The disease of alcoholism and addiction is fatal and characterized by dependence, obsession, compulsion, and loss of control. It is always headed toward insanity and death. It is a chronic, organic disease of the brain with psychosocial consequences—it affects our thinking, our behaviors, and our relationships. It has a relapsing and remitting pattern and is treatable, one day at a time, but not curable, at least not as yet. It is genetically based, featuring symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal.
Forgetting the fact that addiction is a fatal disease is often the first sign of relapse. In forgetting this important fact, we subtly adjust our approach to recovery in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion. Forgetting that it is a fatal disease means that, in our minds, there is far less at stake in preserving in a program of recovery.
Addiction is always with us. We are always recovering and never quite recovered. That is because as we get more time in sobriety, we become more aware of the enormous consequences of addiction. Its ability to resurface in our life becomes more, rather than less, evident. We can keep the disease in remission, but its capacity to resurface should never be underestimated.
When we think drinking or using is a logical choice because it is better than suicide or insanity, which seems to be the only other options, we’re hard pressed to come up with a reason not to relapse. Relapse is the process of being dysfunctional in sobriety, and forgetting the fact that addiction is a fatal disease. Remembering that, being mindful of “recovering” not “being recovered,” is key.