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AIBU not to accept Alcoholism as a disease

(81 Posts)
sum1else Wed 12-Jan-11 16:00:18

My mother is a long term alcoholic. Her health is suffering as a result. We've tried everything to get her to stop but to no avail. She has very limited involvement with me and my siblings and her grandchildren as a result. It upsets us all so much but she has this deluded attitude that it's not affecting us so why are we worried. I've read various advice forums and lots of them say that alcoholism is a disease. I cannot accept this as I feel she chooses to drink and she chooses not to try and get help to stop drinking. AIBU?

charliesmommy Wed 12-Jan-11 16:02:42

It is a disease. Self inflicted but a disease all the same.

But, if she refuses to try and help herself, then there really isnt anything you can do sadly.

JBellingham Wed 12-Jan-11 16:04:15

Its a disease, like obesity or a crack addiction. If they don't want (or are unable) to help themselves then there is nothing you can do.

bibbitybobbityhat Wed 12-Jan-11 16:07:26

I don't know why they have to call it a disease. Its an addiction. What's wrong with calling it an addiction? I've never understood this.

saintknickerless Wed 12-Jan-11 16:10:30

My dad is an alcoholic so I sympathise. but it is an illness so YABU. Like other mental health problems it affects those around them as well as affecting the sufferer. Do they offer any support for the families of alcoholics in your area? I know my mum used to go to a group and she said it was really helpful.

Snorbs Wed 12-Jan-11 16:10:32

I'm with you. Alcoholism is a drug addiction. Addictions aren't diseases. Or, at least, if we really are going to call alcoholism a disease then we should call all addictions - from crack addiction to sex addiction - diseases.

I think once an alcoholic has had the first drink after a dry spell then they have little real choice over having another. I'm a bit like that with cigarettes. But that first drink is a choice. The refusal to seek help or otherwise do anything constructive about their alcoholism is a choice. It's not an easy choice; beating addictions never is of course. But it is a choice.

But, ultimately, whether it's a disease or not doesn't really matter that much unless the alcoholic is using that as an excuse for their behaviour ("It's not my fault, I've got a disease!!!") Whether alcoholism is a disease, an addiction, a series of selfish choices or caused by evil brain weevils, you have the right to choose how much involvement an alcoholic is going to have in your life regardless of how the alcoholic views their behaviour.

sum1else Wed 12-Jan-11 16:10:43

I think it becaue it's self inflicted that I find it so difficult to accept. I don't associate something self inflicted with being a disease like eg cancer or MS. I can't help resenting her for not wanting to help herself and the way she is affecting everyone around her. I understand that i am now powerless.

Bogeyface Wed 12-Jan-11 16:10:44

I agree with the OP. A disease is something that happens to you that you have no control over. Alcoholism is something that the person could learn control if they wanted to, by getting help. If they choose not to take the help that is offered by family and is available from organisations then they are making a life choice to remain an alcoholic.

My MIL died as a direct result of her alcoholism and seeing the pain and havoc it caused before she died and during her last illness made me so angry that she put her family through that rather than accept help.

Addiction is a horrible thing, but it isnt a disease.

FrequentNutter Wed 12-Jan-11 16:13:53

Do you know that an alcoholic cannot just stop? That to do so would kill them?

Support structures have to be in place with a GP, medication has to be taken.

My sons father just stopped, he ended up in an almost comatose state collapsed in his flat alone until someone found him after two days, he was hospitalised for a week.

He did not want to drink anymore and thought he could just stop.

YOu can't just stop it is life threatenting to do so.

What starts out as a habit does become a disease you cannot just stop.

sum1else Wed 12-Jan-11 16:14:36

bogeyface - that's exactly how i see it. Very sorry to hear about your MIL. .

JBellingham Wed 12-Jan-11 16:14:56

It's semantics, having the addictive personality that causes you to need something more than is good for you is a malfunction of your brain. Is anorexia a disease? is type 2 diabetes? Is betting all your money on the hope your horse wins a disease? Your brain is not working properly because of a disease, malfunction, congenital defect.

valiumredhead Wed 12-Jan-11 16:15:46

I agree, it's odd how it's referred to as a disease. It's definitely an addiction,and a horrible one at that.

bibbitybobbityhat Wed 12-Jan-11 16:16:53

Alcoholism can be cured. All addictions can be cured. All alcoholics know this. They choose to access the help or not.

