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Alcoholism and the APA

Shame, a word they also need to bring back.....

Alcoholism used to be viewed as shameful, degrading, and something to be kept secret. If not actually a sign of God's disfavor, it was certain sign of weak will and moral failure. Things change. Today, alcoholism - its definition destroyed and horizons widened by the Therapy Trust - is both disease and syndrome, beyond the cure of solo will, and a big business. The term includes our chronic drunks, social drinkers, aspirant suicides, and the actual alcoholic, all carefully herded into one, large, billable, insurable group.

In the old days, before the concept of perpetual therapy, alcoholism was a physical disease. An alcoholic was one whose body metabolized alcohol to provide much, perhaps all, of its needs, often to the exclusion of regular food. The victim may or may not ever appear drunk, but the litmus test was whether or not a prolonged case of the "d.t.'s" followed cessation of the drug. Not a bad hangover, but the real delirium tremens.

For those of you who have never seen a person in such rapture - and most of you have not, whatever you think - it is simply a horror, equal to or worse than the residuals of LSD. But today?

Today, furrowed brows hover around the beds of teenagers who come to class drunk, housewives bored with their lives, men under 'stress,' the lonely, the pathetic, mere losers who are chronic drunks. They willingly seek out the high, but their bodies are not dependent upon it. Yet, they are called alcoholics. Why is this?

Ready cash. There are insufficient numbers of actual alcoholics, so after the initial victory of receiving disease status (and therefore health benefits), the Therapy Trust had to denigrate actual victims by including them with actual bums, slugs looking for excuses, and, more important, willing to pay for the honor of being sick rather than being a failure. Which is to say, the insurance companies are willing to go along with the scam of billing all of us so that intellectual refuse and under-achievers can lie on a couch and bitch about the grape. But few have the inclination to call a halt to this ludicrous misappropriation of sympathy and time.

The Therapy Trust has no, or little, shame. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association listed "tobacco dependency" as a 'disorder' along with "transexualism." The former made it possible for people who wanted to quit smoking eligible to collect insurance (paying Guess Who?) and the latter implied that someone unhappy with their gender had a specific ailment. This even appalled one psychiatrist, who claimed he was suffering from "trans-chronologism" because he wanted to be younger.

Horrific enough, it still did not come close to that watershed year of 1973, when the APA declared the existence of "ego-dystonic homosexuality", a disorder of the mind only if the afflicted person thinks it is. But why not? For years, we have had ego-dystonic alcoholism: a self-diagnosed dependency, either physical or psychological.

To call someone a disgusting, nauseating drunk these days is equivalent to drop-kicking a wounded hummingbird or laughing at a cripple. One doesn't laugh at disease, which is to say, at Fate. Bat feathers. The vast majority of drunks would be better served by a kick in the stomach than a kind ear. In our efforts to be civilized to the actual victims of a disease, we have ceased making necessary value judgments. It is a form of social cowardice, and it rewards all parties. In the short run.

As this begins to dawn on people cleaning their carpets and bathrooms after a party with certain guests, The Therapy Trust tries to imbue the drunk with, besides his psychiatric problem, a genetic one. A recent "Nightline" informed a hushed host that a recent study had found that a recent study had found that the sons of alcoholics were somewhat less drunk after four or five drinks then normal people. Somewhat less drunk. Ha! Cynic! And you thought there was no proof. No doubt, this crushing brief will be used to obtain additional coverage for children of alcoholics, for which we will all pay somewhat greater premiums for this somewhat stupid assertion.

Alcoholism is now a big business, and for proof one need only focus on television. Here, an endless series of Happy Farms vector in on the drunk and drug abuser. "If you think you have a problem, you probably do," they inform, and suggest it to be a civic duty for you to enroll. And each claims to be more caring, sensitive, and professional than the next.

Every newspaper worth its price increase has run touching, confessional accounts by their writers, tearfully telling of some familial drama with a drunk, perhaps a spouse, and how, with the help of God and advance money for the article, they'll see it through together. Ah yes, they will. Painfully apparent is the fact that usually the entire drama was relished, as it provided both substance and excitement in a life of incredible tedium.

There will be a backlash to all this, sooner rather later. And, as so usual, the actual alcoholic will again suffer a social stigma he does not deserve. It might be helpful bring back the words "drunk" and "screamer" and use them correctly. Even if dim glows appear over the heads of people addressing letters to me utilizing just those words, it will be worth it.