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Old 06-21-2010, 08:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Alcoholism- disease or choice?


Hi everyone!!!

I am fairly new to this site and am glad to have stumbled upon a Christians in recovery board.

I was wondering what everyone thought about alcoholism as being described as a disease, instead of a personal choice. What does everyone think?
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Old 06-22-2010, 04:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Drinking is a personal choice, but being an alcoholic isn't. There are many factors, psychological, biological, chemical, that determine the effects alcohol will have and where it might lead. It is a drug and affects people differently.
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Old 06-22-2010, 06:44 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I had a lot of stress in my life several years ago, and instead of turning to God I turned to alcohol. Now I wonder if I've become an alcoholic, because I'm not sure I can stop. Can God help me get out of this pit? I wish I'd never gone down this road. — N.O'D.

Billy Graham's answer:
I don't think I've ever met an alcoholic who was glad he or she had gone down that road—and I can understand why. Alcoholism is a destroyer—of health, self esteem, work, relationships, everything. The Bible says, "In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper" (Proverbs 23:32).

That's why I'm thankful you are facing the fact you have a problem, and you want to overcome it. Tragically, many who become slaves to alcohol never reach this point; they deny they have a problem, or don't do anything about it. When that's the case, others may have to intervene and insist they get help.

Yes, God can help you get out of this pit (as you rightly call it)—and He wants to help you, because He loves you and doesn't want you to wreck your life. He loves you so much that Christ was willing to die for you, so you could be forgiven of your sins and experience His presence. Begin a new life with Him by asking Jesus Christ to come into your heart today.

Then ask God to lead you to others who can help you. Your pastor or doctor will know what programs or facilities are available in your community. Don't let pride or anything else stop you, but trust God to surround you with His love and strength. The psalmist's experience can be yours: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit ... he set my feet on a rock" (Psalm 40:2).



Taken from my favorite website... other questions/answers on alcohol are here... BGEA: Spiritual Growth Topics

Welcome to Christians in Recovery! Glad you are here. I'm really not sure about the disease/personal choice aspects, but I know God can set you free! Keep reading and sharing!

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Old 06-22-2010, 09:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
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This topic comes up regularly. I agree with totfit.

A disease does not have to be something you "catch" like measles or the flu. Both the AMA and the WHO recognize alcoholism as a disease. That is good enough for me.
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Old 06-22-2010, 12:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I do believe it is a disease of mind, body and soul. I am a recovered alcoholic.
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Old 06-22-2010, 12:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Disease

Chronic, Progressive, Incurable, and Fatal if untreated
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Old 06-23-2010, 01:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dgillz View Post
Both the AMA and the WHO recognize alcoholism as a disease. That is good enough for me.
Interesting. Are you aware of the history behind AMA's decision to tout alcoholism as a disease?

The AMA made this determination in the absence of empirical evidence, or in other words, with NO verifiable scientific research to back up its' claim. If you can find me proof that they indeed DID use credible scientific evidence, I'd love to see it.

Further, the AMA defines a disease as "malleable" and is all inclusive, virtually allowing for the inclusion of almost every deviant behavior. (Heck, gambling can be a disease under this terminology). As a result, every unwanted behavior can be medicated and medically treated thereby providing professionals with more patients and more income. This also strips the individual of personal responsibility and the tools to overcome their obsession by their own will.

As Christians, don't you think that it's better to call addiction to anything sin, rebellion against God, or perhaps an imbalance in our spiritual lives, turning to a subordinate substance, when our lives were perhaps not following God's plan?

When I was at my worst in my addiction, I felt as though I could not stop drinking, no matter how much I wanted to. However, once I tapped into prayer, and began rebuilding a much-needed relationship with God, the urge to drink began to gradually leave me. Today, 60 days later, I haven't the slightest urge to drink, and am abhorred by the thought of getting drunk, or being hung over.

I stand that addiction is a personal choice, and through God, we ARE powerful enough to overcome it, if we want it.
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Old 06-23-2010, 04:53 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I am not aware of the AMA abandoning empirical evidence for this purpose. I highly doubt this claim, but I am not going to research it or offer a rebuttal. Like I said their stance is good enough for me.

I think, as do many in AA, that drinking is but a symptom of other, deeper problems. Those other problems, to this alcoholic, qualify as both an illness AND a sin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by celticfire78
When I was at my worst in my addiction, I felt as though I could not stop drinking, no matter how much I wanted to. However, once I tapped into prayer, and began rebuilding a much-needed relationship with God, the urge to drink began to gradually leave me. Today, 60 days later, I haven't the slightest urge to drink, and am abhorred by the thought of getting drunk, or being hung over.

