Many people ask themselves: is alcoholism a disease?
And, if they answered yes to that question, they often believe the disease of alcoholism is incurable.
During the arduous 10-years of trying to find a solution to my own drinking problem, I ended up buying into this argument.
And how exactly did I come to this conclusion?
Firstly, I looked at my family tree. My family tree was filled with people who had drug and alcohol problems.
“Surely, it must be part of my genetic make-up.”
I thought to myself.
And then, as soon as I heard about this “disease” theory, I knew I must have it! My entire family must have suffered from this disease.
That was the answer! I had a disease! That’s why I couldn’t control my drinking.
A large percentage of ex-problem drinkers also believe in the disease theory of alcoholism. But, is alcoholism a disease?
Luckily, I now see my drug addiction exactly for what it was – an addiction. And these days, I now realize that I am not, or never had a disease.
The “cure” for the so-called disease was simple. I stopped drinking.
Ever since that day, life went well again.
I’m going to present 3 core arguments against the “disease” theory of alcoholism. I’ll also explain why you don’t need to adapt to the disease theory to get sober, and how it actually ends up harming your journey.
You are not the problem
Here’s the first major issue, with asking “is alcoholism a disease?”…
If you choose to believe alcoholism is a disease, you become the problem. You are essentially saying “I have a disease and it’s all my fault.”
In addition to this, you end up taking away any personal responsibility. You end up saying stuff like:
“It’s not my fault. I was born this way.”
Well, I’m sorry, but it is not true. Problem drinkers aren’t born this way, and they have absolutely nothing wrong with them.
If they drink a powerfully addictive drug, and then they drink it again, I’d argue that that’s the nature of the drug – not the person.
What would you say to someone that stopped taking heroin? Or stopped smoking? That they also live with a disease for the rest of their lives?
We know this is not the case. But, for some strange reason, we use this theory of disease for alcohol.
So, I tried the “disease theory” approach when I first went to A.A. I was told here that I had an incurable disease with no known cure. I would have to suffer from this disease for the rest of my life.
In other words, I was doomed – and I was going to be this way forever.
During my entire period of going to 12-step meetings, I had a sense of deprivation. I really thought I had given something up that benefited my life. So, if I ever felt like I wanted to drink alcohol, it must have been the disease in me talking.
I was somewhat possessed, or controlled by the disease.
Listen closely. It does NOT have to be this way. Let me explain why…
At the end of the day, it all boils down to the approach that you take to stop drinking. If you feel as though you’ve made a genuine sacrifice, you will feel like you’re missing out.
And, when that happens, if you tell yourself you have a disease, then it’s no longer your fault. You’re incurable. But, you still feel deprived.
And what’s the solution to overcoming the feelings of deprivation? Well, you simply have to use willpower. There’s no other way to get through those cravings. Buying into the “alcoholism is a disease” theory is nothing more than the willpower method re-labelled.
From personal experience, and from talking to other problem drinkers, this is quite an ineffective approach. It can work for some time – weeks, months, even years – but you will always have that feeling of missing out.
If you buy into having a disease, and you buy into A.A. 100%, then the disease theory can get on the right track. There’s no denying it. However, it didn’t work for me, and if you’re reading this blog, it probably didn’t work for you either.
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For which there is “no known cure”
The next issue I have with the disease theory is the part where there is “no known cure”.
There absolutely is a cure. And, it’s to stop drinking using First Principles Thinking.
That means bringing awareness to the beliefs you have around alcohol, dismantling them, and building a new paradigm or world-view.
You essentially break down this complex problem and rebuild it from the ground-up. You give yourself a totally new perspective.
The problem with the disease theory is that you NEVER do this. You simply have to live with this “disease” for the rest of your life.
You never understand the core of the issue – which is thinking that alcohol provides a genuine benefit to your life.
Instead, you have to exercise will-power forever. Imagine that. 20-years without drinking, and you’re still using willpower.’
I have heard people that have been in A.A. for 10+ years, routinely say they have to take it one day at a time to not drink.
They still live with the mindset that alcohol provided a genuine benefit. It’s no wonder they believe they have a disease. If I had been struggling for 20-years, still exercising willpower, I’d probably think I had a disease as well!
But, this all boils down to the approach that the individual takes to stop drinking.
When you go through First Principles Thinking, you face those core-beliefs. You break them down one-by-one.
Whichever way you choose to go through First Principles Thinking is up to you, but once you realize that alcohol gives you nothing, the disease theory holds zero weight.
The disease theory will only hold weight if you give it weight.
And that’s if you fully buy into it.
If you take the right approach to stop drinking, and you do it by reasoning from First Principles, you start to realize the cure to your problem.
And, it’s much more simple than you think. There’s no need for step-work, no need for willpower and it just becomes a simple and logical decision.
Focuses on the negatives instead of the positives
When you believe you have a disease, there is another critical flaw.
It has a huge emphasis on the negatives.
Saying you have an incurable disease for the rest of your life isn’t something I found particularly empowering. Quite the contrary. I found it destructive.
If I knew I had an incurable disease that could strike at any minute, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going towards a better quality of life. Imagine if you wanted to start a new business, or get a partner or get your health back on track?
You end up with this “chain” of disease around your neck forever. And don’t forget, apparently this is an incurable disease. By choosing to say you have a disease, you’re signing yourself up for a life sentence of misery.
But again, it all comes down to the approach you use to stopping. If you use a method that requires willpower and makes you feel like you’re making a sacrifice, it’s going to challenge you.
It’s going to feel negative.
If you use a method that brings awareness to your belief-systems, you will feel the opposite.
You will feel like you’re about to make a positive change, instead of making a negative change.
You feel like you’re about to do something great, instead of bad and difficult.
For me, this was everything. Having a positive outlook on the future, instead of worrying about how I would handle situations, made all the difference.
I didn’t need to change who I was to stop drinking – I needed to change my paradigm and world-view. And, I did this through First Principles Thinking.
Once I had gone through this process, I realized I was never the problem. Neither had I ever been the problem in the first place.
The only problem in my life was the drug and the problems that the drug caused. Once I got rid of the drug, I never looked back. Life started moving in the right direction again.
If you fully buy into the theory of alcoholism being a disease, then it’s likely you will be taking a very different approach to getting sober. However, if you’ve tried that already and it didn’t work for you, the First Principles approach can make all the difference.
Today, we looked at the question: “is alcoholism a disease?” and broke it down further.
We looked into how you are not the problem – you never have been and you never will be the problem. The drug is the problem.
We looked at how there is “no known cure” to the disease of alcoholism, and we dismantled this belief.
And, we understood how believing alcoholism is a disease gets you in a negative frame of mind – which is highly ineffective.
Is alcoholism a disease? I’d say no.
Let me know your thoughts down below. Do you agree or disagree with the theory?