It has been a long held belief that the alcoholic chooses their fate. And even though the medical community dubbed alcoholism a disease many years ago, there are still many people who either believe it is a choice or they don’t recognize it to be just like any other disease. The reality and truth about alcoholism is that no one chooses it. Alcoholism is just like any other disease.
Alcoholism is just like diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer. Alcoholism has proven to not only be based on genetic factors as well as environmental factors; it has also been proven to be a disease of the mind. The medical community recognizes this, but yet the stigma remains. The stigma being that the disease of alcoholism is not as real of a disease as, let’s say, diabetes, and it very well could be a matter of choice.
Why Alcoholism is Commonly Confused With Lack of Willpower
The reason many people have spent many years believing that alcoholism is a choice is because of the misunderstanding surrounding it. No one has to pick up a bottle to get cancer. But people pick up bottles, and drink in order to become alcoholics. And this to many people doesn’t fit what a normal disease looks like. It isn’t something that someone comes down with. There is some choice involved but when the disease manifests or if it is already there, from that point forward there is no choice involved.
The brain, the body, the genetics and quite possibly the environment of the alcoholic is different. Choice and moral failing or a lack of willpower has nothing to do with it. Just like someone who has diabetes doesn’t choose to have diabetes, but they did choose to eat unhealthily and not exercise the same applies to alcoholism. The alcoholic didn’t choose to have the disease of alcoholism but they did choose to pick up that very first drink and once that first drink has been picked up there is no stopping.
Why Alcoholism Is Absolutely a Disease
Alcoholism centers in the mind. Studies have shown that the brain of an alcoholic is different than the brain of someone who is not an alcoholic. Is has been said that the alcoholic brain derives more pleasure from alcohol and it also has a less of a “stop” system. The stop is system is what we would call impulse control.
The alcoholic brain usually tends to work under the premise of “leap than look” not “look before you leap.” And the alcoholic has no choice in the matter. Even if an alcoholic wanted to look before they leapt they wouldn’t be capable of doing so. This even applies for when they are sober. The brain of an alcoholic tells them to leap again, and again, and again even while knowing that each time they leap the drop is going to become more and more dangerous.
This is why there are so many people who will drink themselves into a coma, or they will drink and drive time and time again, or maybe they will even drink themselves out of the job, out of the family, or out of the home. Whatever the case may be, the alcoholic can’t stop once they get started because of this difference in the brain. The disease of alcoholism is a moral one as well. It is also one where some choice is involved. And so the stigma has stuck with it that alcoholics just are bad people. Yet, no one sees a diabetic as bad person when they decide to eat a piece of cake after eating healthy for a period of time. But this is because eating cake isn’t the same as getting drunk. And when alcoholic gets drunk they do things that a person who just eats cake wouldn’t do.
An alcoholic sometimes will lie, cheat, and steal to keep drinking. And this causes the disease of alcoholism to be looked at with hostility instead of with compassion. The truth is that if alcoholics had a choice they wouldn’t steal for booze, they wouldn’t drink and drive, nor would they drink at all. No one wakes up one morning and says they want to become an alcoholic.
Changing The Definition Of Alcoholism
Alcoholics are plagued by a lifelong disease that will take many lifestyle changes that last not for months, but until the end of their days in order for them to recover. And alcoholics can recover. They can relapse too. But they don’t have to. Alcoholism is a disease not a choice. Alcoholism is a progressive, chronic and fatal disease. And these three things make it very serious. There are some people who will choose to drink and it will end up killing them. And often times they will go to their grave with many people shaking their heads while saying “If only they had stopped drinking.” But they couldn’t stop.
Alcoholics need to be treated and rehabilitated not judged and, as they so often are, treated like criminals. So the next time you think that an alcoholic should “just say no” just remember they have a brain disease that doesn’t allow them to just say no. Their disease physically compels them to drink. Almost like your brain physically compels you to eat when you are hungry. Alcoholism is something that will be around to the end of our days and it is time we all start realizing that no one ends up choosing alcoholism. It is a disease that the unlucky few end up with it and have to overcome. Hopefully they do, because if they don’t they will probably die drunk.