The book Alcoholics Anonymous is a body of experience that describes the nature of alcoholism in two distinct ways. Firstly by exploring its various component parts as experience of the only members of AA, and secondly by including a number of personal stories that describe people’s struggle with active alcoholism and how they have recovered.
The book does not provide a checklist of how to tell if you are an alcoholic or not. The experiences contained within the book are meant to give people an indication of how alcoholism presents itself in people, giving people an opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not they may be an alcoholic.
There is an important distinction that is made both in the book Alcoholics Anonymous and elsewhere between someone who is an alcoholic and someone who is a heavy drinker. Alcohol can be a problem for some people simply because they drink too much and has an impact on various areas of their lives. They may be an alcoholic or not.
Alcoholism is widely accepted and understood as a progressive illness that affects many people, although its origins and nature of the illness are still widely debated and researched. Many people refer to alcoholism as a disease which can in fact be a somewhat misleading and much more difficult concept to understand.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous makes the distinction between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker. In a general sense a heavy drinker may be someone who starts out moderately and drinks more and more over time due to the nature of the process. In time drinking may become a problem and affect their lives in terms of their work or their family situation.
The person may realise they have a problem with alcohol and be able to cut down and stop, albeit with some difficulty, possibly with some control and possibly some unforeseen consequences.
The nature of alcoholism does vary widely, but one generally accepted trait in most alcoholics is the sense of urgency to drink and the need to drink that comes from within rather than being a manifestation of an addiction to alcohol.
The reality of the difference between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker may not be that obvious or of such concern to people around the individual, or people who are affected by the individuals use or misuse of alcohol.
From the individual’s point of view, it is important to understand the nature of alcoholism because it is the reality that matters, in terms of treatment and in terms of rebuilding a life without alcohol.