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“We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals — usually brief — were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.”

  – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 30

  The explanation that seems to make sense to most A.A. members is that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested. Going one step further, many A.A. members feel that the illness represents a combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking, which, regardless of consequences, cannot be broken by willpower alone.

  “Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic.”*

  – ibid, p. 31

  Since denial of the problem is symptomatic of alcoholism, alcoholics tend to be evasive when questioned about their drinking, and some health care professionals may not recognize that alcoholism may be contributing to their symptoms. Most alcoholics will resist any suggestion that alcoholism is involved and may be equally resistant to the suggestion of Alcoholics Anonymous as a last recourse.

  Few health care professionals have had the experience of having their diagnosis rejected. Few have been told, “I certainly am not a diabetic.” Yet when the health care professional makes a diagnosis of alcoholism, an alcoholic will often respond, “I don’t drink that much,” or may say, “I’m not that bad,” or will offer excuses for his or her drinking. Health care professionals can expect and anticipate this.

  Rationalization and denial are part of the alcoholic’s illness. Initial rejection of A.A. is part of the denial mechanism.

  A.A. members, having broken through their denial and faced the harm in their drinking, are particularly suited to helping others break through their denial.

*The definition of alcoholism as defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: “Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.” (1992)

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