An alcoholic is anyone who has a problem with alcohol. At first glance, this might seem obvious, but an alcoholic is not necessarily a daily imbiber. An alcoholic furthermore is not always the unkempt homeless man sleeping under a bridge with a bottle of cheap wine encased in a brown paper bag.
Alcoholism is an equal opportunity disorder. It does not discriminate based on wealth, education, social status, religion, gender or race. Alcoholics drink differently than non-alcoholics. They are a slave to alcohol and seek out that ethanol release like a parched mouth seeks water, and it is this basic imbiber difference that defines an alcoholic.
For some alcoholics the compulsion to drink is so strong they willingly make a proverbial deal with the devil and trade their souls for drunkenness. They stumble around in alcohol-induced suicidal madness, forsaking everything for their liquid enslaver. Family, marriage, career, scruples, religion, health, home, finances, pride, integrity, morality and eventually their very lives – all of these things are auctioned off. They sleep wherever, do whatever and drink whatever, as long as there is alcohol in it.
The entire purpose of a hardcore alcoholic’s life is to maintain inebriation at any cost. Rock bottom for this category of alcoholic is death. And an alcohol related death can be a particularly sad and gruesome one, whether by disease, accident or suicide. However, this kind of “drink to the death” alcoholic does not offer a full definition.
An alcoholic could also be the functioning businessman, homemaker, attentive mother, preacher, therapist, teacher, politician, doctor or police officer. The alcoholic therefore is not defined by outward appearances; although, given enough time, all alcoholics will have their lives negatively and noticeably impacted by their problem drinking. Even the “evil” things evolve.
Eventually spouses, children, bosses, friends and family will have had enough. If that does not happen, it is highly likely the legal, psychiatric, social or general health care systems will become a feature in the alcoholic’s life.
The pattern and context of an alcoholic’s drinking can also vary. Consequently, an alcoholic cannot merely be defined by daily intoxication. Some alcoholics maintain a constant state of inebriation all through the day, every day, while others binge only on the weekends. Some restrict their drinking to nighttime or social occasions. Others drink to self-medicate, unwind at the end of the day, or to take the edge off in the mornings.
Then there are the reasons an alcoholic drinks. Basically an alcoholic will find any reason to drink, no matter what the occasion, to the point of absurdity. The sun is out or it is raining, good news, bad news, failure, success, celebration, grief, happiness, anger, disappointment and excitement – the potential list of excuses is inexhaustible, because in reality there is no reason to drink, other than the overwhelming desire (Addiction) for alcohol.
Essentially, the difference between an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic is an intense attraction to alcohol, regardless of circumstance or consequence. The common thread for an alcoholic is that the attraction leads to an all-consuming drunken oblivion where there is no reason and chaos prevails.
An alcoholic cannot stop at one.
So for what might be a pleasing accompaniment to a meal or a pleasant social lubricant to the non-alcoholic, for the alcoholic the same substance manifests into a sadistic master named Addiction, first beguiling the alcoholic slave with pleasure, but once in its trap completely overpowering the sufferer.
The paradox is that the very thing that would end his or her suffering is also the very thing the active alcoholic finds an impossible torture to stop. He or she becomes blinded to the quintessential truth that the power lies within. The power to end suffering lies within because that too is where the monsters, in this case Addiction, lie. You can’t battle your literal or figurative enemy without facing it/her/him/self.
Facing a clever enemy is never easy (and the alcoholic often dies trying). But sometimes in this life the only way to get to the Big Easy – the other side of the sun – is to risk death and walk through the fire.
The alcoholic trailblazer who is confronted with Addiction is in a particularly precarious position because Addiction has access to the mightiest weapon of all: the human mind.
It (Addiction) works hard and well at dividing the mind against itself. Addiction uses alcohol and physical craving (material matter) and an accompanying faulty belief system (rationalizing why it's no big deal to drink) into tricking the heart and mind (or intuition) into believing that he or she (the alcoholic) has no say. Addiction is then let loose to continue its destruction of freewill.
In her or his weakened state, then, the alcoholic is further tricked into confusing alcohol (a blameless substance) with Addiction (the thing in the mind that manipulates the substance for its own destructive means), which is why there is such a thing as a “dry drunk” or “sex addicts” or “workaholics” – they are all feeding the serpent of Addiction in various degrees without understanding that is exactly what they are doing. The channel (alcohol, gambling, eating, sex etc) of Addiction becomes a secondary or irrelevant concern.
A mind divided against itself falls. The united mind stands.
The confusion of a divided mind that believes it has no control over itself overtakes the brain like an enraged tsunami. And when a person is brain-washed (even by his or her own mind) to believe something no matter how initially ungrounded that belief is, the truer it becomes to the believer, whether it is actually true or not.
Pleasure becomes pain and the pain turns into self-flagellation. The original master (freewill or mind/higher self) becomes a slave to base urge or the base self: the animal within: the lower self: Addiction.
Addiction when left to do whatever it wants like this is like a doting mother waking a sleeping baby. She wakes the babe because she (the baby) looks so angelic, and the mother so filled with love can’t help herself. But even love, like the moon, has a dark side and when the object of love is awoken prematurely, even sweet “angels” turn into angry demons whose wails of displeasure seemingly cannot be stopped.
The mother kicks herself for her “apparent” folly in tampering with Pandora’s jar and is frantic to return the baby to her former peaceful repose. But it’s too late. She’s up now and she’s pissed off. Deal with it.
In other words, let sleeping babies lie unless you’re prepared to deal – really deal – with what you have unleashed (Addiction) after you’ve turned the bell jar upside down and let the air in. Deal with the suffering that ensues in the process of righting the wrong and in the end the wrong becomes right.
The tribulation that makes it almost impossible for the alcoholic sufferer to self-correct and reunite the battling sides that rage war within the mind is nothing more than what is called “the human condition”. Addiction takes advantage of this weakened state (the human condition) and through intoxication manipulates the animal into feeding the gluttonous beast of its own demise, thereby killing hope (or willpower) in the process.
The loss of hope is suicide.
And when the enemy of hope (hopelessness) is fed, it grows, like anything. It’s one of Nature’s laws. Plant the seed and watch it grow. If nurtured, it will always get bigger, so be careful what you plant because karma dictates you reap what you sow.
Ultimately, though, an alcoholic can be more simply defined by how alcohol rules supreme in his or her life. If alcohol and intoxication (the worker bees of Addiction) become the point of life, the highlight of life, and the only thing the sufferer lives for – if it is the catalyst and engine behind a life of chaos and ruin – then this is the definition of an alcoholic.
But there is hope. There is always hope if you believe. The one who is lost can be found. It’s not impossible. It’s called finding yourself. You are your own higher self. The impossible torture of alcoholism is only impossible when the alcoholic falls for the deception that it is impossible. Nothing is impossible when the mind is willing to turn mistakes into, as Bob Ross said, happy accidents.
There are no limits in a free mind that thinks like water.