Remember – Alcohol, Abuse Is a Choice, Not Disease!

John, our favorite Australian correspondent, wrote to note that a lot of people don’t really want to hear that their alcohol abuse is a choice – and so is fixing it. That came as no surprise to us. After all, what better excuse for continuing drinking than having a “disease” over which you are “powerless”?  And for parents wanting to avoid dealing with their adult children’s behavior, well, why not decide that it’s a “disease” rather than a choice? All in all it’s no surprise that many people prefer this option but it doesn’t come without costs.

First, since it isn’t true, there is always that nagging guilt that you ought to be doing something about your drinking and, let’s face it, you know it really is a choice. Second, if you insist on adhereing to this model, then you’re stuck with the AA model being your only way out – and that’s a really really ineffective and demeaning way out, even when it works. Third, you’re also stuck with declaring yourself to be less than equal to the rest of us – “us” being the dreaded “normies” or those of us who gave up our alcohol abuse and rejoined the ranks of normal. Fourth, you have to be willing to assume the “alcoholic” label with all of the private and public costs associated with that FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! Fifth, well, we think you get the point, don’t you?

So! Do you want to fix your drinking problem or maintain it? That’s really the first choice you need to make. And if you want to fix it, then you just need to opt for help that actually works. It’s not rocket science – but it might feel like it once you start enjoying the benefits of being a liberated adult, not a diseased and over-age child! Remember! If you want to quit or modify your drinking, success depends on who you surround yourself with – including where you look for help.

Why?

Simply put, your drinking problems exist within the context of your everyday life and no one influences that, or is affected by it, more than the people closest to you. When you change a significant behavior it affects them and they will react in ways that either support or sabotage the change. Sometimes both. Equally importantly, when looking for help, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people who want to help and also know how! Most people, especially most “Treatment Professionals”, don’t have a clue as indicated in a project I did for the Drug Free Schools Program way back in 1992. The project conducted Drug and Alcohol Education for teachers and other interested community members in Kodiak, Alaska. This included a pre- and post-test of basic information. The results? Everyone who participated did better on the tests than any of the Certified Chemical Dependency Counselors tested then or since! Why? Because most of the questions could be answered by using common sense – and community members hadn’t been brain washed with a lot of treatment industry bunk.

What does all this mean?

It means that if you want to end your drinking problems you need to include your spouse if you are married or involved, and be damn careful who you decide to hang out with. That includes taking a close look at who you might ask for help. Remember! You want to associate with people who are living the way you want to and in ways that appeal to you. Don’t expect those who’ve decided to continue with an alcohol focused life to help you leave that behind. That’s never going to happen. Remember – if you want to follow the ex-smokers’ model and become an ex-drinker, or an ex-problem-drinker, then let us help you figure out exactly what’s going to work for you.

Alcohol, abuse? Been there, done that, got over it. Are you ready to say the same?

© Copyright 2010 by Edward Wilson, Ph.D., MAC, therapist in Rolling Hills Estates, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • DD

    DD

    October 22nd, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    Good company can really have an effect on a person.Hanging around with people who would encourage quitting and those who do not drink themselves is a good thing for people trying to quit.
    But if they do the opposite and hang around with other addicts they are surely going to go down and coming out of this ‘trap’ is going to be very VERY difficult.

  • joan c

    joan c

    October 22nd, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Perfectly stated- thank you!

  • Najla

    Najla

    October 25th, 2010 at 4:38 AM

    Thank you for this. There is much truth in what you say.

    I have a friend who goes to AA who would beg to differ with you on this one. He would argue that he has a better quality of life than most people because of the tight community he has in AA. He would also tell you that he has reached spiritual heighst that most members of the community would…

    Apparently, he has not drunk is 35 years and believes it is because he did the AA prgram. He tells me that there are tens of thosuands of others like him who have managed to stay sober. I think that is called success. Dont you?

    I do not agree with having to do meetins to stay sane part. I think that can be demaaning. What I see as benefits of meetigs, is like someone going to church or therapy to help keep you on track. BUT, i do not know that breaking something thats works for so many is worth while either….

  • CleanLiving87

    CleanLiving87

    October 28th, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    “Remember! You want to associate with people who are living the way you want to and in ways that appeal to you.”

    Such a firm believer in this! You are what you surround yourself with. If your social circle consists of negative energy, you sure will too become negative energy. In other words, if you hang around alcoholics or drug abusers, you can bet your a$$ you will be one too!

  • Ed & Mary Ellen

    Ed & Mary Ellen

    November 4th, 2010 at 11:22 PM

    Tens of thousands probably have, over the decades, found relief through AA and that is “success” for them. However, for every one who has, another 10 have been prevented from finding success by AA. There is a difference between individual success and program success.

    If you had an actual disease would you take a medication that cured 5% of those afflicted but doomed 25% who would have recovered if they hadn’t taken the medication?

    And as for the “tight community” of AA, that’s simply the narrow focus of any cult which always attracts those uncomfortable with life’s ambiguities or of thinking for themselves.

  • elizabeth

    elizabeth

    November 10th, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Addiction is NOT a choice. I say this as a recovering addict with an alcoholic son. Women who turn their backs on their children ans their self respect (prostitution) do not choose this. No one would. You clearly have no personal experience being an addict anymore than you have personal experience being a woman, mother etc. No one would choose addiction. I don’t know what your agenda is as clearly there is no easy 100% effective answer. There is a lot I don’t know but I so know living a life of pure hell is NOT a choice. I suppose you believe being gay is also a choice.

  • Hey Liz

    Hey Liz

    November 7th, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    YES it is…and I just didn’t take the next drink

    Willpower is what it’s about

    I just stopped and you can to, all you have to do is want to and do it

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