Alcohol Myths: Do you subscribe to either of these two myths?

alcohol mythsI use the term “alcoholism” in reference to all people who indulge in risky drinking, including the small percentage that are actually addicted to alcohol. “Risky drinking” refers to any pattern of drinking that leads to poor decisions, poor impulse control, memory problems (blackouts), deteriorating relationships, or deteriorating health. Simply put, risky drinking usually means drinking too much and/or too often.

Alcohol Myths number one: alcoholism is a disease.

Usually added to this notion is that alcoholism is chronic and progressive, and it will lead to death if not treated.

Alcoholism is not a disease. It is a choice. The alcoholic, even the extremely heavy drinker, makes choices regarding his drinking. He may choose to not drink at work for fear of losing his job. He may choose to not drive when drinking. He may choose to leave the bar at 9 PM because he has an early start at work in the morning. He may have a strong urge to hit his wife, but chooses not to because there are witnesses present.

Most treatment programs, including those preaching the disease model, focus on helping the alcoholic recognize his behavior and make better choices.

“I can’t change because I have this disease.” Many an alcoholic has used disease as an excuse for not choosing to do something about it.

Alcohol Myths number two: you are powerless over alcohol.

I had a client one time whose employer had sent her to a treatment center because of her drinking. She had chosen to stop drinking sometime before she entered the program and was resolved to continue to choose not to drink.

The treatment center she at attended adhered to a 12-step philosophy and asked her to sign a statement admitting that she was powerless over alcohol. She refused, went through the program, and at the end of treatment, still refused to sign such a statement. The male treatment center counselor sent a letter to her employer suggesting that she might be brain-damaged, based on the fact that she wouldn’t admit to her powerlessness over alcohol.

Powerlessness has been used by many as a wonderful excuse for not choosing to do anything about their risky drinking.

And I might add, what woman needs yet another man to tell her she is powerless? And this is treatment?

By the time I was in my mid-30s I was a very heavy drinker, drinking to excess every day. My health was deteriorating rapidly, but I did not make the connection until I was sent to the Mayo Clinic. When I finally got it, I said, “The liter of wine and the mickey of brandy I drank last night will be my last.” That was the choice I made over 40 years ago. It has served me well.

Please leave a comment below if any of this touches you.

Photo Copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

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