The Alcoholism Con 60

Bloggerheads is down. For a real blogger, that’s like the sun not coming up in the morning, only a great deal more serious. So I have to link to a cache. (Update – site back up, new link).

I have a very great deal of sympathy for poons and his struggle to break free from alcohol dependency.

Poons has realised his life had become a total mess, and I send him my genuine wishes in his brave effort to face up to it and get things together. But I do not beleive in swapping addiction to a substance with addiction to a cult of total abstinence reinforced by group sessions and silly slogans. You won’t see me posting “One day at a time” and “Follow the Twelve Steps”, like other commenters you can see on Poons blog.

And to see the great Tim Ireland posting wussy bollocks about good non-alcoholic beers, is deeply disturbing. There is no good non-alcoholic beer. Drinking it is like watching a football match without the ball.

I admire Tim’s honesty in owning up to being an alcoholic. Actually he is wrong. Part of the cult brainwashing is to convince you that you are always an alcoholic, even when like Tim you haven’t had a drink for a year.

You are not an alcoholic Tim. Alcoholics drink. You haven’t drunk for a year.

Actually I don’t think you were ever an alcoholic, whatever you think. As you know, this blog would not have existed without your help and support, and you have never not been there when I needed you, and you have never let me down. A real alcoholic would have.

I like a drink myself. I got married on Tuesday and drank eight glasses of champagne. I haven’t had a drink since. With friends in the pub I will drink four or five pints. At a dinner party I will have a couple of large whiskies followed by over a bottle of wine.

But I only drink on average on between one and two days a week.

I have drunk more. As a student, I drank every day for months on end. For long periods I drank more than Poons says he has been drinking. But when I had important work to do, or exams coming up, I would simply stop. Those many periods of student months of averaging over five pints a day would make me an alcoholic forever according to the stupid propaganda Tim has swallowed. But it didn’t. I drink when I want and stop when I want.

Poons is indeed, as Tim says, a Man of Courage for admitting and going public with his problems. But courage is not swapping a dependence on alcohol for a psychological dependence on total abstinence and the bullshit that once you are an alcoholic, you are always an alcoholic, like the religous brainwashing of original sin.

Self-reliance is having a drink when you want to and having the willpower and self-respect to stop when you want to.

I have had serious alcoholics in my family. I am not talking without experience.

All of which was said much better by Stan.

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60 thoughts on “The Alcoholism Con

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  • anticant

    Addictions are a myth. A great big money-spinning myth. Changing health-destroying habits is a matter of choice and will power. You either so something, or you don’t. All those folk who say “I can’t help it” really mean “Although I know it’s a problem I don’t want to give it up”. If they really do want to give it up, and are resolved to do so, they can. It may be a lengthy process and require competent counselling, but it can be done.

    I don’t want to sound simplistic about this, and know it can be very tough but it is a MORAL issue – not a medical one. I have realised this ever since reading the remarkable series of works by Dr Thomas Szasz, beginning with “The Myth of Mental Illness”, and I used these insights with good effect when I was practising therapy.

    Unfortunately we live in an age when many people find it more consoling and comfortable to believe that they are helpless victims, instead of resolving to tackle those issues where change is in fact possible. (That’s what is wrong with us politically, too.)

  • punkscience

    Loving the South Park philosophy.

    Addictions are just a symptom of some deeper sociological or psychological dysfunction. Its idiocy to treat it as a disease and ignore the underlying cause.

  • Tim Ireland

    1. Server back online – you can link direct now. domain attracts a lot of spam attacks, leading to outages:

    2. My problem was that each time I had a drink I was usually thinking about the next one. So now I don’t have the first one. Your body appears to have a different chemical balance to mine; some people are like this with nicotine, too (i.e. those social smokers who can only smoke at weekends and not end up smoking every day). I’m not that way with nicotine or alcohol, so I quit both, one after the other. You say “I drink when I want and stop when I want.” Let’s just stick to nicotine for a moment and acknowledge that there are people who can do this and people who can’t, and psychology plays a role, but isn’t the only factor.

    3. ‘Zero’ is a lovely number, and I don’t expect everybody to follow my path, but it’s the path I’ve chosen. No slogans were involved, and I only evangelise when I can’t get a decent beer in pubs.

    4. Beer, when brewed properly, is a lovely drink with or without alcohol. It’s not just the taste and temperature, but the *body* of the liquid that tea coffee juice and soft drinks just can’t match.

