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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Alcoholism is a three-fold disease: Body, mind and spirit. Physical, mental and spiritual is how it is also often spoken about.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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English: Most significant possible long-term effects of ethanol. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Ethanol#Long-term. Model: M...
English: Most significant possible long-term e...
English: Most significant possible long-term effects of ethanol. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Ethanol#Long-term. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When an alcoholic ingests alcohol, there is a physically rooted craving for more which is triggered. That's the "body" part of the disease.  Today's medical technology can map brain activity and give a diagnosis around addiction which talks about "serotonin production" and "serotonin uptake" and some other cool stuff, but for you and me, the word "craving" can serve as a perfectly accurate label for the hard science.  And just to be clear, a "craving" is not just a fancy way of saying "I want" -- we're not talking about the desire to keep your buzz going once you start drinking.  We're talking about a literally physically driven reaction to the alcohol separate from the high and different from just the generally lowered inhibitions alcohol engenders.  The difference between a desire and a craving is like the difference between a wave and a tsunami.  There are some similarities, but one of them is always going to be irresistible.
And no matter how horrible the consequences of their drinking becomes, an alcoholic is not able to use the idea, or the memory, or the thought of those consequences to influence our decision making enough to prevent us from eventually picking up a drink all over again -- and then triggering that physically rooted craving.  On the most basic level that's the mental part of the disease.
The spiritual part of the disease refers to the staggering level of self-involvement (bordering on narcissism) that most alcoholics have.  Life is not all about us; life is all about us. Every relationship and event is viewed through a backwards and distorted lens -- like how in ancient times people thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, alcoholics believe everything revolves in some way around us.
Thus it is the one-two punch from the self-centeredness of the spiritual aspect and the (sometimes-but-not-always-willful) blind spot of the mental element which keeps most alcoholics on a cycle of drinking which, in both my observation and personal experience, never seems to lead to a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.

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