Saturday, December 15, 2007
A close friend and mentor recently admitted to alcoholism and checked himself into an intensive month-long rehab center. He did well, and I believe (and pray) that he will stay sober. I was thinking about him yesterday, and had this thought. We call people like my friend “recovering alcoholics,” but I think the phrase “alcohol survivor” would also work. We always talk about cancer survivors – Lance Armstrong is a remarkable cancer survivor, John Kerry and Rudy Giuliani are prostate cancer survivors, Aunt Yevetta survived breast cancer, etc. Like cancer, addiction is a disease – the mind loses control, and a physical or even spiritual/emotional need develops that is stronger than any person’s willpower. For the life of me I can’t understand why someone would pick up their first or second cigarette, but I can certainly see why they reach for the three thousandth. The nicotine becomes more powerful than the person, and they have lose control to the point where they really *can’t* just say "I’m done" and quit cold turkey no matter how important it may be.
Add in the fact that alcoholism can be genetic, and it becomes quite obvious why we call it a disease. It can be just as deadly as cancer – if it doesn’t get you through the liver, it will certainly kill your soul. And just as cancer goes into “remission” but is never really cured, so it is with alcoholism. An alcoholic can’t ever touch a drop again, because their disease will kick in and demand that they not have one drink, but ten. This is why we call them recovering alcoholics: they are never fully recovered, they can never go back. An addict – a victim – who admits to this problem, this disease, and seeks help shows remarkable courage, and should be lauded if they manage to stay on the wagon (or even only fall off once). As such, I submit that we refer to these brave men and women as “alcohol survivors” as often as we do “recovering alcoholics.”