What Is Alcoholism?

man with several alcohol bottles

Alcoholism is hard to define. How can we conceive into words what is an inexplicable inability to stop uncontrollable drinking? There seems to be no satisfactory answer to explain what alcoholism is, what alcoholism does, and how it can be cured. Ironically, many definitions of alcoholism exist. Webster Dictionary, for example, defines alcoholism as “a diseased condition produced by alcohol.”

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous was a monumental and revolutionary text produced in the late 1930’s by two alcoholics, one of whom was a doctor. At the time, there was quite literally no answer to alcoholism. Men and women alike suffered in hospitals, “health farms” and “sanitariums” beyond the medical help of a doctor. When a doctor tried to treat the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, they couldn’t seem to stop the desire to keep drinking. Trying a more psychiatric based treatment, they couldn’t seem to stop the physical cravings. In both instances, doctors were confounded by the spiritual lacking in their patients. No promise, no reward, not even the prospect of developing a “wet brain” or dying of cirrhosis could stop these alcoholics from continuing to drink.

Dr. Silkworth, the attending doctor to AA founder Bill Wilson, wrote an introductory letter for The Big Book in which he describes alcoholism to be a mental and physical disease. Mentally, alcoholics suffer the “phenomenon of craving”. Physically, alcoholics have an allergy to the drink, meaning that once an alcoholic has one drink, they cannot stop consuming more. What came as a surprise to both Bill W. and Dr. Silkworth was the spiritual component of alcoholism.

Bill’s friend Ebby was once his drinking partner. As Bill’s drinking came closer to bottom, Ebby visited him, seemingly recovered. Famously he quipped, “I’ve got religion.” Shortly thereafter, Bill entered the hospital once more where he had what he called a “spiritual experience”. From that moment forward, Bill no longer had a desire to drink.

That is until one business trip when he found himself pacing back and forth across a hotel lobby looking longingly upon the bar. Having developed some time sober, he did not want to drink again. He commenced to reach out to another alcoholic. Together, they discovered the healing power of two alcoholics, out of which AA was born.

Alcoholism is a chemical dependency upon alcohol which results in a diseased condition of mind, body, and spirit. The right approach to recovery integrates treatment of all three. Avalon of Malibu combines evidence based treatment methods for mental, physical, and spiritual health as part of a highly customized treatment plan. Set along the iconic southern california coastline, Avalon offers privacy in a luxury environment. Call us today for a confidential assessment, 1-888-958-7511.

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