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Home » Recovery » The War in Sobriety… Pt. 2 Honesty is the Best Policy

The War in Sobriety… Pt. 2 Honesty is the Best Policy

December 2014

In part one of this little mini-drama, I started to look into some changes in thinking (as it pertains to recovery from alcoholism) that have snuck up while I wasn’t paying attention…  Or more aptly stated, while I was doing the more important task of working to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

When I sobered up in ’92 it was Gospel that alcoholism was a “disease”.  Most of us have understood that the term disease should be used lightly, that alcoholism wasn’t exactly like cancer or kidney disease, but that genetics did play a role and that we had something akin to an alcohol allergy.  The Mayo Clinic still classifies alcoholism as a disease as do many others.  One important factor that I think tends to get lost is that alcoholism is not an excuse.  We are well aware of this fact.  It is not a disease that you can blame ignorant or stupid behavior on.  Example:  “Well, officer, of course I’m driving drunk, I’m an alcoholic”.  While comedic when put this way, it’s not so when your loved one is laying on a slab in a morgue because the drunk chose to drive in that state.  And if that isn’t bad enough, it’s almost always the drunk who lives through those accidents because they don’t stiffen up on impact.  God knows, it should be the other way around.

One thing that I’ve never seen denied is the fact that genetics are involved in alcoholism.  The degree of influence pertaining to genetics is likely debatable but that’s a different matter.  As far as my opinion goes, for what it’s worth, I view the genetics of alcoholism in the same light as fitness genes.  The genes for a great body may be there, but if I don’t move my butt they won’t do me any good.  Conversely, the genes for a rotund body may be there but if I stay fit and eat right, they won’t present a problem either.

With that said, I also believe in varying degrees of alcoholism itself.  I am, without a doubt, one of the bad cases.  My first (and only, thank God) stint in treatment was in the toughest program in our State.  My first day I was hung over to beat the band and shoveling pig shit on a working farm.  It was most decidedly not excellent.  I am one of the helpless few who absolutely cannot drink successfully.  No matter how many different ways I tried to limit my drinking, I always got worse.  I tried:  Only beer, only liquor, beer and liquor, beer on odd days, liquor on even days, wine coolers, beer on sad days and liquor on happy days and beer on weekdays, liquor on weekends…  It was all crap.  I even tried abstinence during the week but the shakes got so bad after 24 hours, I’d have to have a couple of beers (at least) just to calm my hands down.  On the other hand, they say there are other types of alcoholics who aren’t as bad as I was.

This is all grand.  What makes me nervous is when I see reports that say alcoholics can recover from alcoholism and still drink in moderation.  Now that’s not fair!  Believe me when I tell you folks, I wish with every fiber in my being that I could be one of those…  Of course, that wish alone means that I am one who must abstain completely.  The idea that some can still drink moderately, and this is the important part, comes from a survey of 43,000 adults (18 and older).  The study found:

One-quarter (25.0 percent) of individuals with alcohol dependence that began more than one year ago now are still dependent and 27.3 percent are in partial remission (that is, exhibit some symptoms of alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse). About twelve percent (11.8%) are drinkers with no symptoms but whose consumption increases their chances of relapse (for men, more than 14 drinks per week or more than four drinks on any day; for women, more than 7 drinks per week or more than three drinks on any day).

What that means, technically, is that 17.7% recover and become low-risk drinkers, 27.3% become partial remission drinkers and 18.8% are abstainers (like me).

Here’s the problem:  They should have asked the wives, husbands and parents the same questions of those people…  Not just the alcoholic themselves.  Put simply, before I sobered up, I was interviewed about my drinking by no fewer than three doctors, two shrinks, two probation officers, five abuse counselors and a police officer.  I never once told the truth about how much I drank, not even when I was going through the DT’s in treatment was I honest.  When asked, I never had a problem, only drank a few beers on weekend nights and a nice party on the weekend.  If I had taken that survey, every single author of the report would have put me in the partial remission, asymptomatic risk drinker or low-risk drinker categories when I fully belonged in the “Still Dependent” category.  It was only after I recovered that I began telling the whole truth about just how far down the scale I’d gone.  The truth was closer to a minimum of ten, but regularly up to 24 beers (or the liquor equivalent), each and every night of the week.

This is the worrisome nature of alcoholism study of late.  When studying alcoholism, it would be wise for those conducting the study to remember that drinking is but a symptom of alcoholism, many of us were liars long before we picked up that first drink that started us on the path to oblivion…  And those few of us who weren’t before, became so once drinking did become a problem.

1 Comment

  1. Great stuff again.

    I am a firm believer in that last paragraph you posted. I also believe that alcohol was my solution, not my problem. Of course alcohol and the effects it causes becomes its own problem, but the real deal happens between the ears, and some folks will disagree about that and that’s fine. But for this alcoholic, my mind is the real issue. When I was able to find a three-pronged solution to a three-pronged problem, the thought of drinking left me. And I need to keep my condition fit to maintain that solution.

    Great share!


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