Disease? Character Flaw? Moral Shortcoming? Genetic Disorder?
Medico types have been in disagreement on this for some time, and to some degree it depends on how you define “disease”. It has many of the characteristics of a disease (progressive nature, typical course, typical outcome, strong familial tendency), but the at least seemingly voluntary nature of the “early stage”, if you will, is contrary to traditional disease concepts. I suspect it is like many things in life - a complex combination of factors, some genetic, some “learned”.
Slightly, perhaps way, OT
Probably need input from those directly in the trenches, but from my tangential involvement…
From a practical standpoint, it’s just semantics. My experience is that people who get highly charged over a particular “tag”, in either direction, have some personal motivation. I pass no judgements, mind you, on either/any camp. I imagine for some alcoholics, the disease concept makes sense to them and gets them past guilt/shame, and allows them to lead a contented, productive life without the use of alcohol. I imagine for some non-alcoholics, this seems like a cop-out. But does it really matter?
If I’m a quart-a-day vodka drinker, spewing havoc upon myself and everyone I come in contact with, and I come to realize “I have a disease”, get help, and stop drinking, am I…unworthy…copping out…full of shit…because I choose to call it a disease?
By the same token, If I’m a quart-a-day vodka drinker who says “Yes, I agree, that disease stuff is crap, I have a serious moral failing” and I continue drinking my face off…is that somehow…better? Does the “it’s a moral failing” camp prefer the “admittedly morally flawed” drinker to the “hiding behind a disease” sober person?
I use these examples merely to illustrate this point: bottom line, it doesn’t matter how anyone classifies it, if you’re an alcoholic, it behooves you to do something about it, regardless of any whys, hows, or whats.
As far as “12 steppers”, I cannot speak for them nor would I, but it is my understanding that the organizational philosophy has never been that theirs is the only way to stop drinking, nor that it is for all alcoholics, but that this is merely what has worked for them, and that anyone who feels that they have a drinking problem is free to give it a try, no strings attached. There have been other options in this country for some time (psychotherapy/counseling, religion, Rational Recovery, Members in Moderation) (may have those last two wrong), and 12 Step programs don’t vie with them or each other for “market share”, nor disparage the efforts of other approaches. They merely say “hope it works for you; if it doesn’t, you know where to find us if you want”. This is not to say that individuals don’t sometimes say/act otherwise, but that is an issue of the individual and not the organizational philosophy.
first time in GD - be gentle, I left my helmet at home