I stand that addiction is a personal choice, and through God, we ARE powerful enough to overcome it, if we want it.
That sounds remarkably like AA to me, in fact I have heard many stories in the rooms of AA that are nearly indistinguishable from this one.
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Old 06-23-2010, 05:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't think it matters. I believe in my heart that Divine Intervention took the obsession of the mind away, but put one drink in this alcoholic and the physical symptom, or craving, takes over and I'm gone. In order to be classified as a disease it has to have an onset, symptoms, and and progression. I don't know about you, but I had all three just 5 1/2 years ago and God did for me what I couldn't do for myself. Before I had those symptoms and cravings, back when I was young, and I knew the rules about drinking and the like, maybe that's when I sinned. After that monster took control of my life, I don't think I had many choices. God Bless
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Old 06-23-2010, 06:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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But, just because you can't "stop" doing something, it doesn't mean automatically that it's a disease. Some people can't allegedly "stop" gambling, can't stop stealing, lying or cheating. Does this also mean that those can be classified as diseases, with the individual not at fault for their own choices and actions?

I drank like a "normal" person for ten years. I could take it or leave it. Then, my life went to hell in a handbasket and I was spiritually bankrupt, like A.A likes to call it. I had no solution. Re-balancing my life, and dealing with the underlying issues I was combatting in a healthy way set me straight and made me realize that I have a choice today. I can deal with my issues with alcohol, or, I can deal with my issues with prayer. Guess what? Today, I trust God.

To drink or not to drink was always a choice for me, as I look back. No one was shoving a bottle of vodka down my throat when I was stressed out. That was how I CHOSE to deal with my life. And, if you're doing something by choice, and taking responsibility for it, how can it then be classified as a disease?

I don't buy what the AMA says, just because "they say so". There's lots of credible evidence out there to support their claim being biased and one-sided, lacking credible scientific evidence.
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:32 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by celticfire78 View Post
When I was at my worst in my addiction, I felt as though I could not stop drinking, no matter how much I wanted to. However, once I tapped into prayer, and began rebuilding a much-needed relationship with God, the urge to drink began to gradually leave me. Today, 60 days later, I haven't the slightest urge to drink, and am abhorred by the thought of getting drunk, or being hung over.

I stand that addiction is a personal choice, and through God, we ARE powerful enough to overcome it, if we want it.
There are also very many spiritual and devout Christians in this world whom have tapped into the same prayer and God relationship as you, yet they still remain in the throes of wholly terminal alcoholic behavior. I've known such a person intimately. Either they have been forsaken by God, they are somehow not as devout as you... or your premise is flawed. What has worked for you simply does not apply in every case of alcoholism.

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The AMA made this determination in the absence of empirical evidence, or in other words, with NO verifiable scientific research to back up its' claim. If you can find me proof that they indeed DID use credible scientific evidence, I'd love to see it.
This is a very a dated statement. From my understanding the AMA did adjust its disease classification criteria between 1987 and 1991 - in order to classify and allow for funding, research, and governmental support for the treatment of alcoholism. Since that time there have been many studies and a myriad of research done by some extremely reputable individuals and medical institutions.

I've personally read/viewed miles of research in my tenure, so from what I've seen there is no "absence of empirical evidence". There is plenty of data that effectively promotes the theory of alcoholism as a progressive, physiological disease. The following is just one example, quoted directly from NIAAA.

"Chronic exposure to alcohol induces changes in neural circuits that control motivational processes, including arousal, reward, and stress. These changes affect systems utilizing the signaling molecules dopamine, opioid peptides, γ-aminobutyric acid, glutamate, and serotonin, as well as systems modulating the brain’s stress response. These neuroadaptations produce changes in sensitivity to alcohol’s effects following repeated exposure (i.e., sensitization and tolerance) and a withdrawal state following discontinuation of alcohol use. Chronic alcohol exposure also results in persistent neural deficits, some of which may fully recover following extended periods of abstinence. However, the organism remains susceptible to relapse, even after long periods of abstinence. Recent research focusing on brain arousal, reward, and stress systems is accelerating our understanding of the components of alcohol dependence and contributing to the development of new treatment strategies. "

Reading that alone it's awfully hard to argue that alcoholism is a personal choice. I mean, how is a change in neural circuitry a choice?

Also, while this is reaching a bit to make my point, there have been documented cases where people with scientifically verifiable terminal diseases have experienced spontaneous remission after "Divine Intervention". In these rare but documented cases, should we suggest that the person suddenly "cured" was only ever afflicted by his/her choice to be sick?

