Understanding Alcoholism



 What is Alcoholism?

  The American Medical Association recognizes alcoholism as a disease that can be arrested but not cured. One of the symptoms is an uncontrollable desire to drink. Alcoholism is a progressive illness. As long as alcoholics continue to drink, their drive to drink will get worse. If not dealt with, the disease can result in insanity or death. The only method of arresting alcoholism is total abstinence. Most authorities agree that even after years of sobriety, alcoholics can never drink again, because alcoholism is a lifetime disease.

There are many successful treatments for alcoholism today. Alcoholics Anonymous is the best known, and widely regarded as the most effective.


Who Are Alcoholics?

  All kinds of people are alcoholics- young and old, rich and poor, well-educated and ignorant, professional people and factory workers, housewives and mothers. Only about three to five percent of alcoholics are “bums” or derelicts. The rest have families, friends, and jobs and are functioning fairly well, but their drinking affects some part of their lives. Their family life, social life or their job may suffer. It might be all three. Alcoholics are people whose drinking causes a continuing and growing problem in any area of their lives.


Why do Alcoholics Drink?

  Alcoholics drink because they think they have to. They use alcohol as a crutch and an escape. They are in emotional pain and use alcohol to kill that pain. Eventually they depend on alcohol so much that they become convinced they can’t live without it. This is obsession.

When some alcoholics try to do without alcohol, the symptoms are so overwhelming that they go back to drinking because drinking seems to be the only way to get rid of the agony. This is addiction.

Most alcoholics would like to be social drinkers. They spend a lot of time and effort trying to control their drinking so they will be able to drink like other people. They may try drinking on weekends or drinking only a certain drink. But they can never be sure of being able to stop drinking when they want. They end up getting drunk even when they promised themselves they wouldn’t. This is compulsion.

It is the nature of the disease that alcoholics do not believe they are ill. This is denial. Hope for recovery lies in their ability to recognize a need for help, their desire to stop drinking and their willingness to admit that they cannot cope with the problems themselves.


Families and Friends Are Affected

Alcoholism is a family disease. Those relationships in which a person is really close to an alcoholic are affected most. Friendships, employment, childhood, parenthood and marriages all suffer from the effects of alcoholism.

*Taken from Alateen-Hope for Children of Alcoholics (B-3) “Understanding Ourselves”