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Language Log

Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 - 5:59 a.m.

Yeah, alcoholism. (what is this apropos of? It's just come up lately, is all). "It's a disease" gets bandied about, as though that solves anything, as though it resolves how you should interact with the alcoholic. Here, look: my mil menioned that her great-grandfather (I think) was a terrible alcoholic, but her grandmother had encouraged her husband (the son of alcoholic) to take him in when it became necessary to do so. And that she told the alcoholic: you will not drink in this house. And he complied. See, now-- it was certainly a disease for him as much as for anyone else, but what makes it such that one terrible alcoholic can put aside up when truly necessary, and another in that situation would say "fuck her!" and steal her money to go get a drink the next day? Saying it's a disease doesn't explain these individual differences that, I think, come down to character and cultural influences on acceptable behavior. So in the end, it's back to personal attributes in how one deals with one's disease.

Knowing it's a disease can tell us, it's not simply a matter of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. Sure. But still, it's not as though character doesn't come into it at all.

Oh, it's complicated, isn't it? Complicated and tragic.

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