THANKS FOR RUNNING MY “long-winded” letter about alcoholism (The Mail, 9/17). While I realize that tit-for-tat arguments can get dull, I have to respond to Bill Gifford’s reply. First, there’s Gifford’s contention that the biogenic model of alcoholism, based on the theory that alcoholism is a progressive disease, “refuses to hold drinkers responsible for themselves.”Bill, stop and think. If alcoholism is a progressive disease with symptoms—high tolerance, craving, and withdrawal—then once these symptoms are identified, the victim runs out of denial and excuses to drink pretty damned fast. Drinkers are responsible for themselves. Alcoholics unaware of their condition are not. This changes once a diagnosis is made. Imagine someone going before a judge for a drunk driving accident and having on his medical record that he had a high genetic susceptibility to alcoholism and was told he was developing symptoms when he was 18. It’d be tough for him to blame society, as Gifford seems keen on doing.
If my opinion “typifies what’s wrong with the “recovery’ movement,” it’s not because it’s drenched in AA-speak. AA emphasizes “character defects” as a primary cause of alcoholism, which is at odds with the biogenic model. Gifford would do well to consult some material on the unique biochemistry of what makes an alcoholic react differently when he or she drinks. He might try Under the Influence, Alcoholism: The Biochemical Connection, or Don’t Help: A Positive Guide to Working With the Alcoholic, which was co-written by Scott McMillin, the director of rehab at Suburban Hospital. But I forgot—rich white folks from the ‘burbs don’t get alcoholism. It’s sociological.
Of course, Gifford—whose glib and condescending reply sadlytypifies the popular view of alcoholism—could be right. Maybe alcoholics are hooked on losing their houses, their bank accounts, and, if untreated, their lives. Maybe they’re just stubborn.