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Alcoholism a Disease or Sin?

Updated on March 6, 2009

The paradox of Alcoholism

Alcoholics live in a world of paradox. They are afflicted with a disease that others who seemingly drink the same amount may walk away from. 

Perhaps you, like so many others who went to college or went right to work out of high school drank too much.. Then came warnings that signaled the brain enough is enough. I don't like this, I don't enjoy it enough to lose my job, get a DUI, or get a divorce. Maybe you drank with an alcoholic spouse just to keep an eye out for him/her but found the experience of drinking constantly as a negative that was affecting the kids, your family, friends and your goals for your life and you quit. A couple days of physical withdrawal such as headaches and aches and pains and you are  set to go again.

However, you don't know your DNA has been tagged for alcoholism until you decide to quit, but cannot. The drinking is out of control. Your life, too, is out of control, though you will surely deny it. Now your family, especially the kids, may not have friends over, they assume roles that are unnatural in order to make it seem like the family is like everyone elses. They may not have lunch because money is short. They will be embarrassed by their clothes so that school friends make fun of them. Sometimes they "loan" money to parents. The first rule is protect the family by not talking.

If one parent is alcoholic, the other will become controlling and try to keep a finger on the pulse of everything and everybody in the home and on the street. The house, on the other hand, in some cases is immaculate. The kids are sent to school perfectly dressed, at least one will get perfect grades and do everything by the book home and away. He/she will assume the role of the controlling significant other should an illness intervene in the routine.

Have you noticed how many paradoxes there are? (paradox describes a following event that should not be). there are more.

Some will question the notion of alcoholism as a disease and why not? How would anyone know since very little about it is disseminated to our school children. the paradox here is that every generation brings a whole new group of youth who will begin the young person's rite of passage. They will drink, get drunk, and kill one another at high rates of intoxication and speed.

Sadly, parents bestow the responsibilty of automobile ownership on those not prepared to deal with driving soberly and responsibly. Surprisingly, over 60% and more girls get into a car with their boy friend who has been drinking. They are also assaulted while the boy friend is drunk. When he is not pummeling her with his fists, she may be nursing him back to sensibility.

Rape on college campusus is under-reported, unless you are the college administrator or police chief who has to keep the true numbers from going public. Alcohol is involved in many of these crimes, especially at fraternity and sorority parties where under-age drinking is the norm.

An alcoholic doesn't just wake up one morning and announce : " Honey, could you take me down to the alcoholic treatment center today?" " I guess I'll take 6 weeks off from work and let them cure me." They come to the attention of the boss when they cause the company a serious loss due to drinking. They get pulled over by police and hauled off to jail, facing a date with court where the cost is going to total in the thousands.

They live on the edge. They run over a pedestrian or wipe someone else out on the road. Two weeks after a lotto winner in Nevada won several million, she and her sister were rear-ended by a drunk driver. She is now a parapalegic living only with health aids in a new home. The sister was killed instantly. She was the only family of this poor woman. The drunk driver got 40 years. He had many other encounters with the law and just couldn't believe other people were good enough to enjoy the same rights as he took for his own.

If you are contemplating treatment for a loved one who has "volunteered" to get help "for the judge," It's still going to be a bumpy road ahead for loved ones and no picnic for the alcoholic either, who must face the shambles of his and the familie's lives on the brink.

Some experience detox with barely a whimper, while others must be heavily medicated until their system is clear of the drug. The hard part is looking into the mirror and to face his family and peers without alcohol in the system. He /she will feel a need to defend a common story to peers who won't believe that the main problem is that his wife doesn't understand him. He will insist that he "never hurt anyone cause the drinking wasn't a problem."

This former counselor was green once and gullible. A pretty, innocent college student tells me a believable story about there being just "one" party where she had a "couple of beers" and stayed out all night, and not and could not remembe anything. * Wow, I thought to myself, wait until I report our mistake tomorrow at the treatment staff meeting."She doesn't belong here.

The next morning, sure enough, when it came my turn to report on patient progress I reported the college student as being in the wrong place. I proceeded to report in glowing terms her good family, a supportive boy friend, her tender age..blah blah..then came the lightening bolt. This "angel" was caught just before lights out injesting a liquid that later tested positive for, etoh, or what is more generally known as alcohol mixed with orange juice.

She was kicked out two weeks later when staff observed her sniffing nail polish. Her father, quite an influential man in the community, conviced the hospital to readmit her. She made it, married after college, and has many years of sobriety.

This is another paradox. Often patient's block any attempt to guide them but eventually got better at their own pace. A few make it simply because they want to "prove" to the counselor they can "do it on their own." and a very small number do. I saw it twice in seven years.

Once a patient hits the bed in detox, there is no predicting how he/she will do. sometimes their body is worn out but they want to die sober and some do. Some do not have whatever it is, higher power, or God. maybe they are so used to lying that they can't change.

But loved ones get better. some family members move on without looking back, while others put the bad things out of their lives even while continuing to live with the alcohoiic. Many are comforted and breathe a sigh of relief that they can finally turn it all over to God. It's a miracle to see the changes brought about as a result of their hard work and final acceptance they are not the cause of the drinking, nor the cure.

The truth is some alcoholics' will drink the day after they get out of rehab. They go on to destroy their liver, kidneys, heart and brain. They die from stumbling into a snowdrift or a bullet or knife in a bar. Some go to prison, while others go back to prison. They blow their brains out all too frequently, or someone else does, accidentlly or on purpose. solme will drift in and out of AA and manage to finally sober up. These are not bad people. They are not sinful.

