Home \ Forums \ Alcoholism \ Understanding the Insanity of Alcoholism: How the Alcoholic Thinks

284 replies, 202 commenters Last updated by  Ed Stidham 1 month, 1 week ago
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    Jim LaPierre

    One of the finest compliments I receive from recovering alcoholics is that despite the fact that I am not an alcoholic, I understand how their minds work. I have profound respect for all the old sayings in AA. Some are open to interpretation – the “insanity of our disease” is a literal statement.


  • Pharrisconsulting

    I don’t know when I have seen such a thorough description on the thinking of an active alcoholic. Kudos Jim.

  • Anonymous Anonymous

    You had me until you stated that the *ONLY* path to real recovery is via AA. Not true. Good article otherwise!

  • Tiakelly88

    Amazing description and enlightning. Thank you!

  • Johnhughwebster

    interesting article , must disagree AA is not the only real recovery. however it does work for some people. as for it being unique could you explain the DIFFERENCE between alcoholism & drug dependance ?

    • GIGI

      I agree with you, AA is not holding a monopoly on successful recoveries. No entity does. it’s whatever works individually, maybe more than one therapy. I think people drink because they are in pain, mental or physical. figure out where the pain comes from and you’ll never be needing to be an alcoholic. You might still have some pain or the same pain, but you won’t need to drown it. if you do drink, you won’t have to feel so bad about it and that is at least some recovery.

  • Mr. E

    AA works for every one. Not every one works the AA program because, well probably because they really don’t want sobriety, but an easier softer way. Great article and thank you for your effort, time and consideration.

    • TJ

      AA works slightly. It has a 3% success rate. It doesn’t even use scientifically-based research in the program to create behavior modification.

      It works slightly because of conditioning. If someone attends an AA meeting, during the meeting, they are not drinking. If they go to 5 meetings a week, then for those 5 meetings they are not drinking and they don’t crave it as much. They are away from their ‘triggers’ and in a group that they do not associate with alcohol. They could join a teetotaler group for the same effect.

      If they only listen to Country music at work and never drink at work, then listening to Country music at home can help protect them from their triggers.

      AA may help some people because it gives moral support and keeps them away from their triggers, but alcoholism is physical, emotional and often genetic and many people are suffering thinking they are at fault because they haven’t ‘worked’ the AA program enough.

      What people need is an all out arsenal of tools to help them with their triggers etc. Smart Recovery, NLP training (including hypnosis), Cognitive Therapy, support from family and friends and drugs. Naltrexone, baclofen etc.

      Brain scans of alcoholics and cocaine addicts are very different from the rest of us. Baclofen (which is a serious drug with side effects) can change an alcoholics brain back to ‘normal’ when very slowly built up in their system. It is like a light switch, once they have enough in their system, it turns the desire for alcohol/cocaine off. Then they can lower their dose as maintenance. Unfortunately it is a serious drug, making a person clumsy which is dangerous. Info. can be found on youtube.

      Alcoholism is an epidemic with few effective treatments.

    • kenpodoc

      Actually, 3% success is an erroneous number; the success rates are currently somewhere around 5%, but even that is subject to dispute as AA does not keep data. But, what is not in dispute is the fact that the founders of AA were able to keep tabs if not specific data on the first few hundred participants with particular emphasis placed upon the so called “first 100”. They cited a success rate of 75%, and with such small numbers, they could likely cite that reasonably accurately.

      What changed? The program of AA changed, unfortunately. It became far less spiritual. Bill Wilson was approached by Ebby Thatcher about his conversion to Christianity through his exposure to the Oxford Club. On page 13 of the Big Book of Alcoholics anonymous Bill describes his conversion experience and states that his newfound friend took away his sins “root and branch”. Dr. Bob and the wife of AA #3 all recount similar experiences in their speeches and writings. The early AA’s were described by the fellow sent by John D. Rockefeller to explore their success as a first century Christian fellowship. They place great emphasis on daily prayer, meditation on God’s word, and service, with only moderate emphasis on meetings, perhaps once a week.

      This history is all in the source literature of AA. Upon examination, the stories in the back of the first edition of the Big Book were quite different from those found in the back of the fourth edition. How so? They were overtly more spiritual. The early fellowship used the Bible to construct the tenets of the program heavily relying on the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), 1 Corinthians chapter 13, Psalms 91, and perhaps all the Proverbs. As the program grew, they began to “water down” the emphasis on the Bible and began to push a message of “just believing in something bigger than yourself”. While this may have been judicious to help keep angry alcholic agnostics and athiests in the program, it also sadly served as a slippery slope away from the undisputed foundations in the program.

