There are entire agencies doing alcoholism research, trying to understand us alcoholics. Addiction today is a complicated matter. So what are they learning from all the studies and statistics?
With so much alcoholism research, I'm quite certain they are learning something. Many things, actually. Still, it strikes me as odd that there are studies about alcoholics like me. I fall into many categories of the research, I'm sure. But did all this research have any direct effect on my ultimate successful recovery? Does it help other alcoholics somehow?
It appears that the basic purpose of all these alcoholism research agencies is to find out what causes the disease of alcoholism, with PREVENTION being the main objective. After all, how can we prevent something bad from happening if we do not know what causes it? Just like the research done on any other disease, we cannot prevent, arrest or treat the disease of alcoholism without knowing its cause.
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. . .
~Zora Neale Hurston
Addiction research has produced plenty of statistical data about alcoholism over the years. The gathering of alcoholism research statistics does not serve to prevent alcoholism per se. But here is what the research and statistics do: They bring to light the information necessary to understand and deal with the problems of alcoholism, and they follow areas of progress and decline.
In doing so, they help to formulate laws and regulations. The findings are given over to public awareness campaigns. They help to create educational programs for young people. The research helps in the development of programs for alcoholism treatment and rehabilitation. The list goes on.
Surely all this alcoholism research is helping to alleviate at least some of the problems, and I am all for the continued alcoholism research done by agencies like the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
This agency was created after the passage of the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970. It was called the "Hughes Act" because of the key role that Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa had in its passage. The law recognized alcoholism as a major public health problem.
It is curious to me that in 1970, as a teenager, I was just beginning my career as an alcoholic. Not only that, I was surrounded by the disease of alcoholism in my family and in my community. What is curious is that no one EVER talked about it.
There it was again . . . the
that no one talked about!
In the era preceding the creation of the NIAAA and other similar alcoholism research organizations, there was much public ignorance, even negation of the disease of alcoholism. People seemed to speak in hushed tones about what went on at the neighbor's house. It was a taboo subject and because of this, people rarely sought help for their problems with alcohol.
They just lived (or died) with them. Those who did seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous undoubtedly made full use of AA's principle of Anonymity.
Although I am quite certain that thousands of dollars in federal tax money is wasted on useless alcoholism research studies, I also know that the creation of the NIAAA and other agencies has done tremendous good in the field of alcoholism research.
We are, as they say, OUT OF THE CLOSET.
In today's world, it is almost fashionable to be a member of the recovering community. However, let me say that I certainly didn't arrive at my breaking point in 1995 feeling like I wanted to be in vogue! Like most of my fellow recovering alcoholics, I was at the end of my rope, looking for hope and healing.
And I found it in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous. By the time my alcoholism first caught up with me in 1986, something (or Someone) told me it was okay to seek help. Although I was immensely ashamed of my situation and very much on board with AA's principle of Anonymity, I also felt a sense of peace and RELIEF from having made the decision to get help.
If you have read my story about my recovery from alcoholism, you know that I did not stay sober after my first trip into AA in 1986. It was not until nine years later that I finally had had enough. As we say in AA, I had to go out and do a little more research! The results of my alcoholism research were irrefutable and conclusive: I am indeed an alcoholic, powerless over alcohol!
Yes, I am glad to be an alcoholic! Crazy, huh? But in retrospect, I can see that my struggle with alcoholism was God's special gift to me! You see, it's about the contrasts of my life. My life today, my new-life-in-recovery, is so very rich when I compare it to my old life.
I am not the only recovering alcoholic who feels this way. You hear in AA all the time about being grateful to be an alcoholic. You even hear about feeling sorry for people who are not!!
This is why: If not alcoholic, so many people would miss out on the privilege of being part of an amazing fellowship. Read below to see how one man describes the people of AA. To me, it also describes a Christian:
I saw in these people a quality of peace and serenity that I knew I must have for myself. Not only were they at peace with themselves, but they were getting a kick out of life such as one seldom encounters, except in the very young. They seem to have all the ingredients for successful living. Philosophy, faith, a sense of humor (they could laugh at themselves), clear-cut objectives, appreciation - and most especially appreciation and sympathetic understanding for their fellow
man . . . Extraordinary people!
From the story, "The Keys of the Kingdom" in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
Dr. Harry Tiebout
Dr. Harry Tiebout, a psychiatrist, was very much a part of the beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Tiebout treated a number of early members of A.A., including co-founder Bill Wilson and Marty Mann. Marty Mann was one of the first women to recover and the founder of the National Council on Alcoholism.
Dr. Tiebout came to understand alcoholism in a much different way than any other psychiatrist had before. He helped formulate that all-important Step One by emphasizing that complete surrender was essential to recovery. He also wrote that four elements were essential to recovery in A.A.: "hitting bottom, surrender, ego-reduction, and maintenance of humility."
Dr. E.M. Jellinek
Dr. E.M. Jellinek is recognized as the premier researcher in the field of alcoholism. It was Dr. Jellinek who wrote The Disease Concept of Alcoholism in 1960, and the "Jellinek Curve" is widely used to describe the progression of the disease.
Incidentally, there is a very interesting book out there called Jellinek's Disease: The New Face of Alcoholism. It is written by Dr. Kathleen Fitzgerald.
Dr. Fitzgerald has an intriguing theory. She proposes that alcoholism should be referred to as Jellinek’s Disease, in keeping with the naming of diseases like Down’s Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Fitzgerald theorizes in this book that perhaps by the use of a more socially acceptable, compassionate term, alcoholism would be thought of as a bona fide illness, and not as a sin, social indiscretion, or weakness of will.