Has the view of alcoholics changed?

Since the inception of AA has helped (but not cured) many alchoholics, I was wondering if the perception OF an alchoholic has changed in the United States SINCE AA’s beginning. My guess is ‘no’, even with the overwhelming evidence that it is a disease.

I watched an interesting episode of “Dr. Phil” recently that was somewhat addressing this - a woman who keeps on drinking and driving and getting arrested for DUI was basically complaining because she is an alcoholic, and people suffering from her disease get no respect like people suffering from other diseases like AIDS or diabetes do. She was a entitled, self-justifying cow who endangered other people regularly, but she did make a good point about that.

I think society has a lot of respect for people who show the discipline to control their illness. I don’t see any disrespect paid to recovering alcoholics.

Great point, msaws, BUT as one of the disease factors is ‘falling off the wagon’ or the danger of it, would you ever trust them in an important position/

This is a really good point. Seeking and undergoing treatment can make the difference. Although I am a sympathetic person and I do consider alcoholism a disease, I find it more difficult to be sympathetic when people receive diagnoses and are aware of solutions, but do not take the necessary steps to implement them. I find this is particularly true for me where the illness is affecting other relationships.

Yes. I personally would. And many other people would as I do not see them being held back. We had a recovering alcholic serve as President for 8 years.

I think the comparison to the entitled bitch on Dr. Phil wouldn’t be to someone who gets sympathy because they have HIV, but more to someone who has HIV and fucks people anyway. Someone who gets arrested for DWI is going to get more sympathy than someone who is HIV positive and fucks people anyway.

The only counterpoint I’d have to that is that a symptom of the disease of alcoholism is that the disease itself inspires the person to resist seeking a cure. That’s one reason why mental illnesses and chemical dependencies can’t be compared to things like HIV.

Imagine how much more horrific HIV would be if it made the infected avoid treatment and hide their behavior.

If you’re HIV positive, treatment is a no-brainer. Not so for alcoholism.

All great points… but my question still stands: do people still regard alchoholics the same way they did when AA was started?

No. I don’t think so.

But at the same time, I think we’ve become both more and less tolerant of alcoholism. No one is more intolerant of an unrepentant alcoholic than someone with their 5 year pin. When they get to their 20 year pin they start to be more sage about it, but a recently recovering alcoholic is incredibly intolerant of drinking and tends to think everyone who gets drunk occasionally is an alcoholic.

I would say in some ways there is less tolerance - people understand what is happening better, they understand what needs to be done to not be a drinking alcoholic, and there is less tolerance for someone who refuses to seek treatment and continues to have a negative affect on other people.

I am unaware of such “evidence” for alcohoholism over the evidence that a tendency toward violence or impulsive behaviour are diseases.

We are all a combination of our genes and our nurture, and whether or not something is categorized as a disease–or has a proven genetic marker–does not have much bearing on the debate about to view the victims of the “disease.” Why is a mugger who kills impulsively not equally a “victim” of his “disease”?

It’s difficult to decide what to do with alcoholics who are a danger to others. If those who insist on categorizing alcoholism purely as a disease state were to be consistent, they’d have no more justification locking up the drunk who kills someone than the driver who suffers a heart attack and kills someone. And if the argument devolves to taking not responsibility for your disease, then we can use the example of the smoker who has a heart attack driving and kills someone.

In the end we are left with just muddling along, deciding rather arbitrarily which behaviours and processes to classify as diseases and which to classify as products of a totally rational mind choosing freely. There is no such thing as the latter.

He (George W. Bush) has never once publically (and I would bet privately either) acknowledged that he is or was an alcoholic/addict.

I remember watching him tell B. Walters (with a straight face) that when he was still drinking, he drank solely because he liked the taste of alcoholic beverages so very (VERY) much…

Has the view of alcoholics changed?

No, drunks are still seen as charming and funny and great to be around at parties.
It’s no fun being married to one, but other than that, drunks are filled with the special wisdom only large amounts of booze can supply.

Why acknowledge that you don’t drink then?

This just sounds like, “I don’t like George W. Bush so I am going to reject anything that can be viewed as even remotely positive about him.”

I don’t have much interest in those kinds of screeds. I get enough of them with people who hate Obama for no particular reason.

And yes, alcoholics drink because they like the ‘taste’ of alcohol so very very much. ;p

That’s not how it is where I live. Drunks are looked down on by my peer group.

“Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s a disease you can get yelled at for having.”

So says the late comic Mitch Hedberg, at least if I recall and paraphrase correctly.

The line gets laughs, which I take to suggest that many have both sympathy for people in the predicament of an alcoholic, but also an appreciation of the ethical problems and failings they seem to have.

I hope my own view doesn’t make me misread his audience. I think our understanding is still primitive, and our concept of disease is the closest to the truth but only obliquely correct.

They generally are. Almost every psychologist I have ever met would consider this a mental disorder. The thing is, we couldn’t let the compulsive killer stay lose, or he’d kill more people. Prison is often touted as being a a rehabilitation place, as well as a sequestering one.

Now, it you are saying that society doesn’t think of it the way the experts do, well, that’s true of everything.

The general attitude toward alcoholism in the U.S. has changed over the years, but it had little to do with AA.

Up until the 1970s, there were “drunks” and “social drinkers” and that was about it, with the “drunks” pilloried for engaging in self-destructive behavior and the “social drinkers” pitied for having made a “mistake” after a serious injury (or death). AA was looked on as a place for weak-willed drunks to get their lives together.
In the 1970s, several prominent people came forward to publicly note their own alcohol addicitions, most notably First Lady Betty Ford. Others included a Ford Motor Company executive who publicly went into a detox program and then pushed Ford to include such programs in their medical benefits.

It was at that point, (supported by a lot of movies and TV shows), where alcoholism began to be publicly treated as a disease, that attitudes began to change.

However, it was not, (and is not), an all-or-nothing switch in views. Many people now look at alcoholism as a disease, while many others are disdainful of the notion, claiming that it is nothing more than weak will and selfishness among “drunks.”
I have not seen any serious polls on the topic since the 1980s, so I have no idea what proportion of the population supports one view or another.

Wow MSWAS…you really think you have your finger on the pulse of recovering alcoholics don’t you?

I am a recovering alcoholic and have NEVER felt that way…

Glad I’m not in your peer group!!
Napier**…here you go!

I think social justice has advanced on most fronts since the 1940s.

I think as long as an alcoholic is not abusive towards others and does not endanger others, most people will cut him/her slack.

I used to go to AA meetings with a family member who very much felt this way and many of his friends in AA who I met were like this also.

shrugs Ok. Do you like people to be sloppy drunk around you all the time now that you’ve stopped drinking? I don’t like people being sloppy drunk around me.