Alcoholism | Alcohol Dependence |Alcohol Abuse | Alcohol Addiction

Here is the common wisdom, from the internet, about alcoholism versus addiction:

As Dr. John Sharp, an addiction-focused psychiatrist who specializes in the integration of mood disorders and addictions, says, “Alcoholism is an addiction—it’s just one type of addiction. When you break out the specific things that someone who is suffering from alcoholism contends with—impaired control, preoccupation with a drug, using despite adverse consequences, distortions in thinking, most notably along the lines of denial—they are no different from any other type of addict.”(cf.

What conviction Dr. John Sharp has.  His argument, however, would not hold up to rhetorical scrutiny: if I replace the words alcoholism and drug above, with word love, he would have just a sound argument that the lover is “no different from any other type of addict.”

There is, however, one important, medical difference:

Alcoholism is a long-term (chronic) disease. It’s not a weakness or a lack of willpower. Like many other diseases, it has a course that can be predicted, has known symptoms, and is influenced by your genes and your life situation. (cf.  Alcoholism | Alcohol Dependence |Alcohol Abuse | Alcohol Addiction.)

I have never heard anyone call addiction of another kind a chronic disease.  Can I check into a detox or rehab clinic with a chronic disease, say, asthma, and check out later, free of my chronic disease?  There is no medical literature that i have read that claims heroin addiction, for example, as a chronic disease.

What am i trying to prove?  Nothing.  I am an alcoholic, not an addict.  I have nothing to prove, and noting to gain by my proofs.  In deed, my alcoholism has aided me the many years in being a superior debater!  Anyone who knows me will tell you: I always win the argument.  I will tell you, I always lose the ones I argue with.

The fact is, you never recover from alcoholism: you learn to live with it – or not, as in the case of Hemingway. has there ever been a crack-head who blows his head off, after years and years of sobriety?  No.  Even in “the book” from AA, there is no promise of recovery.  On the contrary:

The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.

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. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.

We are like men who have lost their legs; they never grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of our kind like other men. (cf.

Chronic alcoholism is a unique psycho-bioligical interaction, unlike any other. Here is something from the Doctor’s Opinion section of “the book”:

We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve. The classification of alcoholics seems most difficult, and in much detail is outside the scope of this book. There are, of course, the psychopaths who are emotionally unstable. We are all familiar with this type. They are always “going on the wagon for keeps.” They are over-remorseful and make many resolutions, but never a decision. All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.
This immediately precipitates us into a seething caldron of debate. Much has been written pro and con, but among physicians, the general opinion seems to be that most chronic alcoholics are doomed.(cf.

It can only happen in a person with extremely low self-esteem, and an extremely large ego.  Sounds impossible?  You should try it!  Luckily, it’s not for everyone.  How many Bukowskis do we want running around, anyway? And the manifestation is a world of lies, the biggest of which is that we are not alcoholics – because to admit that truth is to admit a chronic illness – right: an illness that you never get over.  Bummer.  What’s worse is, it’s an illness that results from some inner psychological structure that makes you into an asshole, just like allergies make you sneeze.  Not like any other asshole – those people just need to get their asses kicked.  No.  This is a disease, with no recovery.  Only wearing a prosthetic psychological mask.

Charles Henry Bukowski


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