(2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

The book Alcoholics Anonymous, aka The Big Book, is the basic text for the AA program of sobriety. "Alcoholics Anonymous" Copyright 2012 AAWS, Inc. All Rights, Reserved. Short excerpts used by permission of AAWS

(2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby chefchip » Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:26 am

Big Book Authors wrote:The physician who, at our request, gave us this letter, has been kind enough to enlarge upon his views in another statement which follows. In this statement he confirms what we who have suffered alcoholic torture must believe—that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind. It did not satisfy us to be told that we could not control our drinking just because we were maladjusted to life,that we were in full flight from reality, or were outright mental defectives. These things were true to some extent, in fact, to a considerable extent with some of us. But we are sure that our bodies were sickened as well. In our belief, any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete.

The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.

Dr. Silkworth wrote:We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.


With these pronouncements, the Big Book authors and Dr. Silkworth introduce a revolutionary (at the time) idea -- that alcoholics are physically different from normal drinkers.  They talk about a phenomenon of craving, and describe it so well that every alcoholic immediately recognizes him or herself in the words.  I know that I saw myself, and shuddered.  We will devote the next thread to this phenomenon of craving.  But, first, what about this "allergy" to alcohol?

This alcoholic knows one thing for certain.  As long as I don't take that first drink, all is well.  But, allow my body to feel the effects of alcohol coursing through my veins and.... well.... as the well-worn saying goes "one is too many, a thousand never enough."  I've met lots of normies who do not understand what that means, but I've never met an alcoholic who doesn't understand it viscerally, in their very bones.

Did you identify with or struggle with the allergy description?  How did/does it make you feel about yourself and your struggles?  Was it helpful to your recovery to think of your problem as physical, as much or more than mental or moral?  Is it still important to you, this concept of an allergy to alcohol?
The only constant in life is change.
Forums Long Timer
Posts: 774
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:28 am
Location: Northern Kentucky

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby Brock » Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:06 pm

I did struggle with the allergy description, a few people I know have allergies, and all describe symptoms quite the opposite to an alcohol allergy. We were having dinner when I was younger and my mom got ill from eating shellfish, she was diagnosed as having an allergy and never ate it again. In her case her tongue started swelling and she could hardly speak, had to rush to the doctors for a shot, someone I know would get seriously ill by eating anything with peanuts. The point is the allergy causes them to want the item less, or not at all, who ever heard of an allergy that makes you want more and more of the thing you are allergic to once you take the first taste. I prefer to simply know that I can’t handle alcohol, because I can’t stop when I should.

It was helpful to my recovery to think of the problem as physical, mental, and moral. Physical because I had an intense urge first thing every morning with nervous stomach and shaky hands, mental because as hard as I tried I could not stop thinking about drinking, and moral because what sort of lazy good for nothing starts drinking first thing in the morning. Having said all that, I do hear the allergy association used quite often to newcomers, and hear them repeat it when asked why they don’t drink, so it works for them, which makes me endorse the concept. Thanks for the topic.

"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
User avatar
Forums Coordinator
Posts: 3548
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2012 1:45 pm

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby gonzo » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:12 am

Brock wrote:I did struggle with the allergy description, a few people I know have allergies, and all describe symptoms quite the opposite to an alcohol allergy.
My understanding of the Dr.'s Opinion, based on my own readings and the discussions I have had with others, including my BB-historian sponsor, is that the use of the terms 'allergy' and 'craving' is not like that of today. The term 'allergy' simply refers to an abnormal bodily reaction to the presence of alcohol, whereby introduction of alcohol into the body triggers the phenomenon ("unexplained event") of 'craving' (where we want more and more alcohol continuously once it is in us). This craving is a state [i]induced by taking in alcohol[i], not the typical notion today of a craving as coming from the denial of something one has come to rely upon. Pairing this craving-producing allergy with the psychological/mental obsession gives disastrous results, until we learn to defeat the obsession through the steps of the AA program; while we can never (in my understanding) remove the 'allergy', we can be safe from the craving as long as we are cured of the obsession (hence, we can't get drunk without that first drink).
Chris M.
a.k.a. gonzo, alcoholic math nerd
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 130
Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:21 am
Location: Balto.-D.C. Corridor

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby PaigeB » Tue Mar 11, 2014 8:41 am

I am allergic to alcohol. When I drink it, I break out in a bad drunk. :lol:

I am also allergic to aspirin. However it does not try to trick me into taking it. No amount of pain suggests to me that somehow I should try "just a couple" so that I can feel better. I know that the consequences are swift and sure - my throat and tongue will swell and my body will be covered in hives. In a very short time, I will be unable to breathe. There is a solution. It is not an easy one - the shot makes my heart race and I must also have an anti allergy med that never works fast enough on the itching. Maybe as an alternative to aspirin I will take a few extra Tylenol, cause you know - more is better. (not)

They seem opposite, but I do not think they are so different. Alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful where aspirin in not. Because the consequences are not so swift & sure... I drank suicidally, yet I managed to not die. Somewhere in there, for about 10 minutes I felt better and I drank more and mixed more in an attempt to get the 10 minutes again. Maybe as an alternative I could take opiates, cause you know...

