Alcoholism is a Mental Illness

Alcoholism is a Mental Illness

Thinking caused the Drinking

Ever wonder why your alcoholic? Well it’s our stinking thinking that leads to our drinking. And until we understand our thinking, we will continue to drink. To understand our thinking, we must focus on the behavior and walk it back. All external events go through a mental filter of beliefs, values, and memories, before reaching our inner perception of ourselves, (our story), and based on our emotional state at the time of the event, a response will be arrived at. The more we respond to opinions and feelings, the more dis-empowering the beliefs we hold. Beliefs we might not even realize we have. All beliefs are limited by nature, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Addiction is only a Symptom

Addiction is very complex and goes far beyond a Self Will run riot. For many it’s feelings of inferiority and low self esteem, that are behind the addiction. It’s by focusing on the feelings that cause the irritability and discontent, that recovery can be found. It’s my contention that beneath every addiction lies a mental illness, It’s called Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

 Thinking is the Problem

You can not even begin to deal with a disease until you can identify it, by it’s proper name. Treatment begins with a diagnosis, AA’s problem is it only focuses on a symptom of the disease. We must look beyond the limited views of AA, to see the true cause, of our suffering.. We are responsible for the beliefs we hold. We must focus on the beliefs that make us feel so unworthy, depressed and angry, searching for relief. As long as we continue to look outside ourselves, we cannot heal.

Quality of Sobriety

When first I started attending AA, I was told I had a disease called  Alcoholism, both chronic and  progressive, mental illness was never mentioned. While focusing on sobriety provided relief initially, it also prevented me from confronting my real problem, my thinking. After sitting through thousands of meetings, listening to people struggle with their ongoing issues and personal problems, it started to become evident to me that the problems I had, were much deeper then just the drinking, and that they wouldn’t go away simply because I stopped drinking.

Focused on Character Defects

The focus on abstention, character defects, and shortcomings kept me from recognizing and working on my dis-empowering beliefs. Beliefs adopted  unknowingly as a child, which I continued to hold, and re-enforce, even though I had stopped drinking. For years in recovery, I was convinced that my perceptions where reality.

Actions Don’t Change Beliefs

I bought into the fallacy, that good actions led to good thinking, and that’s simply not true. It was my beliefs and the power I gave them that was causing my problems. I could act good for years but if I still believed, deep inside, that I was inherently bad, then I was just whistling in the dark. These beliefs would keep bringing into my life, situations where I would feel I was bad. For years  I had no concept of cause and effect.

The Bondage of Self

We drink to help us forget, even for a little while, this feeling, of
irritability and discontent. We are Narcissistic, always thinking about
me, me, me. We believe that the world revolves around us, this creates
an endless need to be accepted and cared for by others. In more severe
cases it can cause us to feel that we are not lovable or valuable and
that we don’t really belong. We don’t feel safe being our authentic
self, so we create a false self, and the fear of this false self being
found out, leads to more and more elaborate lies and myth building about
who we really are, and more drinking.

Cause and Effect

We judge because we are angry. We are angry because we are afraid. We
are afraid because sub-consciously we fear we aren’t enough. We
complain, because sub-consciously we believe that complaining helps
solve problems. We criticize because sub-consciously we believe it makes
us feel better about ourselves. We are impatient because
sub-consciously we believe that being impatient resolves issues quicker.
Our dis-empowering beliefs are the cause, an unmanageable life is the
effect. We are irritable and discontent because of this feeling of
unmanageability and we seek relief, most commonly in drugs and alcohol.

Addiction is an Allergy

We drank for relief, it slowly becomes a habit. Slowly we prefer being intoxicated as opposed to sober. We eventually lose the ability to tell the difference between sobriety and intoxication. We develop an allergy of mind and body, once we start drinking we can’t stop. As we work harder to sustain the myth that we are OK, we become neurotic about being found out. This neurosis further helps establish the dis-empowering beliefs systems with regard to how we interact with the world. So in addition to being a critical, impatient, complainer, we now become arrogant, bossy, and aggressive. We know the innate truth but we lie, to ourselves and others. The drinking obscures the real problem.

Bondage of Self

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of a group of conditions known as dramatic personality disorders. All Narcissists have unstable and intense emotions and a distorted self-image of themselves. Trapped in the bondage of self, we have an excessive sense of importance and superiority, and a preoccupation with success and power, this can also indicate a lack of self-confidence. NPD often involves a deep sense of insecurity and a lack of self-esteem, coupled with a feeling of victimization. Some even exhibit unstable and intense emotions when their self-image is challenged.

