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"Alcoholism Is a Disease: But Many Won't Believe It."
by Toby Rice Drews
by Toby Rice Drews
Why do people not want to believe that alcoholism is a disease?
a.) HMO's and some other insurance companies don't want to believe anything is a disease! Then, they have to pay for it! But, despite this (and believe me, if there were any loophole at all, they would find it!), they find themselves having to go along with the American Medical Association and admit that it is, indeed a disease.
b.) What about other people? Why do people get angry when "it is called a disease"?
Let me tell a little vignette here. When I was on tour, training counselors, later that evening in my hotel room, I was watching a talk show on tv. On stage with the host was a group of recovering alcoholics, whose body-language, in each of them, was very arrogant.
The audience looked very angry and got angrier each time that one of them said "he had a disease".
I wanted to say to the host at the time, "please just ASK the audience why they feel so angry." But of course I knew the answer-------- whenever I've counseled a family member who didn't want to hear "it's a disease", it was because she thought that if she said it was indeed a disease, THEN IT MEANT THAT THE ALCOHOLIC WAS GETTING AWAY WITH IT.
After all, she thought -- he'd say, "hey I have a disease! I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE, THEREFORE, FOR MY BEHAVIOR!"
What is the answer to all this?
a.) There is, of course, very valid reason for this anger from the families! We have seen, over the years, a lot of people who do dastardly things to other persons, "getting off scott-free" in the courts because they claim they had "bad childhoods" or have other excuses.
I personally remember listening to the cases of women who killed their children, and thought to myself, "I hope she doesn't get off" ----- NOT because I "wanted to punish"----- but because I had a mother who was terribly violent since I was born, and who maybe would have succeeded in doing all her children in ------- if she had not been afraid of the legal consequences.
In that same vein, I hoped these violent offenders would not get away with it------ so that the consequences of their actions would hopefully be a deterrent to other people who otherwise have no inner "stop sign" and who would also harm/kill their children.
b.) But apart from the court system, what are the implications of whether or not we undertand that alcoholism is a disease, as far as treatment goes?
AND, how can we "treat" alcoholics--------AND YET NOT LET THEM 'GET AWAY WITH' AWFUL BEHAVIORS?
What people often do not know or understand is the depth of understanding that A.A. has about abusive behavior of the alcoholic.
A.A.'s program continually says that this is a 3-part disease....... physical, mental, and spiritual. And it emphasizes that the alcoholic jeapordizes his/her sobriety if he or she does not treat all three parts of his disease.
The A.A. program does NOT say, "hey, I've got a disease....... so get off my back. I'm not responsible."
It is just the opposite...... A.A. says that if you have this disease, the ONLY way to stay sober is to be responsible // make amends.
c.) What happens if the alcoholic tells you to accept his/her rotten behavior when they are "sober" because they "have a disease"?
This excerpt is from the "Getting Them Sober, volume one" book ------
"If the alcoholic threatens you by saying "you'd better shape up and accept his behavior just because he's not drinking anymore, then he's not sober, he's just dry. All he's done is remove the booze. True sobriety does not behave like that. Sober people are sane people. They don't threaten their families with abandonment just because they are not drinking. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite------they are so grateful to the family for sticking with them that they try very hard to make amends to them for all the grief of past years.
"Remember: if he chooses to treat only one-third of his disease -- the physical addiction -- instead of his whole disease-- then he is one who will suffer. He is the one who is playing Russian roulette with his life."
d.) Read James Milam's book, "Under the Influence"...... it details how scientifically, it is a provable genetic disease. (There are many Harvard University and other studies confirming this, over the last 40 years.) (and the "Getting Them Sober, volume 3" book, details the 350 secondary diseases/disorders to alcoholism).
e.) If we still do not want to believe that it is a disease, even with all the evidence, and therefore continue to want to think it is a problem that results from people who do not know how to live right -- results from people who are immoral------ then we will not be quick to act to help our CHILDREN who contract this disease.
Oh, yes, we'll try to get help for our kids who 'act out"......... but when we have a child or children who get this disease genetically from their parent(s) or grandparent(s) or great-grandparent(s) ------- and if that child is a nice person and we love them dearly------- then we are going to say that this is not happening.
We will say that the problem is due to "this or that"......... is due to all kinds of communications problems....... all kinds of "relationship problems"........ not due to their disease of addiction.
When I wrote "Getting Your Children Sober", I interviewed hundreds of parents and experts on children and alcoholism....... and so many of the interviews with parents were so very poignant, to say the least. Let me quote some excerpts from a chapter entitled, "three parents tell their stories"----"I got ideas from reading books by psychologists on communication skills. I've got a whole library on that! I must have a hundred books, or better.
If I saw an expert or a parent on a talk show, I made certain I got that book. Nothing helped. My son got into stronger drugs. "...when I saw a counselor, he thought we were dealing with a behavior problem. He rarely addressed the drugs. He saw the drugs as a consequence of the behavior problem. He told me to give my son consequences..... he told me to give consequences, NOT get an evaluation for drug treatment. He said to "ground my son" when he stayed out all night. Terrific. He did drugs at home, then. "When I told the counselor, he said, "you have to take more control over your home". I took the tv away; I took the phone away. Nothing got better. "I spent $75 a week for 18 months. My child got arrested. The judge sent me to the same counselor more often!
"In group sessions with the counselor, I just got blamed for not being tough enough with my son. The restrictions in the home weren't working "because of me'.
I looked around for other counselors.
"Then, some parents in my church heard my story and sent me to Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon, for parents of drug addicts.
"I started attending open meetings of A.A. ("Open meetings" are open to the public). A man came over to me after a meeting and said to me, "If your child dies out there in the street, you have no control over it. But if he overdoses in your living room, you will die with him, over and over." It hit me like a lead balloon.
"I realized that I COULD intervene. My minister went through all the steps of intervention with me. We set it up with an alcoholism treatment center and a specialist in intervention from that center. My son has been going to A.A. and N.A. ever since and is clean and sober."
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