But what was most profound to me is that I cannot deny the reaction my body has once I put in any alcohol whatever. Even other things that simulate alcohol can have the same effect of wanting more - all in the chase of wanting to feel better. Alcohol calls to me because using it is a well worn rut of a "solution" for me. Like the memory of a bad dream - clear and probably not real, but what if?

And the allergy model works for explaining to non-alcoholics why I don't drink. When I say allergic, they instantly think "No way!" the same way a friend would avoid giving me shellfish or peanuts if I were allergic to them. Alcohol is legal and "safe" for most every one, like the peanuts. But alcohol is used to "relax & have fun" so when I say no to that some people think I am an fuddy-duddy or even a hater. So when I tell them it is an allergy it is usually the end of the discussion.
If I'm not able to say how I'm working my program today, then I'm not working my program.
The e-AA Group's 7th Tradition link: www.e-aa.org/group_seventh.php
User avatar
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 7730
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2011 12:28 pm
Location: Iowa USA

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby ann2 » Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:30 pm

Hi I'm Ann and I'm an alcoholic. I accepted the allergy model with no quibble. As I started sponsoring I learned that others felt differently. I can accept the distinctions they make, but for me it's a no-brainer. Can I drink in safety? Expletive no. Can this seemingly harmless substance which others have no problem with ruin me? No question. Is it because I am bodily different from them? I sincerely believe so, i.e., my alcoholism is not purely a manifestation of my psychological make-up.

Not that we're on the topic, but I think "the disease model" of alcoholism (or malady model, or illness model) is another way to express this allergy concept. When I ran into the disease model for alcoholism, it was at my first AA meetings. It was revelation to me. It said that I am not bad, just sick, and then AA said, here is the treatment. I grabbed what I could and immediately started getting better in a way that mattered to me -- I could stop drinking.

Being allergic to alcohol isn't as difficult as being allergic to aspirin or penicillin one would think, since at least those two things have some valid use. But that's leaving out the mental component of our shared problem. I think using the term "allergy" Dr. silkworth is referring specifically to the physical part of alcoholism, which deserves quite a bit of examination.

"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada
User avatar
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 7941
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:01 am
Location: Somewhere in Sweden

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby Tommy-S » Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:26 pm

Thanks Chip,

An allergy is define as an unusual reaction, a hypersensitivity, an altered bodily reactivity

It has always made sense to me as I wrote sometime ago ( viewtopic.php?f=11&t=10233&hilit=+allergy )

I've known 'normal' drinkers who after having a couple beers, get mellow and want to chill... But not me. Put some booze in me and it sets me off. Dr. Bob called it a 'More Switch"
"Doctor Bob told me that what I had done was like turning a Switch and setting up a demand for More alcohol in my system"
3rd edition's BB, "He Had to be Shown" pg 195

A couple years back I was visiting my MD, and she was dealing with a runny nose... I asked IF she had a cold and was told it was allergies. Gratefully, I informed her that I had been lucky, as I never had nay allergies (except for booze)... And then she told me that this was something she recently had 'caught'. I never realized 'other' allergies can develop over time and exposure

This caused me to remember Dr. Silkworth, in his writings to the NY State Med Journals, talked about our increasing sensitivity to Alcohol
The inevitable conclusion is that true alcoholism is an allergic state, the result of gradually increasing sensitization by alcohol over a more or less extended period of time.
...(PM me for a link)

That kind of tied into my MD's 'catching' a reaction, and most definitely into the progression of my drinking. The more I drank, the worst the reaction to Alcohol.

I don't hear it talked about much any more, but when I was starting this journey the old timers used to talk about the Jellinek Curve. You can still find it online, and it shows the physical and mental progression of the disease, a kinda of a time line of the allergic reaction. I found it helpful.

Thanks... Tommy
Together, we don't have to cave in or wimp out to that Fatal First One, no matter what today!
User avatar
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 1696
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:11 pm
Location: Norfolk, VA

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby Regan » Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:44 pm

Hi, I'm Regan; Allergy: A hypersensitivity of the body cells to a specific substance that results in various types of reactions.
Source: Stedman's Medical Dictionary
I don't know what your experience with alcohol was, but I couldn't stop drinking once I started..had to drink until I passed out. I classify that as a 'type of reaction'.
Forums Newcomer
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:21 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby ann2 » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:03 pm

Hi Regan,

Welcome! I love your definition. That's what I see in myself too.

So glad you found us! Hope to read more from you :)

"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada
User avatar
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 7941
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:01 am
Location: Somewhere in Sweden

Re: (2014-03-10) Gesundheit!

Postby Noels » Fri Feb 17, 2017 8:11 am

but when I was starting this journey the old timers used to talk about the Jellinek Curve. You can still find it online,

:shock: :shock: :shock: I checked out this Jellinke Curve and was much closer to the bottom than what I thought :shock: :shock: :shock:

THANK GOODNESS there is a solution and I have found it! :D Pfew..... double pfew :D :D

xxx :shock: 8) =wink :P

Return to Big Book Study

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 2 guests