    5. In the presence of (and or in support of) any other person having issues with alcohol, I will probably continue to describe myself as an alcoholic for a while to come, but it’s not a badge I wear every day or a cross I drag down to the shops and back

    Thanks for the input, though. Cheers, Craig.

  • Tim Ireland

    I should also point out that poons is taking a different path to mine at the moment; he is trying to evaluate/improve his relationship with his body while carefully limiting his intake.

  • JimmyGiro

    From wiki on the film “The lost weekend”:

    “He returns home: he ignores the phone. Later, while inebriated, he imagines a mouse appearing out of a crack in the wall and a bat flying around his living room; ‘Bim’ had explained earlier that alcoholics usually imagine seeing small animals rather than ‘pink elephants’. Helen returns, alerted over the phone by Don’s landlady who can hear his screams, and finding him in a delirious state…”

    When they reach the psychotic stage of their ‘non-disease’, do they have these episodes whilst drunk, sober, or both?

  • KevinB


    When people have tackled their alcoholism successfully it has been, more often than not, with the help of AA.


    You might mock AA and call it a cult but it has done remarkable work. There is a spiritual aspect to everything and this is the most fundamental one. It is here that AA, cult or not, begin.

    I am not an alcoholic, by the way….more a drinker after your own style, a bit too much not very often, and with similar habits as a young man.

    The story of the founding of AA is fascinating. Bill Wilson collapses, cries out to God, sees a light….etc.

    See here:

  • Craig


    If they really want to help people they wouldn’t concentrate on the religous indoctrination of the vulnerable. Addictive personalities are perfect prey for cults, of course.

  • Bob Morris

    Would you advocate heroin users go back to social shooting up on the weekends simply because they’ve been off it for several years?

    Sure, AA can have cult-like aspects. But it’s nowhere near like Scientology et al (for one thing, it refuses donations over $400. Yes, refuses.) And it sure beats driving one’s car into a phone pole or getting arrested.

  • KevinB


    AA do not religiously indoctrinate in the usual sense of imposing a doctrine of fixed ideas (on people who are indeed very vulnerable). They offer a method for the alcoholic to gain control back over their selves and their lives.

    I’m no expert but I believe this starts with admitting that they have no control over their problem and then handing over this problem to a ‘higher power’ (i.e. trusting ‘God’, whatever God is, to help them back to wholeness)

    If you do not believe in the existence of a higher power then this approach will always look like a load of rubbish to you.

    …..but all this religious language (and even faith itself) is just myriad ways that people have found of accessing and describing their own deepest nature.

    If you want to understand the nature of any material substance you must put it under stress of every kind. Heat it, cool it, stretch it squash it, bombard it, break it etc. Then you know what a material is.

    For humans too, it seems that the deepest self-revelations almost always occurs at times of greatest stress……when people come to ‘the end of the line’, in near-death experiences etc.

    Bill Wilson had his encounter at the absolute nadir of his life. I, and millions like me, have had similar experiences. I felt the ecstasy, the saving grace, the absolute approval, the total acceptance, the wordless understanding. I don’t know what it was that came to me. Let me call it a brief experience of God’s presence. I am not experiencing this thing now, but I know this……It is ALL I want. Near-death experiencers often describe similar feelings and awareness. They are also usually transformed by the experience……in a good way.

    Anyone who has been there can tell you that this was the most real experience a person can have…..and if it was real for me it is real for others and is therefore a revelation about our universal human nature….it is there just below the surface in everyone. When you are in this place the feeling of complete connectedness, that in some sense I AM you, the total absence of fear, the fabulous sense of empowerment change a person in a profound way. One gains the strength to accept oneself and deal constructively with one’s life.

    Believers like me say there is a God and to offer this idea to our fellows is to offer liberation, self-empowerment and contentment…..not to trap them in a sinister destructive ‘cult’. (I don’t personally do any of this stuff by the way. I just try to defend ‘religious’ people against the Richard Dawkins of this world)

    To imagine that people who go out into the world trying to propagate their faith are necessarily some kind of mind-controllers is a gross distortion and, perhaps, wishful thinking…….though it is true that religious nuts and some religious organisations have often abused true loving spirituality under the cover of religious ideas that they (presumably) profoundly misunderstand.

    Christianity is under severe attack in this country.

    This should not be surprising as the sublime teaching and demands of Christ represent the most serious threat there is to the mind-controlling social-engineering nexus that is feverishly busy trying to occupy (and corrupt)our hearts and minds.

