Chris asked:

Do you consider alcoholism a self inflicted illness? Or an illness at all?

Answer by Eric George

I remember watching a documentary once which dealt with people who were admitted to a special weight-loss camp due to their severe life threatening obesity, they were put on specialised eating plans, underwent vigorous exercise initiatives and were monitored on a somewhat frequent basis by Clinical Nutritionists. There was one particular man who was told by one of the Nutritionists that he had to revert to a purely fruit and vegetable diet with some red meat input here and there for iron intake, after about 13 days, upon weighing him again his Nutritionist was surprised by the fact that the man had actually gained weight instead of losing it! After asking if the man had kept to the diet prescribed, the man replied: ‘Well of course I have, I have been eating 50 oranges a day, oranges are healthy aren’t they?’ — After the initial shock, the Nutritionist was quick to point that eating 50 of anything is bad for you and will cause you to put on weight regardless of what that thing is.

I believe the same goes for alcohol, as the truism goes: ‘Too much of anything is a bad thing’ — alcohol in moderation is nothing more than a trivial enjoyment of a beverage which could be enjoyed on social occasions or in company with a good read on a rainy night or something similar. Alcoholism, that is the desire to drink alcohol uncontrollably in an unwarranted, unjustified and unchecked way is to me not an illness perse but rather an addiction which has trapped the addict such as how a slave owner would mentally and emotionally trap a slave. An alcoholic is someone, who for possibly many different reasons (such as personal negative emotional and/or mental experiences), has come to understand alcohol as a means of reliance and what psychology would term a ‘void filler’.

The alcoholic at the point of dangerous levels of addiction, sees only the bottom of a bottle as a means of escaping reality for whatever reason, and contrary to many people who claim that all alcoholics do not know that what they are doing is harmful to themselves and possibly others around them such as their families and friends; a lot of recovered alcoholics I have conversed with, told me directly that they knew what they were doing was harmful on an emotional, mental and often physical level (physical violence etc.) to themselves and those around them, but that they merely turned a ‘blind eye’ to it. Many of them came to see a warped love and desire for alcohol as a superior justification paramount to that over a love for their very own families and friends.

So in conclusion, I would not go as far as to say that alcoholism is an illness, but rather an addiction which has gone unchecked and which has thus taken on a new meaning in and of itself. It is a self-inflicted addiction only in the context that the addict himself or herself is responsible for turning to alcohol as a void filler for whatever reason, rather than talking to someone about the reasons themselves and addressing them, firstly as to why they turned to alcohol as a void filler and so forth and so on. Alcoholics are people just like us and should not be alienated or treated as social outcasts merely because their vices have become their undoing. All of us, must seek a balance in life in whatever we do, and to do everything in careful and appropriate moderation. Especially when it comes to things which can get so out of control, so very quickly, such as drinking alcohol.