"Current evidence indicates that in both men and women, alcoholism is 50-60% genetically determined, leaving 40-50% for environmental and other influences."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that essentially how developing cancer is described?

Sorry but I beg to differ that alcoholism is simply a curable issue of sin, or that it is a mere case of personal choice gone awry. While your own spiritual epiphany has helped your drinking problems, there are documented physiological aspects of alcoholism that cannot be denied, and characteristics of an alcoholic that are by no means matters of choice.
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Old 06-23-2010, 07:38 PM   #12 (permalink)
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It sounds like the Rational Recovery approach, that drinking and drugging is a choice. The book is a very compelling read. The author makes some very good points that are hard to argue.
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Old 06-23-2010, 10:46 PM   #13 (permalink)
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dgillz
It sounds like the Rational Recovery approach, that drinking and drugging is a choice. The book is a very compelling read. The author makes some very good points that are hard to argue.
My problem with Rational Recovery starts with its name. It assumes my recovery is irrational. My recovery is irrational because it is based on belief in and reliance on a higher power,or dare I use the G-word, God.

Sorry but that is one concept of recovery that I cannot embrace. If it works for other people, great.
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:10 AM   #14 (permalink)
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You ask anyone in the professional scientific community, and no one will grant you that addiction is a disease. Drinking is an activity- a behaviour.... a choice. Now, perhaps after a while things like cirrhosis of the liver can occour as a result, which IS a real disease.

Going back to behaviour. In scientific terminology, a behaviour is voluntary, and scientifically speaking, addiction is a behaviour and there is no such thing as an involuntary behaviour. Anyone can stop at anytime, regardless of the horrid withdraws that might come along... that is, if they truly want to stop bad enough.

Conversely, something like cancer, is not something that you can control with will power.

Why is addiction the only disease that can be helped, curbed, or cured with a spiritual program?
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Old 06-24-2010, 01:45 AM   #15 (permalink)
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This is one of the perennial topics for arguments around here that never gets anywhere.
If anyone is expecting resolution, prepare for disappointment.

For me, I finally realised it wasn't necessary to me to define my drinking problem in order to act on it - which was good cos treating it as an abstract intellectual exercise nearly killed me through inaction.

Replugging myself into a spiritual nexus undeniably helped me recover - even if I only realised thats what I doing later - I became simultaneously aware of my own power, and at the same time, of my small insignificant position in the universe.

It was the complete antithesis of the way I had been living my life. The scales fell from my eyes and I finally and irrevocably accepted that I was an alcoholic.

From there I stopped fighting myself, and I began to use that energy to move forward and try and fulfill the God given potential I'd squandered.

I remembered the old proverb 'God can move mountains - but He gives us the shovel'.

I don't know much or care whether it was a disease, choice or not - I look at myself in 2007 and I look at myself now....and I know something far beyond my comprehension happened to me so that I could change my life.

Quote:
Anyone can stop at anytime, regardless of the horrid withdraws that might come along... that is, if they truly want to stop bad enough.
Regardless of what you believe, I'd have thought even a cursory reading of SR would give you pause for thought on that position.

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Old 06-24-2010, 05:32 AM   #16 (permalink)
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You ask anyone in the professional scientific community, and no one will grant you that addiction is a disease. Drinking is an activity- a behaviour.... a choice. Now, perhaps after a while things like cirrhosis of the liver can occour as a result, which IS a real disease.

Going back to behaviour. In scientific terminology, a behaviour is voluntary, and scientifically speaking, addiction is a behaviour and there is no such thing as an involuntary behaviour. Anyone can stop at anytime, regardless of the horrid withdraws that might come along... that is, if they truly want to stop bad enough.

Conversely, something like cancer, is not something that you can control with will power.

Why is addiction the only disease that can be helped, curbed, or cured with a spiritual program?
In the first place, many within the scientific community do in fact acknowledge that - in many cases - addiction does bear all the hallmarks of progressive and terminal illness. Your statement ignores this fact.

Secondly, you wrote "Drinking is a behavior, a choice", which is correct. However, the anomalies that exist within alcoholic behavior can in no way be broad stroked in such a summary fashion.

Baseball is an activity, eating peanut butter is an activity. Salmon vs Sea Bass is a choice, taking a plane vs riding a train is a choice. An activity that people return to knowing the consequences are not only unpredictable but often deadly, and not only horrendous but that which can and potentially destroy innocent victims? Sorry, a great deal more at work there than simple choice.

