Chronic excessive drinking is dangerously unhealthy, and can even cause death if stopped suddenly. However, if it’s a disease, then it’s pretty easy to cure. With medical supervision and a couple Valium, most alcoholics report a “surprisingly comfortable” detox experience.
However if the problem is not the excessive drinking itself, but the inability to stop drinking despite repeated attempts (according to the current DSM criteria), then maybe it really is a disease. The temptation of alcohol takes away our free will, forcing us to drink and then the ensuing mayhem / cheating / mischief / crimes were not intentional (for examples, attend your local AA meeting or check out one of the many best selling addiction biographies). Have we lost our free will once addicted, no longer able to resist the temptation?
The thorny conundrum of whether we are responsible for our behavior in the face of intense temptation is as old as recorded history. Adam said: “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Eve responded: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” But God would have none of it: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles.” It doesn’t really matter whether their disobedience (for which Adam tried to blame God Himself!) arose from curiosity, rebelliousness or powerful compulsion — the punishment was just the same. And we suffer for it until today, though now it’s more like “brave the strip mall parking lot for juice boxes and french fries.”
Maybe we can enjoy some wine if we’re lucky — just please don’t try that devil-made-me-do-it excuse again. It may not be the Garden of Eden, but I’m starting to get used to this place.