I've never liked the idea that alcoholism is a disease. I don't want to go so far as to say this theory is a cop-out - but the "experts" have a vested interest in continuing to make us believe that alcohol addiction is a medical condition that needs their supervision. Maybe it's my innate suspicion of authority (I just don't like people telling me what to do!) but long before research started surfacing supporting my own instincts, I viewed alcoholism not as the disease itself, but as an addiction which causes diseases.
And it is true. The over-consumption of alcohol can cause many diseases: Cirrhosis, Pancreatitis, Hypertension, Osteoporosis, and a brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a vitamin deficiency that causes loss of memory, blurry vision, confusion and mobility problems.
Despite the connection between chronic alcohol abuse and physical illness, some experts, like Dr. Gene Heyman of Harvard University, are on my side, even calling the condition a choice. In his book "Addiction: A Disorder of Choice" Dr. Heyman points out that much addictive behavior is primarily voluntary (we initially make the choice to drink or over-drink) and that these choices don't fit the clinical boundaries of illness. Supporting his theory is mounting evidence that addiction treatment responds to reward, incentives and information - behavioral therapies that conventional diseases are immune to.
I believe I'm living proof that at least some forms of alcoholism are not diseases, but conditions that can be improved with incentives - and without clinical supervision. My incentive of course is to not have to quit drinking forever. And it's a big one for me.
But more than this specific advantage, I know that with every cleanse cycle I get healthier, happier and more in touch with my own body and motivations. Every cleanse I learn more about alcohol and its effects on my health, both good and bad. And this information helps me make more intelligent choices for my overall life.
As you start cleansing, you too will come closer to who you really are and begin to understand how the smallest decisions affect your whole life. Moving through a cleanse with consciousness, you can't help but learn to start caring for yourself in a way that maybe you never have (after all, at its core, alcohol abuse is a form of self-abuse whether we are aware of that or not).
But even if you haven't gotten the nerve to start cleansing yet, just the idea that the possibility is there for you is a step in the right direction because you're arming yourself with the knowledge you need to make more loving decisions for yourself.
I know that starting to cleanse is one of the most positive physical and emotional decisions I've ever made. I have not only a healthier respect for alcohol (which is vital for problem drinkers), but I've also gained more respect for myself. It makes me feel more confident in myself overall - because when you get control of the Dopamine/Depression Cycle through cleansing, you won't feel so powerless over alcohol - or anything - in your life again.
Having said that ... guess who's looking forward to her first glass of wine? ;)
The Globe and Mail, December 18, 2010, by Jessica Warner
ehow.com, by Dana George
"Addiction: A Disorder of Choice" by Dr. Gene Heyman, 2010, H.U.P.