NPD is the Root Cause of All Addictions

A study carried out by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that 7.7 percent of all men and 4.8 percent of all women develop Alcoholism during their lives. I think the number is much higher, and it directly correlates with the percentage of addictions in the general population. I believe that NPD is the root cause for all addictions. One of the central defects of a Narcissist is there inability to acknowledge it. With over thirty years experience in AA, I’ve never meet an alcoholic who wasn’t a Narcissist.


It is unclear what causes NPD. It may be associated with
circumstances during childhood, such as very high parental expectations,
over-pampering, neglect, or abuse. An individual may have learned
manipulative behaviors from their parents or household members Whenever there is a major deficit in parental love, the child will in all likelihood, respond to that deficit by assuming itself to be the cause of the deficit, they develop an unrealistic negative self image, this may undermine their ability to tune into other people’s feelings and needs. The NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital points to recent evidence that a genetic predisposition and other biological or biochemical factors may also be linked to NPD.

Untreated NPD

A person with untreated NPD has a greater chance of abusing drugs and alcohol, and of having depression, relationship problems, difficulties at work or school, and suicidal behaviors or thoughts. A study published in PLoS One found that males with NPD have higher levels of cortisol in their blood. Cortisol is a stress hormone. A person with NPD may have higher levels even when stress levels are low. High blood cortisol is linked to a greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

Living with somebody who has NPD

Living with someone who has NPD can be challenging. Family members have described their loved one as:

  • controlling
  • egotistical
  • frequently dissatisfied with the actions of others
  • prone to blaming others and making them feel guilty for all their problems
  • losing their temper at the slightest provocation
  • turning their back and giving people the “silent treatment”
  • being physically and sexually abusive


Below are the most common traits found in people with NPD:

  • An insatiable appetite for the attention of others
  • Extreme feelings of jealousy
  • An expectation of special treatment
  • Exaggerating achievements, talents, and importance
  • Extreme sensitivity and a tendency to be easily hurt and to feel rejected with little provocation
  • Difficulty maintaining healthful relationships
  • Fantasizing about their own intelligence, success, power, and appearance
  • An ability to take advantage of others to achieve a goal, without regret or conscience
  • A lack empathy, or ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and a tendency to disregard others’ feelings
  • A belief that only certain people can understand their uniqueness
  • A tendency to consider themselves as skilled in romance
  • Responding to criticism with denial, anger, humiliation, and shame
  • Seeking out praise and positive reinforcement from others
  • An expectation that others will agree with them and go along with what they want
  • Whatever they crave or yearn for must be “the best”

Other Traits

Many see narcissists as selfish, though they never see this themselves. They may describe the person as self-obsessed, arrogant, tough-minded, and lacking emotion. As we live with dis-empowering beliefs, we continue to dishonor and lie to ourselves. Our unexpressed fear grows. As this fear grows, it turns to anger, eventually it explodes, usually over minor things, we either lash out, hurting our loved ones,.or we implode, getting angry with ourselves, which causes depression. We lie in order to belong. We pretend, to be different from who we actually are, to fit in, belong, to feel safe, to survive, it’s all a lie. People talk about being honest, and we see them lie all the time.


We learn denial, the ability to distract ourselves and shut down what
we need and want. We deny what we observe or know to be true with
others. We create fantasies of how we wish things could be, at the same
time making excuses, to do nothing that would change the situation. The
more we deny the less we heal, the more we lie to ourselves, the further
we get from our true selves. Honesty becomes our biggest challenge.


No specific lab tests exist that can diagnose NPD, but X-rays and blood tests may help rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms. There are several types of personality disorders, some of them overlap, and it is possible to be diagnosed with more than one type. Most people coming into AA don’t realize they are suffering from the progressive disease of Alcoholism, in addition to having a mental illness. The most significant reason Medicine knows so little about the Narcissist is because they are extremely reluctant to be studied. Narcissists are master manipulators, and we deny even the most obvious symptoms, from ourselves and others.

An NPD diagnosis must follow the criteria written in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the APA (American Psychiatric Association). While the following must be present for a diagnosis of NPD to be made.

All Alcoholics display some if not all these symptoms.

  • The patient’s idea and importance of self is exaggerated.
  • Fantasies about beauty, success, and power dominate the individual’s thoughts.
  • The person thinks they are special, and relate only to other “special” people.
  • They need to be admired all the time.
  • They believe they are entitled to most things.
  • They manipulate and take advantage of others.
  • They lack empathy, the ability to feel and recognize the feelings and needs of others.
  • They envy other people.
  • Their behavior appears haughty or arrogant.


