A Momentary Lapse of Reason: Guilt and Alcoholism Misunderstood

By Joe Danna | alcoholism

Jul 06

What is your opinion on alcoholism? Do you think all alcoholics feel a pressing need to drink all the time, some of the time or none of the time? I believe all three to be correct. So many people have the wrong information about the different reactions people may have to alcohol. Not everyone processes it in the same way. Most people have no problem with metabolizing alcohol. But unfortunately, alcoholics have what I would call a physical malfunction. I know this from personal experience. In my younger days, drinking escalated from weekend warrior syndrome to a more frequent habit. At least that’s what I called it. I wasn’t in denial as so many concluded. The real missing link concerning what happened inside my body when I drank alcohol was that I was uneducated. I didn’t think of myself as alcoholic. I thought I was a problem drinker; even though small tremors in my life evolved to major earthquakes. Those earthquakes led to my decision to leave alcohol alone. I did so without any struggle. There was no white knuckling it or rehab. It wasn’t until years later during a momentary lapse of reason when I forgot how acutely sensitive I was to alcohol that I knew I was more than a so-called problem drinker. At a festive event where old friends converged, I decided to loosen up by having a few drinks. Heck, I hadn’t had any problems with alcohol in so long that any life altering catastrophes associated with it in my past were like a child’s long forgotten nightmares. To my surprise, I found I couldn’t be more mistaken. My physiology had not changed. When the alcohol entered my system my body wanted more. Needless to say I became intoxicated. I think I had so much sugar in me that I nearly blew out my pancreas. The shame I felt for weeks after was almost unbearable. I had thought of myself as totally clean and new before that night. Then that newness went away and I felt like I lost self-trust. Who was I? A drunk? During the following week I recalled a string of alcohol related events that turned my life upside down in years past. Those forgotten events now seemed as though they happened just yesterday. They surrounded and suffocated me. I was so angry and disillusioned with myself that I could not contain my grief. It took a while, but I had to realize it was set before me that I needed to forgive myself. After all I had learned spiritually, was this a test to see if I could walk my talk about forgiveness? Was the same type of self-separated ego I write about in my book asserting itself mercilessly by immobilizing me in guilt? Only if I allowed myself to stay suspended in its grip. I believe there are two kinds of guilt. There is the false guilt wielded by its twin—self-condemnation, and there is real guilt, which comes from harming yourself or others. I knew better than to condemn what God created, namely me, so I chose to use the guilt I felt. It led me to look closely at what I needed—information. My friend gave me a book titled “Under The Influence” by Dr. James R. Milam and Katherine Ketcham. The book is filled with statistical data on the reactions of alcohol on the physiology of the people who cannot tolerate it. Alcoholism is explained, and not as a psychological weakness. The word “alcoholic” is one of the most stigmatized words in the English language today because of ignorance. Maybe another word should be coined. But in any case it is the most used word to describe a physical disease that is often misunderstood—even by the people who suffer from it.

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