Despite much evidence pointing towards the contrary, alcoholism is still considered, by many, to be nothing more than a self-involved disinterest in giving up a beloved vice, despite the havoc it inevitably wreaks. This unfortunate stigma is alive and well, and has prevented many a suffering alcoholic from seeking adequate treatment. Fortunately, however, much knowledge has come to surface regarding the true nature of the disorder – it is now widely accepted as chronic, relapsing brain disease; one often requiring intensive therapeutic treatment coupled by 12-step program immersion. Alcoholism has not only become a diagnosable disorder since it was first explained in scientific and medical literature, it is also widely referred to as an ‘allergy’ This terminology tends to hang some people up. When we think of an allergy, we think of an adverse, physical reaction – hives or anaphylaxis or fits of sneezing and red, itchy eyes.
Alcoholism Defined as an Allergy
But what is an allergy, really? It is simply defined as an abnormal reaction to any food, liquid, or substance. In ‘The Doctor’s Opinion’, on page xxiv of The Big Book, Dr. William D. Silkworth notes that “the action of alcohol on an alcoholic is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker.” A phenomenon is something that occurs for which there is no explanation. “These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all.” So we are allergic, because once we put one drink into our bodies we begin to react quite unlike the majority of other men. We may not break out in a rash or begin sneezing uncontrollably. But we are certainly allergic, and our reaction to alcohol is most certainly adverse.
The Phenomenon of Craving
We, as alcoholics, understand that consuming one solitary drink will lead to the instantaneous development of a train of thought that quickly morphs into an uncontrollable obsession. Once this obsession begins to manifest, we lose the ability to control how much we take. One drink becomes two, and then we convince ourselves that we will stop at five and drink plenty of water, and then we find ourselves entering a black out from which we may or may not soon return. Individuals who do not boast personal experience with alcoholism recovery will usually make one of two mistakes. They will either believe that alcoholism is a purely physical malady, and can be cured by physical treatment alone – a detox, perhaps, and some quality painkillers. Or, they will believe that alcoholism can be cured by an increase in will-power. Most alcoholics have tried both a physical remedy and an increase in will-power, and found time and time again that neither option really works. Fortunately, we have found a way to stop alcoholism dead in its tracks, and live the happy and fulfilled lives that for so long eluded us.
There is a Solution
For many of us, the solution lies somewhere in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many of us struggle with co-occurring disorders, unresolved trauma, and a host of other outside issues that require supplemental therapeutic care. If this is the case, inpatient treatment comes as a highly recommended first step. Once we become willing to open our minds to a method of treatment that revolves around a comprehensive combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing, we allow ourselves the opportunity to enter into recovery. But because the very concept of alcoholism can be so difficult to comprehend or explain, we may get hung up overthinking, or attempting to disprove. Take a look at this excerpt from an article titled The Phenomenon of Craving, featured on www.barefootsworld.net.
“Alcoholics make up about 12% of the population. The body of the alcoholic is physically different. The liver and pancreas of the alcoholic process alcohol at one-third to one-tenth the rate of a normal pancreas and liver. Now as alcohol enters the body, it breaks down into various components, one of which is acetate. We know now that acetate triggers a craving for more acetate. In a normal drinker, the acetate moves through the system quickly and exits. But that doesn’t happen in an alcoholic. In alcoholics, the acetate of the first drink is barely processed out, so by staying in their body, it triggers a craving for more acetate. The alcoholic then has a second drink, now adding to most of the acetate of the first drink, and that makes them want a drink twice as much as the normal drinker. So they have another. Then, having almost three times the craving as a normal drinker, they have another.”
Cunning, Baffling, Powerful
Somewhere down the road, the insidious and cunning disease of alcoholism may crop up and begin to plant some ideas in the back of our minds. It may whisper, “Hey, you haven’t had a drink in years. You deserve just one. Just one glass of wine, and then stop again. Surely you can have just one glass of wine.” And though we know from experience – from innumerable failed experimentations – that ‘just one’ will never be an option, we may give in to this devious, ill-intentioned voice. And as soon as we do, the phenomenon of craving will begin all over again – our allergy will kick off right where it left off. Thus, the only way to remain in remission is to commit to total abstinence, one day at a time.
For ore information on the disease of alcoholism, or to learn more about our male-specific program of addiction and trauma recovery, please feel free to contact us today at (561) 563-8406.