Traditionally, addiction was considered to be a moral failing and a question of choice on the part of the drinker. Treatment was in line with that school of thought and included, imprisonment, sentencing to a mental asylum, or religious based intervention involving prayer. Two years after the failure of Prohibition, AA was founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob, it was based on 12-Steps, a series of principles that used spiritual and moral laws,which when followed offed addicts mental, emotional, and societal rehabilitation. Due primarily to the efforts of Marty Mann (one of the first women to complete the 12-Step program), the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism was formed. They advocated radical notions about alcoholism and alcoholics..

Recovery becomes Big Business

In 1956 the American Medical Association declared Alcoholism as an illness, and the modern treatment centers where born. The ability to charge insurance companies for treatment has seen an explosion of the treatment center Industry. Some of which incorporate the latest theories in Psychotherapy and Neural Linguistics Programming and Aftercare Modalities, some who just offer a high priced 12-Step program. For profit treatment centers have led to many abuses in the name of recovery. (hence the joke that a big book can cost $30,000).

It has to be Your Idea

It is my contention that the reason for the continued poor recovery rates in traditional 12-Step programs, is due to a number of issues. The first being that it’s rarely the addicts idea to attend AA or any other 12-Step program, it’s usually the Law, our your family, that push you into recovery. In 1989, America’s first drug courts began sentencing“nonviolent drug offenders” to 12-step programs, in the effort to reduce drunk driving nationwide, it was also seen as an affordable alternative,to medical treatment.  A majority of people attending AA for the first time, don’t want to be there.

Unwilling to Change.

Secondly, AA still focuses primarily on the symptoms of (addiction), and not the causes, the grave psychological problems that underlie them. According to Dr. Lance Dodes, in his book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry (co-written with Zachary Dodes),” when the Big Book was first published in 1939, it was met with wide skepticism in the medical community. The AMA called it a curious combination of organizing propaganda and religious exhortation. A year later, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases described it as a rambling sort of camp-meeting confession of experiences … Of the inner meaning of alcoholism there is hardly a word. It is all surface material.” To think that a lasting recovery can be achieved by going to nightly meetings with a group of similarly afflicted individuals, and a set of 12 non-medical guidelines for recovery, half of which require direct appeals to to ignore the last 90 years of Medical and Psychological advances. Simply being open to the mental illness aspect of addiction would improve recovery rates.

To quote Charlotte Kasl, “While the emergence of 12-Step programs and Alcoholics Anonymous where highly significant occasions that did at one time shed new light on alcoholism, without substantial updating this institution falls into the category of Vaclav Havel’s words, “It no longer provides new, spontaneous, and effective evidence of things hitherto only guessed at.” The 12-Step approach purports to be for all people, but it’s literature lacks knowledge of most people.”

How To Improve 12-Step Programs

Combining Psychotherapy, and Neural Linguistic Programming techniques with traditional 12-Step programs would help individuals come to understand what causes their problems and help them learn how to relate more positively to others. This simple change would result in more constructive discussion about what lies beneath the addiction. How beliefs are the cause and behavior the effect. Using modern techniques, they could more quickly help a person build up their self-esteem and acquire realistic expectations of themselves and others. Even combining Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), with traditional 12-Step group therapy would be an improvement. CBT helps the patient identify negative beliefs and behaviors, in order to replace them with healthful, positive ones. Medication may help with some of the more distressing aspects of NPD


Recovery can still follow the 12-steps format, with guidance by those who have found recovery, from this seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. .Basic Psychotherapy and Neural-Linguistic Programming techniques should be incorporated in the program or at least utilized by those who have recovered. This would be useful in helping people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder relate to others in a healthier and more compassionate way.

In Conclusion

Acting and doing good, only acted as a displacement mechanism. It only shifted my attention and did not reach, the deep held beliefs, that I held. That not only was I not good enough or smart enough, but I was not deserving enough, to be truly happy. As long as I held on to these beliefs, real recovery would be out of reach, and that the best I could hope for, would be a stalemate between me and my addictions, doomed to forever be in recovery, but never recovered. Lucky for me I had a psychic change, sufficient to change these deep-seated beliefs. To know God’s will, and the power to carry it out. I want to share my thirty years of experience, in order that you might find true recovery, a lot faster than I did.

As always, thanks for visiting. Dave







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *