Addiction is real, but you’re probably not

…not addicted, that is. There’s so much wrong with how we’ve thought about alcohol, alcohol use, and addiction in the past. Much of this thinking is simply wrong, and it’s time for a major update. Some of you won’t like this, but here’s the truth:

Alcoholism is not a disease

So let me get this straight. There is this disease, and that only if you don’t have it can you consume alcohol without long-term ill effects and the risk of addiction…and if you do have the disease, then this substance, is, er, bad for you. But again, if you don’t have the “disease”, then you can drink gasoline, no problem. Hmm.

The idea of this disease is something that the medical establishment cooked up so that over-use of alcohol could be categorized and treated along with other things that the medical establishment does. It’s not true in any objective way, since the meaning of “disease” is up to us, and changes all the time. Some folks say that alcohol is a disease because it’s classified that way in the DSM-IV or -V. But what does that mean? If it helps someone get help, great. If it makes you think that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to drink alcohol, that’s insane.

Alcohol is addictive, and addiction is just a bad habit with a chemical boost

The human brain is a learning machine, and addiction is the state of mind of having learned to like something so much that we want to use it even if we know that it’s bad for us. The thing about addictive behaviors—alcohol, cocaine, porn, shopping, gambling, and social media, just to name a few—is that they all work the same way: pushing our “like” button so often that at first we love it, we get hooked on it, but we burn out, we can’t handle it, because our bodies and minds weren’t built to “like” that much! These artificially stimulating substances and behaviors pull our natural human systems out of balance, and eventually we pay the price. The good news is that just as we learned to like alcohol (or whatever else) so much, we can un-learn our like of that destructive additive just as well, and in doing so, we’ll discover our like for less dramatic, more natural ways of being.

It’s very unlikely that you are addicted to anything—and it doesn’t really matter

If you have the thought or the feeling that you want, or even that you might like to change your relationship with alcohol, then you should pursue feeling, test it, see how it feels to make a change, reflect on that information, and make your own decision. It doesn’t matter whether you fit into some category or not. What matters is your own awareness of a desire to live differently, to live better. If you have that awareness, you must act upon it.

You have full control over your behavior and your habits

The idea that people have no control over their use of alcohol is, well, ridiculous. Why would we believe that we have control over just about every other aspect of our behavior, and of our health, with the exception of alcohol? There’s nothing special about alcohol, or the habits that we form around using it. Most habits can be changed in 30-90 days, and even addictive habits are changed all the time. What matters is your desire to live differently, and your willingness to challenge the thoughts and beliefs that drive your behavior.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an “alcoholic” or not. You don’t have a disease. You can learn to live differently, and because humans, like all animals, have evolved to live very, very well without additives like alcohol, it’s certain that you will be living better if you do choose to live free of alcohol.