Alcohol: A Choice or a Disease?

Woman has alcohol addiction

“First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.” ~ Japanese proverb

For some individuals they have lost the power of choice to drink alcohol like “normal” people. They wake up each day telling themselves they will not drink and inevitably they are drunk by noon. This pattern may go on for days, months, or years. Many alcoholics struggle with this cycle for decades until they find help.

You can ask yourself, “Am I still choosing to drink?” One may get to a place where they are unable to stop once they pick up the first drink. It may not make any sense to others, but the individual doesn’t want to drink anymore. One may WANT to stop drinking, but find that they are unable to stop. Individuals may want to make different choices, but may continue to do what they DO NOT want to do.

Ultimately what they want, they don’t do. This simply could be the definition of “powerless.” Powerless is defined as “without ability, force, or power; incapable; devoid of strength or resources, or lacking fortitude.”

Alcoholism has been labeled as a disease. Individuals can ask themselves if their functioning is impaired, or if they have the signs or symptoms of alcoholism. The definition of disease is; “a condition that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.”

Or maybe others actually really do have a choice. The definition of choice is “the act of making a selection.” If you are an alcoholic, do you really have the choice to drink or not drink? What happens when you decide to pick up the first drink, can you stop immediately and maintain your normal functioning?

Or does your life seem to snowball into an unmanageable mess, that ultimately centers around and worships the taste of the next drink. Do you go out on “benders” where you binge drink and vow to never drink again, but succumb first thing in the morning to alcohol. To non-alcoholics, this behavior looks insane and absurd.

The answer to this problem may simply be to NOT drink. But if you are a true alcoholic, you are not given the choice. You are simply powerless. Acceptance of this first step to recovery is a monumental task.

Below is a brief questionnaire that many providers use to screen for alcoholism:

CAGE Questions

1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?

2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?

4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?

Many times if an individual answers “yes” to two or more of these questions, it is considered clinically significant, and further assessment is warranted to diagnosis “Alcohol Use Disorder.”

When an individual is able to surrender to their lack of power of picking up that first drink , step one comes into play. Step one is surrender that one cannot recover alone.

There is one choice that is available to ALL who choose it. One of the most empowering choices a person can make is to seek alcohol addiction treatment and trust the recovery process. You are not alone in your addiction. There is hope.

About me
Kirsten Book, PMHNP-BC

I support the patient to help them feel empowered in their own recovery.

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