Print Story Drunk and driven by a devil's hunger
By tierrasimbolica (Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 12:25:31 PM EST) (all tags)
Spent most of my life having very little exposure to alcoholism.

Now I'm in my 40s and have several close friends who are alcoholics.  Getting to see firsthand their personal struggles and the wake of destruction it can leave, it makes me sad (and angry) to see people who deny it as a disease.  I saw a blog post yesterday that called alcoholism a weakness of mind.  Sure, there are some alcoholics who can control their impulses better than others, but what about cancer?  Do we call people weak when they're not able to beat it?  Just shaking my head over that.  And this is not to say that anyone has any obligation to let their boundaries down and let themselves be abused or exploited by victims of alcoholism.  But judging them doesn't make anything better either. 

< annoyance | A light at the end of the tunnel >
Drunk and driven by a devil's hunger | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
One line triggered a WTF moment for me by marvin (2.00 / 0) #1 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 12:54:59 PM EST
but what about cancer?  Do we call people weak when they're not able to beat it?
I have no problem considering a one-pack-a-day smoker with lung cancer to be an idiot who brought it upon himself. The US has required warning labels on tobacco since 1966, so there are very few smokers under the age of 60 who started before that date.

I guess that it is convenient to call everything a disease so that people can feel like perpetual victims and continue to avoid any responsibility for their own actions. I don't really see how that viewpoint benefits society as a whole going forward though. It's not like the beer and vodka bottles attacked them, pinned those innocent victims down on the ground, and poured alcohol down the throats of these disease sufferers.

I'm guessing by tierrasimbolica (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 01:25:36 PM EST
you're not aware of the genetic components to alcoholism?

[ Parent ]
No more so by marvin (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 01:26:54 PM EST
than the genetic components to trolling. Zero fucks given.

[ Parent ]
Addiction, treatment, and free will by riceowlguy (4.00 / 1) #4 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 02:50:49 PM EST
I don't know that treating something as a disease necessarily means absolving people of personal responsibility.  People who are diagnosed with a disease are still responsible for treating it/managing it correctly.

Some people believe that obesity should be treated as a disease (rather than a failure of character).  Certainly I, as a recovering fatass myself, can relate to a lot of parallels between my relationship/response to food and my understanding of alcoholics' relationship with/response to alcohol.  That doesn't absolve me of responsibility to not overeat.  It helps me understand that I am wired differently than other people, and therefore I need a different approach to food than other people.  What that approach frees one from is not responsibility for one's actions, but a cycle of self-loathing ("Why can't you have just one drink/potato chip?  You must have a really weak character.") that never helps.

[ Parent ]
Addictions as diseases by marvin (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 03:43:08 PM EST
That is pretty much where I stop buying it. Jury's still out on that one in my mind, and will remain so for a long time.

The list of raging alcoholics who have never touched a drop in their lives is pretty short. It's pretty simple - use an addictive substance and you're taking a chance of addiction, whether it is alcohol, weed, tobacco, crack, or sugar abd fat laden foods. Maybe the chance will be proven to be a little bigger or smaller due to some genetic or environmental factors, but that's not really conclusive yet, is it?

I avoid illegal drugs because I have no desire to even roll the dice, and the side effects, cost, and suspect purity of the substances are big turn-offs. I love beer, but hate the feeling of a beer buzz. I couldn't take prescription opiates after surgery for more than a day as pain levels dropped and I started feeling gross. Now theobromine is another story, but you won't see me blaming my genes for my hard-core chocolate problem.

Agreed on the self-loathing not being helpful - I understand that it can take a lot of support to overcome an addiction, and focus on past failures (other than as a laundry list of things to avoid) isn't productive. However, to equate an alcoholic to a kid with leukemia was simply ridiculous. That is what gave me the WTF moment.

[ Parent ]
There is a large body of research on the topic. by tierrasimbolica (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 04:59:18 PM EST
Here's a good webpage with a summation of current findings:

"Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment--peers, family, and availability.  But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics.  Alcoholism and drug dependence are not moral issues, are not a matter of choice or a lack of willpower.  Plain and simple, some people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently."

Here's a specific study on lab mice which has highly relevant implications for humans:

"In a study involving mice, researchers have found a gene that regulates alcohol consumption. When this gene is faulty, the mice are prompted to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, suggesting a potential genetic component at play in human alcohol consumption.  But when mice with a mutated Gabrb1 gene were offered alcohol, they consistently opted for alcohol over water, consuming nearly 85% of their daily fluid intake as alcohol."

You can find a lot more information just googling alcoholism and genetics.

