It ain’t a disease. But it’s something.
When I was drinking, I identified as an alcoholic. And I also said that the word was just an undefined noise. Here was my reasoning, more or less:
“Alcoholism, as defined by ‘experts,’ or those who self-identify as alcoholics, cannot exist. Reality contradicts the contemporary understanding of substance abuse as a ‘disease.’ No one is powerless over alcohol. If it were such, then each alcoholic would progress inexorably from that first drink to death from alcohol poisoning within a few short months. The reality is that alcoholics drink too much, regularly, but they are not powerless. They are habituated. And habits are hard to break. That’s it. Calling alcoholism a disease is like calling nail-biting a disease. Bad habits aren’t diseases, they are unwanted patterns of behavior.”
But until recently, I was largely blind to the incredible strangeness of my behavior from any objective, disinterested perspective. It’s not at all like the biting of one’s nails. I get “obsessed” with stuff all the time. I’ll binge watch some show, or get into a game, or whatever. None of those things are comparable at all. They only look similar, but they are as similar as ducks and pudding. Being “tweaky” about stuff is part of the mechanism of addiction, but it is not addiction itself. I’ll get tired of that show or game, see, and move on to something else.
But booze? I’m bound to get tired of it one of these days, right? Not likely. Intoxicant addiction is really, really, distinctly, uniquely strange. Only people actively engaged in such a life can’t see that. Only they can frame their own respective hells as anything other than profoundly strange and tragic.
But still, disease isn’t a great word for what I have. Fine. But neither is “bad habit.” Neither is “he drinks too much.” Indeed, what possible word could explain why a man behaved for so long, and with such persistence, in a manner that produced such bad outcomes over and over and over again. Insane? Retarded? Insanely retarded?*
And then, when this man finally stops, and everything is vastly better, and he’s free? What is his state then? Happy and grateful to know now better, so he won’t make that mistake again? Hell no. He’s still scheming, mentally, spiritually, with the deepest threads of his being, to find some way that he can do it again.
Why, why, why, why, why?! It makes no fucking sense.
Except this: my brain is broken. There’s a part of it that doesn’t work right. A guy lives in my brain who only cares about getting loaded. And he’s a non-violent sociopath. He wants what he wants and that’s it. He’d prefer a clear path, but is OK with strewing bodies around if needed. He’s not dick-ish in his dealings with others, for the most part. But deep down? That guy is a fucking dick.
I’ve only got two choices with that guy. Either I lock him in the trunk, or I let him drive. If I let him up front, he will grab the wheel. And once that happens, it could end up being me in that trunk, all the way until the end of the road.