I spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday with a really good friend of mine who has been sober through AA for many years. She's been wondering what I believe about the "disease concept" and I've been giving it quite a lot of thought. Here is one of the definitions listed for disease at dictionary.com: (A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.) By that definition, I have no problem describing alcoholism as a disease, but what I really think is that it doesn't matter whether you believe it's a disease or not. The only thing that matters is that if you have the problem, like me, that you find a way to think of it that will encourage your return to health.
From much and extensive personal experience, here are some things I have come to believe about my alcoholism:
It is not a matter of willpower. Any periods of abstinence I enjoy are soley a component of grace being active in my life. When grace is active, it is not a struggle to remain sober.
The condition does not come about by any lack of moral strength; however, it will affect changes in moral actions due to the complete lack of inhibition brought on by the substance. When sobriety returns, morality returns, with a vengence.
My alcoholism is accompanied by a life-long problem with depression and anxiety, which seem to descend on me in cycles. These problems happened before alcoholism and I think drinking is an ineffective way that I attempt to self-medicate. It sometimes helps temporarily, but in the long run makes things much, much worse.
I don't believe in a "garden variety drunk". Some people, like me, seem pretty much alcoholic from the get-go, others seem to develop alcoholism over a period of time or in extreme stress and some people are able to return to moderate drinking without crossing that invisible line.
These are some of the things I believe about my alcoholism. I could never presume to tell you what to believe about yours or anyone else's, but I am interested. What do you believe? What is helpful to you? If you had a problem and you're now sober, how did you do it?
By the way, I'm feeling much better today and still plan to go through with seeing someone as soon as possible. I'll let you know how it goes.