[ Parent ]
Do you believe in mental illnesses? by theboz (4.00 / 3) #7 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 07:49:42 PM EST
Would it be easier to understand by relating alcoholism to something like schizophrenia?  It might also help if you separated idiots who think getting drunk is the pinnacle of fun from those who truly have a compulsion to drink even if they don't want to.

Consider that culturally, we are prepared to blame people for their own suffering pretty much by default, especially if there is a moral aspect to it.  Why do we look down more on someone who dies of AIDS than someone who dies of the swine flu?  Both are diseases, and both have ways to prevent them to some sort.  However, one is sexual, and considered the result of "sin" while the other is just bad luck.

I thought this recent op/ed by Russell Brand was a good writeup of what being a drug addict is like.  At least, it helped me understand some people better who are dealing with real addiction, not just moral failures.
- - - - -
That's what I always say about you, boz, you have a good memory for random facts about pussy. -- joh3n

[ Parent ]
something something witchcraft by marvin (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 11:40:17 PM EST
Or so I read in a .sig on here about mental illnesses. That area is a minefield. I am continually astonished at the amount of prescription antidepressants and other psych drugs used mostly by americans on this site. The number of kids prescribed stuff like ritalin in the west (and especially the US) blows me away, and heavily erodes what little confidence I might have in the mental health field.

I am unable to summon sympathy for self-inflicted illness and addictions. It isn't like the potentially addictive nature of those substances is a secret. I don't feel sympathy for Russian Roulette players either, because it's tantamount to the same damn thing.

For swine flu, I feel bad for someone who catches it and dies, because it is basically random and there isn't a lot you can do to prevent it. Rightly or wrongly, AIDS is associated with high risk sexual activity. Have 50 partners a year and unprotected sex? Then don't mind my lack of caring if you get yourself dead. Get AIDS from a transfusion? Same sympathy levels as swine flu.

When I get heart disease and arteriosclerosis from poor lifestyle choices, I expect to be called a stupid git, not a disease sufferer. When I overplayed games such as MMOs, it was my own fault and I accept the consequences. I don't piss and moan about inherent video game addiction.

[ Parent ]
So your solution is lifelong abstinence? by tierrasimbolica (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 11:57:04 PM EST
You're suggesting that people should just have the sense never to try alcohol to begin with?

[ Parent ]
ya know by clock (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 09:56:29 AM EST
any MD can prescribe antidepressants with no mental health training at all, right?  And that's where the vast majority of ritalin scripts and antidepressant scripts originate.  My family has a pile of doc shoppers who wander around until someone says they have a problem and hands them a script and a nice excuse for not actually fixing their problems.

I'll say that if you're popping a pill and not seeing a counselor or therapist, you are doing it wrong.  Completely wrong.  There are a few pipes and wires problems out there (like the REAL ADD or bi-polar disorders) that require chemicals just to keep a patient on the road (much like someone who has epilepsy), but the rest?  The rest are to give someone space and time to put real coping mechanisms in place.

I'm pretty optimistic about mental health care and where it's going.  But to be absolutely clear: pills are no substitute for learning to cope.  And this culture?  The one we're living in today?  It doesn't teach people to cope.  It teaches escapism and a promise of a fix in a bottle.  It also sends the message that you have to hit rock bottom before you can climb up.  That's bullshit.  We should be sending the message that if you notice that you're falling, you should reach out for help before you hit the floor.  But that's pro-active.  That is solving the problem and not generating profits for fixing symptoms.

That came out angrier than it should have.  I've fallen many times.  I more or less taught myself to get up.  I don't want my kids to have to learn that way.  I'd rather that when they start to fall, they recognize it and reach out for something to grab hold of.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
In real cases, the meds are impressive by wumpus (4.00 / 2) #17 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 06:07:36 PM EST
my late uncle was bi-polar, and one Christmas his luggage (with meds) didn't make it on time (even with meds, he wasn't responsible enough to realize that they needed to be in carry-on). Without meds, Christmas was interesting the all Bob, all the time show . After Christmas, he could have picked up more meds, but I think my father and other uncle just took him to the airport to pick up the luggage.

Lithium (and related drugs, lithium had already done a number on poor uncle) is seriously impressive in the difference it makes. From the description I read when it was discovered, they had to give the test subject a "crash course" in living outside the asylum because he was basically instantly cured, but never lived outside the asylum (presumably he had to learn how Wonko likes his tea).


[ Parent ]
thoughts by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #21 Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:42:00 AM EST
> It isn't like the potentially addictive nature of those substances is a secret.

