…and there is where our out-of-control drinking begins. When a certain derivative of alcohol remains in the bloodstream too long during metabolization, it can pull a neurological “trigger” demanding more alcohol…and we reach for yet another drink even whether or not we consciously wanted one or had ever intended to drink more. If you might be wondering whether something like that might be happening with you, we have this simple “test” you can try:
“We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, pages 31-32)
In other words, set a personal limit of just two or three drinks per day, then try to only drink that much about every other day for a week or so without drinking any extra in-between…and yes, we do realize that kind of drinking seems silly to many of us. But where some of us had once been able to do that, and quite safely, we eventually came to realize something had changed along the way and we no longer had complete control over how much we drank whenever we drank. Or as you might already know: “One drink had become too many, and now a thousand were never enough.”
Again from our A.A. “Big Book“, here are some additional thoughts and some overall experience you might find helpful while pondering the matter of chronic alcoholism…
Q: “‘I can take it or leave it alone. Why can’t he?'”
A: Because he needs what alcohol does for him. And for the moment, never mind what it might also be doing to him. Where many people might take a couple of drinks and say “I’d better stop, I’m beginning to feel it”, the alcoholic says, “Oh no, have some more! That is what alcohol is for!”
Q: “‘Why don’t you drink like a gentleman or quit?’ ‘That fellow can’t handle his liquor.'”
1. “First the drinker takes a drink,” ← mental/emotional obsession or desire
2. “Then the drink takes a drink,” ← caused by some abnormal body chemistry
3. “Then drink takes the drinker.” ← early grave or “wet (pickled) brain”
“…once s/he takes any alcohol whatever into his/her system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible to stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm this.” (pages 22-23)
In the early days of A.A., Dr. William D. “Silky” Silkworth had this to say about that:
“We (doctors) believe…the action of alcohol on (these certain people) is a manifestation of an allergy…limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all…cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving…the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity… The only relief we (doctors) have to suggest (for beyond-all-control drinking) is entire abstinence.” (“The Doctor’s Opinion“, 1939)
A.A. expresses no opinion on that matter as to whether alcoholism is an actual “disease”, as such, yet we do share this bit of common, hard-won experience:
“The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say his explanation makes good sense…explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.” (our comment within “The Doctor’s Opinion“)
Q: “‘Why don’t you try beer and wine?’ ‘Lay off the hard stuff.'”
A: We have discovered that makes no difference. Whether distilled, brewed, fermented, tasty, sweet or sour in a bottle, keg, can, jug, slipper, snifter, flask, glass or even as in “near beer” — Have you ever wondered why those labels say “non-alcoholic” where the labels on soft drinks do not?! — alcohol is still alcohol.
Q: “‘His will power must be weak.’ ‘He could stop if he wanted to.'”
A: As above: He needs what alcohol does for him. To be able to live without drinking alcohol at all, we had to find a “sufficient substitute” (page 152) for the effect we used to get from drinking.
Q: “‘She’s such a sweet girl, I should think he’d stop for her sake.'”
A: Many of us have tried stopping even for our own sake and still found ourselves completely unable to do so.
Q: “‘The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again.'”
A: “Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.” (page 30) Again:
First the alcoholic takes a drink, seeking the effect,
then the drink takes a drink, seeking more of itself,
then drink takes the alcoholic into insanity or death.
But if you have a desire to stop drinking, there is yet a third way for chronic alcoholism to end — “God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves” (page 84) — and we have that permanent solution to share…
“…a common solution…a way out on which we can absolutely agree,
and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action…
the great news (we carry) to those who suffer from alcoholism.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 17)