    It delivers its subtle tyranny via cod-rationalism, atheistic humanism, extreme permissiveness, legally enforced tolerance, compulsory procedures that are all about inputs not about the justifier ‘outputs’ that are mere pretexts put in place to conceal the real agenda……..that is to render society witless, faithless and helpless in the face of whatever the oligarchical powers that rule us want to deliver……or, more accurately, demand of us.

    Only faith and the love of God can defeat these fiends.

    Therefore we should rejoice because the battle has already been won in heaven. When humans stop listening to the propaganda and hear the music that sings in their hearts the battle will be won here on earth also.

  • anticant

    Kevin, if it’s metaphor there’s a great deal of profound truth in it. If you believe it literally it makes you sound like a graduate of Hogwarts Academy.

  • Tea Junkie

    Craig, I’ve been inspired by your blog, but I completely disagree with your views on alcoholism. I’ve watched a close friend drink himself into an early grave, and I’m now watching my husband do the same thing. Alcoholism is real, and it’s heart-breaking.

  • KevinB


    When we talk of such things we must admit that in a literal sense we do not understand what we are talking about. We are trying to relate our sense of an extra-dimensional reality.

    Talk of ‘God’ likewise…..

    …….but even when we describe physics through mathematical language we are really dealing with mental models and ‘metaphors’. There really is no other kind of expressed reality when we try to describe our experience (i.e. something that really happened) because even if you state what is literally true (‘the car hit the wall’) this statement merely generates an image of the event in the consciousness of another. Everything is metaphor.

    I have been hit by a car. Nothing too serious. My subjective experience of this incident remains in my consciousness. If I say that the ‘spiritual’ experience I tried to describe above is much more real and powerful in my consciousness then how should I talk about it?

    I can admit that I don’t know what it was really. I know it was not merely psychological. Nor the subjective impression of an electro-chemical event……though it was these things too.

    I believe that there is a loving affirming reality that exists within and beyond all things. I believe that the power of anything that opposes it is feeble by comparison. I know my own experience but can I claim to ‘know’ what I deduce from my own experience?

    We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Our souls survive physical death. I reasonably hope be enveloped in the source of this ecstasy again after death as many people who have ‘died’ and returned claim to have done.

    What kind of words must I use?



    They’ll have to do.

    We are here to get as close to this reality as we can and to bring it to others and to direct our descendants towards it.

    Truth, Love, Justice, Beauty?

    Will that do?

    Are these not the same thing?

    Unfortunately, not for everyone….

    …….so we surely must look for guidance, for context.

    For me, Jesus Christ will have to do. He talked the talk and walked the walk. He identified the perils that threaten us all.

    His spiritual guidance was delivered in parables.

    Metaphorical enough?

    His warnings about the world were timely then and they remain so now.

    Do not tolerate the activities of the moneylenders, nor trust the scribes, nor Lawyers, nor Pharisees, those Luciferian priests, creators of the Talmud, who made themselves Gods and invented their own other-hating hegemonic ‘Law’.

    If Christ came back he would surely return to preach universalism and save his same people from these same fiends.

    We must pray for all who are deliberately wicked…..and love them….

    ….they can’t stand that….such treatment does not affirm their reality to them.

    So mock all you like but,

    literally true?

    No…..what is?….almost nothing.

    But absolutely true. Yes. A million times yes. The light will break through. We will see ourselves as we really are. The hearts of men will turn and make the world anew.

    ….and as you will surely understand, Craig, the more we believe it the more it is likely to happen.


  • KevinB

    I’ve learned something here. It is no use trying to say the unsayable.

    It just leaves others feeling even more superior than they did in the first place.

    Nevertheless, it remains my view that someone who sneers at the work done by AA is a blinkered cynic…..strangely mean-spirited even.

    This cannot be true of yourself, Craig, given your history….

    ….so I’ll admit it.

    I’m puzzled.

  • Anon

    Oh dear. I was taught the merits of the Functional model of drinking over the AA quasi religious submitting to a higher power . A hospital alcohol unit in the Midlands covering the Welsh coast to the East Midlands was only able to cover such a large area because the regime, complete with Brain zapping high voltage ‘vegetable therapy’ machines, was so vile that nobody ever dared go there.

    After visiting the hospital and hearing about the terrible effects of alcohol on the body, one drinker commented ‘Yes, if you thought about it, it would drive you to drink.’

    Serious drinkers get hooked on the whoozy making by-products made by the body as it breaks down alcohol into vinegar. We don’t actually get drunk on the sexy stuff that looks nice and costs £15.00 a bottle. The body uses the chemical instead of its natural dopamine, so they say.

    Functional drinking means you have a reason for doing it. It serves a purpose. It helps you cope with the crap served up by crap politicians, and bosses and family and society and devils sent to you by God.

