Sunday, December 28, 2008

Disease?

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.



5 comments:

Olivia said...

I'm so glad you're doing better, Angela. What you write makes so much sense to me. I don't have any wisdom to add...I also have a problem with depression and anxiety, and always need to be aware and address it and take care of myself, I know this. The TrueHope supplement thing works for me, but whatever you have to do is worth it, because we all deserve to have a quality life. Medication. Alternative treatments. Meditation. Whatever. I think it's different for each person.

I just want you to know that my thoughts are with you. As always, I admire you for being transparent as you go through this. I'm sure it is helpful to you and I know that it encourages others.

Much love,

O

Mary LA said...

Hi Angela

You know, I still don't understand the patterns and patternless behaviour of my drinking years. I just reached a point where it had to stop.

And I once tried to drink myself through a severe bout of depression after my mother committed suicide. Pouring a depressant down my throat on top of a depression. Not a smart move!

Love to you

Mary

Mystery said...

"In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me, an invincible summer."

“When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope”

From an old friend who was thinking of you on this cold December night. In case you need reminding you have helped a lot of people, including me, with your thoughtfulness and your compassion.
You will survive this.

Angela said...

Thank you, Olivia. You are one of the sweetest, most compassionate people I know. :)

Mary, that must've been a very difficult time. I'm glad your on the other side.

Thank you, Mystery.

Island Girl Spirit said...

One of my favorite questions and I wish I had the answer!
I do believe in the disease concept of alcoholism. it is the same as a mental illness or cancer. Now however, as I stand on the other side of alcoholism and severe depression I feel that some part of me had a "choice" in creating those diseases. I have said this to two other people and they have totally blown up at me and told me I am in terrible denial . . . maybe I am. I am not trying to to say the "disease" concept is wrong. It isn't. It is a terrible disease. I have several friends who have died from it. That is very real. But somehow I believe we build our realities . . . or are born into it.
Just Food For thought . . .
I am trying to read a book called Biology of belief by Bruce Lipton which I think may partain to this train of thought . . .
Love you Angela, You are in my thoughts and prayers. Kel