The overwhelming majority of us can use alcohol, and even some drugs, without developing addictions. I drink; alcohol has a positive effect on my life.

How can I not feel sympathy for those who cannot use alcohol and have it be a positive effect on their life? Alcohol use is so omnipresent in our culture that complete abstinence is wierd and difficult - you have to abstain in the face of constant exposure, which is a really, really difficult thing to do if you're addicted, and in order to have avoided the addiction in the first place, you have to have refrained from trying something which most people around you are using in a way that is good and helpful for them.

It's not a moral failing, I think, to try something that works just fine for the overwhelming majority of people, and then discover that it doesn't work for you, and then have to struggle with it. How could it be?

> When I get heart disease and arteriosclerosis from poor lifestyle choices, I expect to be called a stupid git, not a disease sufferer.

I'm having a very hard time reading this as: when you get heart disease and arteriosclerosis, you expect people to be unsympathetic and unsupportive.

I'm sorry to hear that. It sounds like a terrible way to live.

If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
surely there are plenty of genetics involved by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 11:23:21 AM EST
but few studies (on humans) that prove anything above association. Association does not imply causation and some of the more cited literature points out that family history of alcoholism is a much stronger predictor than (epi)genetics.

While I agree that it is a terrible condition (note the choice of words), and not trying to belittle the position that it is painful for everybody involved. Comparing it to cancer is pretty much apples and oranges from a medical standpoint.

At best the genetics for alcoholism will be on the disposition for easier dependence (just as there are genetic profiles that works against alcohol consumption). There is not, and will not be a gene (or combination of) that causes alcoholism.

For cancer however, there are gene mutations that causes cancer. This is a major difference. There are also gene mutations that makes a patient more predisposed to cancer, but does not necessarily cause cancer (think Angelina Jolie).

Not positively trying to troll your thread, conflating cancer and alcoholism - you are sort of asking for it.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
I'm not grasping at straws here. by tierrasimbolica (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 01:00:27 PM EST
First of all, in comparing it to cancer I'm saying that for some alcoholics the possibility of recovery is truly beyond their control, for reasons that do likely have a genetic, or at the very least, biological component.  If you want to argue about causation vs. predisposition, and degrees of influence between nature and nurture, I have no doubt you can find any number of details to support how alcoholism is not like cancer in all cases.  But no, I disagree that it's apples and oranges.  Sometimes people can beat it, sometimes they can't for reasons that have nothing to do with lacking the willpower, that is the point I'm trying to make.

[ Parent ]
beating any disease or condition by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #19 Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:35:36 AM EST
is related to willpower. Not in a deterministic sense (luckily). Some cures work regardless of whether or not you "believe in it" - whilst others that require more effort from the patient and sometimes a significant dose of compliance to regimen will require, as you put it willpower.

So I agree that there is a certain degree of overlap in the sense that "compliance to prescribed regimen" that is comparable. Resigning to this higher biological power, I do not agree is comparable - based on the difference in causality.

Lung cancer being the "prime victim" of comparison to alcoholism is still significantly different. Stop smoking and the cancer won't go into remission, for all but late-stage alcoholism (where the physical damage is the problem, not the alcohol per se) stopping the consumption will remove the behavioural problems.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
another issue with alcoholism by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #20 Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:17:54 AM EST
is of course that the problem (=alcohol) also yields some instant gratification and impairs judgement, making compliance even more difficult for the afflicted.

However, the same can be said for uncontrolled diabetes, several mental disorders and so on.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
The false optimism of cancer victims by theboz (4.00 / 2) #8 Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 07:55:08 PM EST
I don't want to get you too far off topic, but cancer is never too far away.  I just found out that one of my relatives has cancer, although she should be able to survive by being mutilated instead of going through radiation or chemo.

Anyway, something that bugs me about cancer is how people are expected to be positive about it in public.  Maybe it's because I have so many older relatives on facebook who are dealing or have dealt with it, but I see all this this fakey, "You can pull through!" or "Stay positive and you can beat this!" types of stuff.  If I live long enough to get cancer, I think I'd rather have someone say, "You have cancer?  Fuck!  This is terrible.  You poor mother fucker, I don't know what to do to help you."  You know, something more realistic.  Maybe it's not always a big deal and people shouldn't give up on themselves, but this fake optimism bugs me.  People dealing with cancer aren't allowed to be down or depressed.  I've never seen someone say, "Shit, I think I'm going to die from this so I might as well start planning."  That's what I would do.
- - - - -
That's what I always say about you, boz, you have a good memory for random facts about pussy. -- joh3n

It's odd by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #12 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 10:07:43 AM EST
I thought the same thing too.