    Islam forbids drinking and also gives the remedy. If you believe in the One God and worship Him, He takes it upon Himself to protect you from the devils who annoy you, persuade you that your problems come from society or whatever and who you want to escape from. I never liked drinking so I don’t know if this is a cure from personal experience. My grandfather was seriously affected by drinking and died before I was born. I have always assumed that in the process of making their great wealth, his family had ignored him, so he drank it all away again. There but for grace of God…

  • glenn


    “Christianity is under severe attack in this country”, you say. Really?

    Take a look at this:

    I’m very happy that you find great solace in your sky-being, really. But why you think it has to be sold so strongly (evangelised, even) beats me. A decent product doesn’t have to be shoved on people, they’ll steal it.

    Now you state that Christianity is under such severe attack, even while Christianity is our official faith. I never even heard suggestion that I might adopt another faith, or none, until well into late school years. Not too much god at home, but more than plenty in school, and Sunday school took care of the rest (well, the parents had to get some time together).

    I was brought up as a Christian. Took me years to realise I was not. My wife was a no-sex-before-death Catholic when I met her, it messed her up a lot, but she’s over it now too.

    If these religions are so wonderful, why not let people find it for themselves? Why do children in Britain have it forced down their throats? We all know – of course. All religions have to be foistered on children, or it would die out and become mere odd cults here and there, which they are and should do.

    You poo-poo the suggestion that propagators of faith might be mind controllers, but they most certainly are behaviour controllers to the N’th degree.

    “Faith” leaders like to control everyone, from babies to the dying. Particularly women – by God, yes. Religion was probably invented in all its various forms to explain miracles (the Sun rising, etc.), and to control women.

    You might like to think of it as wondrous love, but the threat of eternal hell (with all its horrors laid out with enthusiastic detail) was – is – always the rather severe stick behind the carrot.

    When you link atheistic humanism with “extreme permissiveness” and “legally enforced tolerance”, are you seriously blaming a democratic move against bigotism for something? What? No more gay-bashing or witch burning?

    Conflating “witless” and “faithless” and “helpless” is a serious mistake. Only those _with_ faith are helpless (without their Lord and Saviour – and they admit this), and only those _with_ faith can believe utterly contradictory nonsense without it troubling their intelligence in the slightest. Belief in such magical sky-gods would be termed witless by any sensible free thinker.


    Since the battle is already won in heaven, as you conclude, then congratulations. Does your heart sing with joy, every time you learn a loved one has died, knowing they are already there with the victors? I’m guessing that you don’t. And that’s a shame – because the hereafter is all that religion really has to sell. It doesn’t comfort the bereaved Christians – they suffer just as much as bereaved atheists, I know having experienced both perspectives.

  • dreoilin

    Like Tea Junkie, I completely disagree with Craig on alcoholism, and anticant, who says “Addictions are a myth”. They most certainly are not.

    There is a genetic predisposition to addiction. Approximately one in ten drinkers in these islands will become alcoholics – the rest won’t, no matter how much they drink. When one steps over that invisible line, having been a social drinker previously – heavy or not – one cannot cope or function without the stuff, or without severe and often dangerous withdrawal. And one can never step backwards over that line again. Which is why picking up a drink after recovery is like pulling the pin on a grenade.

    Alcoholics don’t drink alcohol to get a kick out of it, they drink to feel *normal*. To function. They drink at 6am in order to be able to get dressed and face the day. If alcohol (or whatever substance the addict is addicted to) is withdrawn too abruptly, addicts can have withdrawal convulsions, which can cause brain damage. Without rehab or AA, an alcoholic will end up in one of three places – prison, hospital, or a morgue.

    AA does not *require* a belief in God. AA is primarily a support group, where those who have put several years sobriety behind them can give tips, support, and phone numbers to those who are struggling.

    I owe my life to AA. If it wasn’t for their support and kindness and 24-hour (individual) availability I would have killed myself during the first three months after I quit drinking. I’m 22 years without a drink this year, and know that if I ever pick up a drink again I will be signing my own death warrant.

    I’m an atheist. I said no prayers. I did not ask God for help, inside or outside AA meetings. I did none of the 12 steps. I stopped attending meetings 18 years ago. AA is a wonderful support group for early recoverers, and/or for those who wish to keep attending. But for an alcoholic/addict to quit without either rehab or AA/NA is to expect a near-miracle.

    Alcoholics can not drink when they want and stop when they want. It’s losing that ability that makes one an alcoholic in the first place.

