ABOUT ALCOHOLISM

AM I AN ALCOHOLIC?
1

Do you drink because you have problems? To face up to stressful situations?

We agree that there is nothing shameful about having an illness, provided we face the problem honestly and try to do something about it. We are perfectly willing to admit that we are allergic to alcohol and that it is simply common sense to stay away from the source of the allergy.

To help you decide whether you might have a problem with your own drinking, we’ve prepared these 12 questions.

 

What we have learned about alcoholism?

The first thing we have learned about alcoholism is that it is one of the oldest problems in human's history. Only recently have we begun to benefit from new approaches to the problem. Doctors today, for example, know a great deal more about alcoholism than their predecessors knew only two generations ago. They are beginning to define the problem and study it in detail.

While there is no formal “A.A. definition” of alcoholism, the majority of our members agree that, for most of us, it could be described as a physical compulsion, coupled with a mental obsession.

What we mean is that we had a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol beyond our capacity to control it, in defiance of all rules of common sense. We not only had an abnormal craving for alcohol but we frequently yielded to it at the worst possible times. We did not know when (or how) to stop drinking. Often we did not seem to have sense enough to know when not to begin.

As alcoholics, we have learned the hard way that willpower alone, however strong in other respects, was not enough to keep us sober.

We have tried going on the wagon for specific periods. We have taken solemn pledges. We have switched brands and beverages. We have tried drinking at only certain hours. But none of our plans worked. We always wound up, sooner or later, getting drunk when we not only wanted to stay sober and had every rational incentive to do so.

We have gone through stages of dark despair when we were sure that something was wrong with us mentally.

We came to hate ourselves for wasting the talents with which we were endowed and for the trouble we were causing our families and others. Frequently, we indulged in self-pity and proclaimed that nothing could ever help us. We can smile at those recollections now but at the time they were grim, unpleasant experiences.

2

Do you drink when you get mad at other people, your friends or parents?

3

Do you often prefer to drink alone, rather than with others?

4

Are you starting to get low marks? Are you skiving off work?

Today we are willing to accept the idea that, as far as we are concerned, alcoholism is an illness; a progressive illness that can never be “cured” but which, like some other illnesses, can be arrested.

5

Do you ever try to stop or drink less – and fail?

6

Have you begun to drink in the morning, before school or work?

We agree that there is nothing shameful about having an illness, provided we face the problem honestly and try to do something about it. We are perfectly willing to admit that we are allergic to alcohol and that it is simply common sense to stay away from the source of the allergy.

 

We understand now, that once a person has crossed the invisible line from heavy drinking to compulsive alcoholic drinking, they will always remain alcoholic. So far as we know, there can never be any turning back to “normal” social drinking. “Once an alcoholic – always an alcoholic” is a simple fact we have to live with.

7

Do you gulp your drinks as if to satisfy a great thirst?

8

Do you ever have loss of memory due to your drinking?

9

Do you avoid being honest with others about your drinking?

10

Do you ever get into trouble when you are drinking?

We have also learned that there are few alternatives for the alcoholic. If they continue to drink, their problem will become progressively worse.

They seems assuredly on the path to the gutter, to hospitals, to jails or other institutions, or to an early grave. The only alternative is to stop drinking completely and to abstain from even the smallest quantity of alcohol in any form. If they are willing to follow this course, and to take advantage of the help available to them, a whole new life can open up for the alcoholic.

11

Do you often get drunk when you drink, even when you do not mean to

12

Do you drink because you have problems? To face up to stressful situations?

The answers are nobody’s business but your own. If you can answer yes to any one of these questions, maybe it’s time you took a serious look at what your drinking might be doing to you.

(an original excerpt from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (1939), Chapter 3, p. 31-31)

 

Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he*she*they is bodily and mentally different from their fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death. We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.

 

We alcoholics are people who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals—usually brief—were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced [...] that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.

 

We are like people who have lost their legs; they never grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of our kind like other people. We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.

 

Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!

 

Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums—we could increase the list ad infinitum.

 

 

 

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) emerged, offering direct advice on what behaviors must be learned and practiced if one is to stop a dependency on alcohol and live a fulfilling life. What AA offered were “skills”—simple behaviors that could be practiced repeatedly until they became part of one’s natural behavioral repertoire. AA offered no deep insight into childhood experience but rather a clear focus on what the alcoholic can do right now—one day at a time—to change his or her life.

 

As it turns out, most of the research into psychotherapy establishes that AA got it right. Significant life change is all about learning and practicing skills until those new behaviors become a natural part of your life. There have been several highly effective therapies that developed out of this research, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy, just to name a few. All of these therapies share one principle in common: meaningful life change comes from mindful practice.

 

 

Alan Downs; The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, p. 168; Da Capo Press 2012

 

 

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030 30 30 66 88
*If drinking is a problem, this phone number can help you get in contact with someone from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The service is provided by LGBTQI volunteer members of AA from the Berlin area. AA members are not counselors. We are volunteers who provide information to people seeking the help AA has to offer. We make our best to ensure phone is answered 24 hours daily, but if it happens that we are unable to take your call please leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

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