Don't get me wrong. I also believe wholeheartedly that it is only within the strength of my belief in a higher power that I am able to stay away from drink. But that I look to God for guidance and power does not cancel out the documented physiological changes that the scientific community has proven exist inside the body and brains of the suffering alcoholic. It cannot cancel out the many good souls before me who turned to God and still died as practicing alcoholics.

Your opinion vastly over simplifies the issue of alcoholism and addiction in general, and is both counter productive to a proper understanding of addiction physiology, and more than slightly insulting to those who have lost their lives from something they never chose to allow permeate.

Since getting to a point wherein I drank like a fish, in spite of knowing full well it was killing me, I will grant you the following when it comes to the "choice" to drink. It is always my "choice" to take that first swig. After that point there is something so much greater than my own choices and my own decision making process at work. My choice after that one drink was often to stop. My addiction, disease, illness, demon would never let that happen.

This is an argument over semantics really. Disease, as defined by science, may not wholly encompass the nature of problems like this. But to base your theory that a relationship with God alone will stop endless suffering has always seemed strange to me - in that you are using a community of people (science) whom also - largely - deny the existence of God, and whom postulate scientifically that statistically God is far less "provable" than the condition of alcoholism. I guess I'm wondering how in one sentence you can reference logic that in another sentence refutes the very existence of your accepted "cure"?

Whatever the terminology you would like to apply to this horrendous affair is really not important, at least to me. I only wish that before posing such an antiquated and summary judgment, you look long and hard at the vast amount of suffering and destruction has been caused and perhaps allow that something else might be at work. At that point perhaps in the same fashion as said scientific community, you can open your mind to the possibility that there is something far more complex and systemic causing the poor "choices" of which you speak. Your description and judgment of the alcoholic condition, while popular in certain circles, smacks of arrogance, seems awfully close minded, and IMO spits on the graves of those before you who died trying to believe in such overtly simplistic witchcraft. Not very Christian IMO.

Drinking - for those who know it can and will lead to a slow and inevitable death, is not a simple matter of choice, no matter how much "empirical evidence" you choose to ignore, and no matter how many people continue to suffer and die from trying hard to believe that only God can cure them.

God has a part to play, an extremely important part. Willpower alone has been known to move mountains and make possible the impossible. However that does not suggest that willpower alone is the only answer to any problem. Alcoholism is also a part of the human condition, and as such subjected to the wholly natural phenomena of physiological interaction between a drug and an individuals biological structure.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:06 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Disease or choice? Neither really. IMO, alcoholism is better and more clearly understood as an allergy than a disease. "Disease" is a loaded scary word and tends to cause more misunderstanding than it's worth. "Allergy" on the other hand is far less scary and is IMO a more accurate a description of the phenomenon we call alcoholism.
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Old 06-25-2010, 01:34 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:13 AM   #19 (permalink)
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My problem with Rational Recovery starts with its name. It assumes my recovery is irrational. My recovery is irrational because it is based on belief in and reliance on a higher power,or dare I use the G-word, God.

Sorry but that is one concept of recovery that I cannot embrace. If it works for other people, great.


Yes I understand what you are saying about irrational recovery. I took the title of his book to be more of a slam of the 12 step program and it not being the only way to recover, and his hostility towards the money that is continually made off of people in recovery, down to the court system etc....
I still think the author had some very good points about personal responsiblility and choice. He opposes the victim mentality and says that the addict does have control. (Even if it is limited.) So in that respect I think it is good.

I totally agree with you, his unwillingness to embrace the idea of God or a highpower was the biggest turn off for me.

All I can say as a parent of a 21 year old addict, if my son can stay clean using the 12 step program or rational recovery I would be happy, I just want him clean.
My son has just started an intense outpatient treatment program for 10 weeks with controlled suboxone I am praying he will do well on this program.
I would love for my son to get to a point where he would incorporate his recovery with his Christian faith, but so far he is not there.

Addiction is scary, sad and seems so complicated.
And yes when my son is using he is not rational, NO not one bit.
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:37 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Disease or Choice

The American Medical Assoc considers alcoholism a disease. Alcoholism meets 5 AMA definitions for disease: 1) alcoholism attacks major organs, 2) alcoholism can cause death, 3) alcohlism is congenital (once you got it, you always have it; "once a cucumber becomes a pickle, it can never go back to being a cucumber"), 4) alcoholism is progressive (it gets worse over time) and 5) alcoholism is primary (not dependent on any other secondary condition).

During my active drinking, I lost the choice of drink. I was compelled to drink by an overwhelming obsession. Now that I am in recovery, I have the choice (the freedom) of whether to drink or not, one day at a time dependent upon my spirituality. Today I choose not to drink.

Remember, there is a solution. All the best, Hwyhorse
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