Alcoholism: The Drinking Man’s Disease -- By: W. Lyman Ferrell

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 09:2 (Spring 1992)
Article: Alcoholism: The Drinking Man’s Disease
Author: W. Lyman Ferrell

Alcoholism: The Drinking Man’s Disease

W. Lyman Ferrell, Ph. D.

In the back of the hymnal the church covenant was glued, stating “I will refrain from the sale or use of alcoholic beverages.” The Free Will Baptist Church of my childhood tried to discourage drinking, but they didn’t succeed any better than the “other” Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians or the Pentecostals. Men and women went to church, read the covenant, believed it, left church and occasionally drank alcoholic beverages. Some became addicted. Some of the women drank at home and became “closet” alcoholics. Some of those who lived by the covenant severely criticized those who became addicted; few of those who lived by the covenant understood addicted behavior.

Imagine yourself a fish, a member of a large school, swimming near the surface of the water, hunting for food, and generally frolicking in synchronization with your family of same-species fish. Imagine further that one of your relatives spots a lure streaking through the water, reflecting in the sun as well as the promise of a tasty snack. Cousin Snail Darter races towards the lure, pauses to sniff and lunges to swallow the bait. Immediately, the hooked fish begins a different dance: thrashing, pulling, jumping and diving while no other member of the school comprehends any problem. Soon the hooked fish is pulled out of the water—-gone forever—none of his relatives the wiser, as far as we know. No one in the school can imitate his movement; no one knows where he went; no one understands why he is gone. There is no way a free fish can understand a hooked fish

Understanding that any analogy pushed far enough will break down, imagine further that the hooked fish’s brothers and sisters did remember him on the evening of his departure and discussed his last-hour predicament. They could have described the behavior of the lost fish just as Siegler et al. (1968, pp. 573-581) described eight models of alcoholism:

1. The Impaired Model. The caught 0ost) fish is just that way; he has a defect of character, constitution or mind. His impairment led to his destruction. This model does not present an explanation of cause; there is no treatment and there will be no change. For unknown reasons the lost fish was “just that way.”

Chuck’s family talked about him after he had been readmitted for treatment. With a touch of sadness and a hint of condescension his wife described him as having a fatal flaw. “He just can’t leave the bottle alone,” she concluded with a sigh. She had no idea of just how much she had helped him to decide to “fall off the wagon” just days after his return home from treatment.

2. “Dry” Moral Model. The alcoholic has a moral weakness; h...

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