One day soon every person will know if they have the identifying marker for the disease. Those who choose to drink will probably face ah unforgiving society. No one will put up with an alcoholic who drinks, despite warnings, and goes through life trying to to figure out how to make everything work and still be able to drink. It is truly difficult to envision a society willing to go along with this insane, singular social experiment.

* Not knowing what happened after a bout of drinking is the sign a brain is flashing an SOS. Known as a blackout,. this is common even amongst younger people who began to experiment with the drug at an early age, and continue in the face of mounting problems.

There is irony in the following dialogue  between an officer trying to get the facts from an alcoholic, a day after a traffic accident.

"Did you cause an accident while you were drinking," asks the police officer. " No I never," exclaiims the alcoholic. "Well, two people witnessed you doing it," states the officer. " That's impossible!" shouts the alcoholic. " I don't remember any such thing happening."

* blackouts may occur anytime but usually don't occur until significantlly after some years of drinking.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Its so funny how Christians,even ones you think know what they are talking about,think that addictive disease is simply a moral issue of the will. Addiction by its very nature applies chemical dependency and bondage to such a degree the will to stop is gone. Whoever drives down skid row and looks and the men and women who have lost spouses,health and sanity to end up sleeping in a gutter and say they choose this, is clearly a little off. When a mouse deprived of cocaine and bound by a chained leg will gnaw his own leg off to get the drug its clear there is more going on with addiction than just willpower or the lack thereof.

      We live in a time when addiction recovery centers are springing up like wild flowers. Why its even on T.V. as reality show recovery shows the stars and their problems with recovery. There are as many theories about addiction as there are people. So is it disease or a sin. While as a Christian I dont want to dismiss drunkeness as sin I also dont want to tell a full blown chemically addicted person they just need to quit and read their Bible and God will provide. Yes God will provide and He is the only answer, yet its more complicated than just putting a bandaid on it.ONCE YOU HAVE USED ENOUGH DRUGS OR ALCOHOL YOUR BODY WILL BECOME HARD WIRED TO ALWAYS WANT MORE .IT WILL EVERY PART OF YOUR BEING TO AQUIRE THE DRUG..PERIOD. You then will have a very real disease that wont every go away no matter who tells you otherwise.God can heal and restore you but even then you still wont every be able to drink again.The disease of alcholism is chronic,its progressive and its fatal.

      The only means of escape is getting into good recovery program based on the 12 step model. People will often say to a person in recovery how much time do you have,in reference to sobriety time. The best answer I ever heard was I have one day...and rea;ly thats all you get. You can have a one day reprieve based on your willingness to do the 12 steps.The fatal error in just calling it sin and its fundamental is that one day sooner or later the drug alcohol which was probing your faultiness will try exploit that.Really the bbile doesnt say one drink is says drunkenss is sin. So if tyour free from sin and walking with the Lord empowered by the Holy Spirit who is to say you cant have one drink. Oh cause its sin for you they will say..well where does it say that in the Bible. Alcoholism is one of the most cunning foes you will ever face and its patient,it will wait yers to re enslave you,turst me Ive been there. Thats why the first step we must admit we are powerless over doesnt say we are powerless over sin. To fight an enemy you must first find out the very nature of that enemy,then you must defeat it. If an enemy can keep its identity cloaked then your just wasteing your time.

      I am going to side with science on this debate ,even as a Born Again Chrisitan,and say from my personal experience and all Ive read its a fatal disease. Of course the A.M.A and every other professional gropup is in agreement there.

      If it were just in the Spiritual realm I would agree with the Christian sin concept and to a large degree it is sin...its just that its that and more. You have a wonderful human body created by God and you have the actual physical consuming of a known addictive substance. So yes its physical and it weaves its tentacles deep into the fabric of your body,soul and mind.So much so that it hard wires you always be a risk for relapse. Sobriety is the most wonderful thing I have experienced in my life but I had to hit rock bottom,want help and be ready to accept what others who have walked sober for years were telling me. Please be careful who you listen to about chemical addiction because it is not aq game and it will kill you.

    • solarcaptain profile imageAUTHOR

      mike king 

      9 years ago from california


      I can feel the pain that you are in. I just wrote a new hub to help answer a few of your questions and get you started on a new track. Certainly, depresssion and hopelessness are the overlay of living with an alcoholic.

      After awhile it seems normal to feel "bad." Without barging into your private life, if you haven't seen your physician in some time, it might be well to go in and discuss with her/him some of your symtoms. doctors are a lot more keen on alcoholism then in the old days. Also, many experts who know suggest a woman therapist if your doctor suggests some counseling. Most support groups are very understanding and will give you everything you need to get started in the right direction to recovery. Without getting into religion, it helps to get in touch with your spiritual side, prayer and meditation or however you define your spirituality. Sometimes a best friend or sibling, a teacher or minister have the understanding and love to help you through. In any case, you are saying there is a problem and seem to be asking for a solution. Forgive my intrusion if I read it wrong. I hope that those here who have experienced living with an alcoholic will share how they coped and moreover, how they not only survived but overcame. I will be here if you have further concerns or questions.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you for this hub. What you have said is true for many diseases. I found myself taking the upper role as my husband suffered from OCD for several years before diagnosis. Now I find myself trying to control his drinking problem. Being obsessive as he is, we both find ourselves in a terrible place.. He drinks and I find myself drinking as well because I've spent so many years trying to be in charge of everything and I think i've just given up. I'm tired. I need to find something deep down to fight this. I'm not blaming anyone.. It's just how I feel.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Thank you for this wonderful hub, and for the work you have done with recovering alcoholics.


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