FrequentNutter Wed 12-Jan-11 16:17:12

It is an addiction that once started become a disease in so far as you cannot just stop, it is not like smoking just stopping smoking without support or medication is fine.

Once an alcoholic you cannot just stop drinking without meds, support.

sum1else Wed 12-Jan-11 16:17:39

frequentnutter - yes I do know that she cannot just stop.

togarama Wed 12-Jan-11 16:18:01

Disease, addiction, whatever. It just depends on how you define these words and how you interpret evidence on e.g. apparent genetic links.

Either way, there's nothing you can do about it and whether she can't or won't change, the net impact on your family is the same.

It's horrible but the only thing that those close to alcoholics and other addicts can do is take a step back to protect themselves.

Bogeyface Wed 12-Jan-11 16:18:21


You are talking about what happens when an alcoholic just stops, thats not the question here. I know what happens, the doctors warned us about it when MIL went into hospital. That is neither here nor there though, if the person doesnt want to stop and uses the excuse that they are suffering from a disease as a reason not to try, with the appropriate help.

JBellingham Wed 12-Jan-11 16:18:25

bibbitybobbityhat - lots of diseases can be cured (anyone seen smallpox lately). So what?

saintknickerless Wed 12-Jan-11 16:18:50

So is anorexia a disease then or is it just someone who chooses not to eat? What about OCD - do some people just choose to wash their hands hundreds of times a day until their skin comes off? I think the semantics of whether it is a disease or addiction is irrelevant really. I doubt many alcoholics would end up on the streets homeless with no family if choosing not to drink was simply a difficult choice. I believe there are people who are genuinely unable to stop drinking - those are the ones who unfortunately usually end up drinking themselves to death.
There is little sympathy for alcoholics understandably because the nature of the disease makes them very selfish and has a massive impact on those close to them and also because it can't be seen and what in the brain causes it isn't fully understood.

bibbitybobbityhat Wed 12-Jan-11 16:19:18

It was just an aside, JB.

ScotlandR Wed 12-Jan-11 16:19:37

They call it a disease, because it is genetic. You can inherit a tendency towards alcoholism.

Like diabetes - if you inherited the gene, but you'd never eaten a chocolate in your life you would still have the diseased gene.

I agree to a point - it makes it sound like it is not the responsibility of the 'victim'. But again, like diabetes, if you know you have a tendency towards it and you DON'T make moves to avoid it becoming a problem, you are essentially condemning yourself to an early death.

As I say, it is a scientific definitive term, to help doctors differentiate between people who are emotionally/psychologically dependant and people who are genetically prone towards addiction, iyswim?

But its been hijacked by people who don't want to take responsibility for their own problems.

Just FYI - it might be worth keeping an eye out among your siblings/children/nephews and nieces for signs of an addictive personality because it's a lot easier to deal with "I tend to go OTT with things, I should make sure I am moderate in my consumption of all things" than it is to deal with advanced alcoholism.

sum1else Wed 12-Jan-11 16:19:43

Yes bobbityhat, that's part of my anger and resentment. The fact there is hope she can be cured but she chooses not to.

GooseFatRoasties Wed 12-Jan-11 16:19:54

YABU as there is some scientific evidence to suggest addictions have a genetic factor involved.

FrequentNutter Wed 12-Jan-11 16:20:40

Some people are scared of stopping, the body become so dependant it cannot live without its daily fix.

It is not the person who becomes addicted tis the body that becomes addicted to the ingredients.

I can honestly see how it can be classed as a disease.

The body cannot then function without what it gets from the alcohol.

YOu don't get that from smoking.

It is the same with those who become dependant upon pain killers, you cannot just stop it has to be a gradual process as to just stop causes more problems..

bibbitybobbityhat Wed 12-Jan-11 16:21:37

Anorexia and ocd are illnesses, but I don't see them described as diseases very often, so the op, and I also, wonder why this particular label has been adopted by one group of addicts.

It is just semantics, really, and, I thought, the whole point of the op!

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