Then I got sick.  When you are desperely sick, you don't want realism, you don't want sympathy, you REALLY don't want anything that even smacks of pity.

What you want is to be told that it's going to be alright, even if it might not be alright.  For a second, you want to forget and dream that it will be okay in the end.

That's why people stay positive.

" isn't like I dug up her great-grandmother and fucked her in the eye socket." - clock
[ Parent ]
I haven't been through that by theboz (4.00 / 1) #18 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 06:27:53 PM EST
It's just a core part of my "belief system" is to be as realistic as possible.  The concept of "hope" is foreign to me except as a form of wishful thinking that doesn't actually accomplish anything.  My own mortality doesn't bother me at all anymore.  Sure, I'd like to stick around long enough to do some things I want to do, especially in helping my kids into adulthood, but I don't really care too much about my own life.  It is what it is.  If/when I get cancer, I would probably not opt for any sort of treatment unless there is a very good chance that it would work, and from what I've seen, it rarely does.
- - - - -
That's what I always say about you, boz, you have a good memory for random facts about pussy. -- joh3n
[ Parent ]
in the bar the other night by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #22 Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:44:53 AM EST
I'm struggling with some tough shit right now, some of which you're aware of if you've been in #husi at the right time, most of which I can't post because of time, etc.

I was in a bar with a friend, round midnight wednesday night, and I said something which caused me to break down in tears. I've never done that with this friend before.

He reached across the table, and squeezed the top of my hand, and reassured me that it's going to be alright.

It helped a lot.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
It doesn't matter by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #13 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 10:21:08 AM EST
I have friends, past and present, who are alcoholics.  Some of them I have removed from my life because their alcoholism. One of them just got his 25 year sobriety coin.

Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics as well.

The truth is that the debate about "is it a disease" is a pointless distraction.  It doesn't matter if it's a disease or a character flaw, or some combination.  Makes no difference in the end.

You can't fix alcoholic.  You can't even really help.  Only they can fix it.  All you can do is support them right up to the point where they decide to fix themselves, or you realize they are using you.  If point number two happens the best and only thing you can do is the hard thing.  Kick them to the curb. No money, no visits, no talks, no nothing until they come back with their five year token.  If you've been used enough, maybe not even then.

To my mind, what you have to do to alcoholics feels like the antihisis of friendship. It sucks.  But the reality is that alcoholics are like a burning ship.  If they don't put the fire out, it's going under.   You can't help.  All you can do is make sure you are not on the ship when it plunges below the surface.  Don't let them take you down with them. 

You are not going to feel good about it if you have to abandon them. But you can't let them wreck you as well.  And they will if they don't decide to fix it.  Sadly, many of them can't or won't fix it either.  Recovery is far more uncommon than the inevitable friendless end they face.

I'm sorry.

" isn't like I dug up her great-grandmother and fucked her in the eye socket." - clock
Follow-up by Gedvondur (4.00 / 7) #14 Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 10:28:05 AM EST
Quick follow up on the disease vs. choice thing.  The only people that care about this are the ones that feel that sympathy and help can only occur after a value judgment about the issue/behavior.

To me, people who need help need help, if it's self inflicted or not. "Moral hazard" arguments are generally made by people who worry about the "cost" of things in monetary terms.  Nobody regrets self-inflicted harm more than those who do it to themselves, even if they never admit it.

"you drank, it was a choice, die in a gutter" is not a strong moral position. It's a judgmental asshole position.  Don't get into arguments about "is it a disease", don't even think about it.  Help those that need help, walk away when it's clear you are being used.  That's all you can do with alcoholism.

" isn't like I dug up her great-grandmother and fucked her in the eye socket." - clock
[ Parent ]
disagree by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #23 Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 10:46:56 AM EST
> Quick follow up on the disease vs. choice thing.  The only people that care about this are the ones that feel that sympathy and help can only occur after a value judgment about the issue/behavior.

I somewhat disagree.

I don't think sympathy and help can only occur after a value judgment. But I care about that value judgment because, all the time, I see people refusing to feel sympathy or offer help because they have made a value judgment that the person in question isn't worthy of sympathy or help.

That pisses me off.

And so I care about the debate, because the debate might help convince those people to have sympathy and offer help.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
I think by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #24 Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:35:35 AM EST
We are saying the same thing.

" isn't like I dug up her great-grandmother and fucked her in the eye socket." - clock
[ Parent ]
Drunk and driven by a devil's hunger | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback