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December 22, 2010


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Sorry for your loss.

You mention about this current guy being a "real" alcoholic. What's the difference between a "real" alcoholic and an alcoholic? I hear this often and it sorta confuses me.

Mr. SponsorPants

From pg. 21 of the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous": "But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker, he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption once he starts to drink." The Big Book is talking about the physically rooted element of the disease of alcoholism: The phenomenon of craving. That regardless of what other patterns he (or she) may exhibit in their drinking, once alcohol is ingested a physically rooted craving takes hold. It refers to the biological component of addiction in the language of the 1930's. Today, brain mapping and medical science now has more precise language to describe what happens in the body of an alcoholic when we start to drink, but it amounts to the same thing. It is one of the defining symptoms of the disease. Thus, calling someone a "real" alcoholic is neither opinion nor judgment (about them or anyone else) it is more a diagnosis, alluding to this inescapable, incurable physical/biological element of addiction. It is literally why we do not pick up the first drink; because it triggers this physical reaction over which we have no control.


I'm sorry to hear of your friend's death. You yourself seem to have had a difficult year what with one thing and another.

I would like to ask the question about 'what is a real alcoholic' too.

Worrying about if I was or was not a 'real alcoholic' kept me away from AA for a while. I thought I would be mocked or excluded.

I wasn't, but I still worry.


Coo, that was quick. We cross posted. Coo.


Thanks, that is very helpful. I assumed it was something to do with how far down your rock bottom was. And/or how much you drank.

Yes, I do qualify as a'real' alcoholic.

My alcoholism keeps trying to tell me that I'm not and I know if I believe it it is only a matter of time before I start drinking again.


I have a friend who talks about "real alcoholics". And yes, it refers to people who are physically addicted to alcohol, from what I understand. daisymay - don't let your disease talk you out of something good. People who don't have problems with alcohol or drugs do not wonder (casually or otherwise) if they do. I have friends who never have to ask themselves if they have a problem. And people don't end up in the rooms by mistake.


I am sorry to hear about your sponsee. I am glad that he and many others had an opportunity to experience the miracle of sobriety for at least a few 24 hours. Wishing you the best.

G. RabAnon

I'm so sorry to hear about your sponsee... I recently lost someone to suicide and it's a helluva thing to process, especially when you are someone who has been, or knows many who have been at that deep dark turning point where you make one choice or the other... you made your choice and you're still here, they made their choice and they're gone. Got me wondering about what it was exactly that prompted that choice in the end... why did I choose at that critical moment to make a leap of faith and hang on until God's face as revealed to me, and she didn't or couldn't? Cause frankly I have no idea. It's not intelligence, and I don't think it' strength either. It's a disturbing question that I haven't figured out how to think about.

Jessie R.

Thank you for sharing this. Disease in all it's forms is SO baffling. Im sorry that you've experienced the loss of a sponsee, I'm grateful that you found the perspective that is greater than death, and trudge on we do!

Restored to Sanity

One of the most baffling things about suicide is that it often doesn't happen at our lowest. At that point, a person usually doesn't have the energy for that drastic an action.

Ironically, it is often when there is just enough improvement that this can take hold.

Hoping the holidays bring you some peace...


I'm sorry about your former sponsee. Suicide is always a terrible waste.

I've always had a bit of a problem with that BB passage about "real" alcoholics. "As opposed to what?" I respond. "Posers? Wannabe alcoholics?" I think it comes from the BB's original orientation (which has not disappeared with subsequent edits) toward low-bottom drunks: the people whom the medical community had written off as hopeless cases. I say this as someone who was arguably a "high-bottom" drunk (in the sense that I was still holding a job and a relationship, and fairly functional, with the notable exception of two hospitalizations for suicidal depression!). The danger, as an earlier commenter mentioned, is that some people might not embrace AA because they aren't sure if they're really "real" alcoholics"; that's what happened to me, the first time I checked it out. (Mind you, I also didn't really want to give up drinking...) To me, the "real" alcoholic concept is trumped by the third tradition: the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. We don't have to wait until the progressive disease almost destroys us before we can get help. Thank God, I did not.

Mr. SponsorPants

Great points Matt on both the BB's context and original orientation... I've always thought that it was also a discussion of the idea that some people can abuse alcohol -- quite heavily, in fact -- but can at some point stop, if they choose, or if a sufficiently powerful reason becomes operant. It may not be effortless for them, but it is possible for them to stop/moderate on their own, whereas the 'real' alcoholic, driven by the physical 'allergy' (the phenom of craving) is unable to do so, regardless of how powerfully they want to, or whatever consequences they may face. I took the point to be that it's not about how much or how often one drinks, but about an inability to control it once one begins, which diagnoses the disease.


Sorry to hear about your loss and the loss of this man's life. I just don't know why in the midst of despair, one can hang in another day and another doesn't. I don't even know why I'm here today, having had months like that, feeling no way out. Drinking was like purgatory..can't quite kill myself, and don't want to live either...the in-between place...Now I can't live in between. I have to choose to live everyday What a crap disease, too many people lost. My best friend in HS stopped drinking but couldn't stop the despair and took his life.


Where is the picture from?

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