  • anticant

    While I agree that not everyone is able to be a ‘social drinker’, and that for them abstention is necessary, you admit that withdrawal from alcoholic or non-medical drug dependency is possible, however long and painful. Of course people need help, and I am sure AA is a valuable support to many – not least the relatives of alcoholics (of whom I’ve known and helped a few).

    My point is that when people say “I can’t” they all too often mean “I won’t”. We have to own our choices. Choosing to drink is a choice. Choosing to seek help for compulsive drinking, whether through AA or another source, is a positive choice.

  • lwtc247

    If total abstenance works, as it is for Tim, (for non-alcoholics also it should be pointed out!) then don’t knock it.

    Common sense undermined by hasty personal judgement methinks.

  • nextus

    Alcoholism isn’t just a moral lapse, nor is it a disease in any credible sense. It’s a compulsion, and compulsions aren’t mediated by will or free choice. In alcoholism there is a direct, automatic, instinctive link from the cognitive triggers to the behaviour, which bypasses reason and will. Trying to interrupt the flow is like trying to stop a river, and alcoholics who believe they can do it by choice alone keep getting swept away. They need to develop new skills of resistance and intervention that the rest of us don’t have to. The AA know this, and they protect people from the simplistic ‘free choice’ moralising espoused by the venerable 8-year-old philosophers of South Park, which is as much a ‘con’ as the disease doctrine. Alcoholics have that latent compulsion, and abstinence is the safest way to avoid reawakening it.

  • lwtc247

    C’mon Craig. It’s potty to denigrate something because it has an association with religion.

    The AA doesn’t force religion on or brainwash anyone. The fundamental aspect by which one tries to rid themselves of a destructive drinking habit, is overwhelmingly and act of strength of will from the inner self. The AA helps in making that decision and gives additional (but weaker) support from the group.

    Bully for the AA.

  • nextus

    “I felt the ecstasy, the saving grace, the absolute approval, the total acceptance, the wordless understanding. I don’t know what it was that came to me. ”

    Wow! I love this poetic account of the intense, religious epiphany. It’s a wonderful description of the inside view of a mild temporal lobe seizure, (which is known to be prompted by alcohol withdrawal amongst other things.)

    God on the Brain:

    Epileptics are notoriously familiar with the phenomenon. It can be selectively induced with a ‘transcranial magnetic stimulator’ (every church should have one!).

    How does it work? The left temporal lobe is a dense neural index of abstract concepts, with synapses mapping the associations between them; the right deals with integrated experience and meaning. These connections are very sensitive, allowing us to explore nuances of thought and expression. When the neural activity exceeds a threshold, waves of electrochemical activity induce resonation. Suddenly everything astonishingly seems to relate to everything else. The mind is infused with profound meaning, and ordinary experiences just cannot compare. It seems more fundamentally ‘real’, just like a religious experience.

    “When you are in this place the feeling of complete connectedness, that in some sense I AM you, the total absence of fear, the fabulous sense of empowerment change a person in a profound way.”

    If you’re lucky enough to experience this magically spiritual transformation first-hand, and don’t know why it happens, it’s understandable that transformation by magical spirits might be your only explanation. (Even if there are such spirits, they don’t really need to get involved.) Great description, though!

  • @ Nasira

    @ Nasira

    You responded to the incredible thought provoking comments of KevinB by saying “Oh dear”

    Who says there are no longer intellectual collossi?.

  • anticant

    “In alcoholism there is a direct, automatic, instinctive link from the cognitive triggers to the behaviour, which bypasses reason and will. Trying to interrupt the flow is like trying to stop a river, and alcoholics who believe they can do it by choice alone keep getting swept away.”

    This is a description of psychopathology. Compulsive murderers can claim the same ‘irresistible impulse’.

  • lwtc247

    @ dreoilin

    “There is a genetic predisposition to addiction.” _ I reject that statement unless those 10% have a recogniseable DNA sequence that the other 90% dont have… +Data please!+

    With no data whatsoever, let me say alcoholism is a sociological phenonemon featuring strongly issues of self perception and self worth.

  • nextus

    “This is a description of psychopathology. Compulsive murderers can claim the same ‘irresistible impulse’.”

    Yes, I’d recommend total abstinence for them as well. Even if it takes a lot of effort to resist.

  • dreoilin

    “because the hereafter is all that religion really has to sell”

    Spot on, glenn.

    But there’s also the simplifaction of life which many people find handy. It’s not exactly hard work to accept what some wacky religion dictates, and do no thinking for oneself.

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