      Today, we say “meeting makers make it”, I believe, largely due to the fact that AA members must work hard at their “spirituality”. They have to try hard to find a AA meetings or content or fellowship of a spiritual nature.

      As for success rates, AA works very well for those who are willing to keep going, work the steps with a sponsor, and not drink, one day at a time. Those who complete an inpatient treatment center, hit a meeting on the day of discharge and then complete 90 meetings in 90 days statistically do even better. And it must be a spirtual program. I have yet to see success any other way.

      AA practiced with the Bible open alongside the Big Book takes it to another level altogether.

    • vlipp

      thank you for explaining the truth

    • Praise

      WOW….I wanted to know more about the disease of alcoholism because I recently met a “wonderful” professional man who loves me and also told me that (1) he has been drinking for a very long time, (2) he drinks a lot, (3) things will be better in his life if he stopped drinking, (4) he can drink and pass out for 2 days and (5) he needs help with his drinking. And I asked…so basically you are telling me that you are an alcoholic right? He answered YES!!! I am now wondering if I should continue a relationship with him after his “confession” or leave him alone because he may change and not be so wonderful later in the relationship. I have a history of making poor choices in men.

    • Eight

      When I met my boyfriend, he basically confessed the same things and told me he’d been praying for a good woman like me to come into his life to help him make a change. A year and a half later, he has verbally, physically, emotionally abused me. He works really hard, pays all the bills, buys me dinner every night so he thinks he’s a good provider and I don’t appreciate what he does. I do appreciate the financial support, but the honesty that he claimed to have in the beginning, turned into lies over time as he couldn’t change and I started getting smarter. Then it was manipulation and control and then it went to him acknowledging his problem again and going with me to church and he would quit for a few weeks, but just as the article suggested, he’d come back with a vengeance and somehow blame it on life’s circumstances or me. it is a vicious cycle. I’ve been moving out all week and avoiding his calls. Some are angry, some are apologetic, but none have to do anything with him making a serious change for himself and unfortunately, I got dragged into it with him. I love him and pray for him, try to forgive him and wish he could change, but I can’t continue to suffer anymore and in my opinion, if they already have these problems in the present state, what can the future really look like? I would run as fast as you can before you spend too much time trying to believe the man loves you, but can’t even love himself enough to stop drinking and offer you both a decent future. i always think, If I stay with him, I’m only prolonging our downfall because he makes, as anyone does, bad decisions when he’s drinking. Now ask yourself after listening to me, a 41 year old broken, hearted woman, do you think all that is worth the love he says he has for you now?

    • Susan Potter

      NOBODY can ever know the success rate of AA – because it’s anonymous! And how do you determine the rate anyway? There’s no attendance requirement, no membership lists, no central recording of membership. And what is success? Someone who stops drinking for a year? Five years? Twenty? And by what criteria are you judging who is an alcoholic and who is cured? AA is not at all concerned about success rates. AA is there for those are concerned about their own drinking. You don’t even have to want to stop to be accepted at meetings.

    • vlipp

      you are an idiot.

    • Laura

      Just because a person doesnt want to go to AA or has a reason for not going doesnt mean they dont want to be sober. Thats shit. Some people need to get their lives straight and want to do it without AA. So before you start saying ppeople really dont want it, find out why .You are a closed minded person and should learn that different ways work for different people and not everyone has your way of thinking

    • Sarah

      Well said Laura!

    • Alex McDonnell

      I love aa. But it does not work for everyone. And it is too easy to say they just don’t want it.

    • Fred

      I’m sober and your comment illustrates beautifully why some of us feel more comfortable In other religions.

    • billtheamerican

      It works if you work it. But, I definitely agree, it’s not the only way to do it. It’s simply the only thing that has ever worked for me.

    • Braveheart

      My wife went to AA for about 45 days after coming out her second rehab, she claims all it made her want to do was drink more. But I know without help its virtually impossible to get sober on your own. Things have gotten worse and she is back to her old ways. I cant take it anymore , I love her, but I must save myself at this point, our relationship has turned toxic. My coedependency is over the top and I know it. I decided to leave , perhaps the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. Time will only tell if this makes a difference.