When I was 11 years old my dad entered a treatment program for alcoholism.
The "disease" ran rampant in my family. As part of his recovery process dad discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. Founded in the 1930s, AA's centerpiece is the "12 step" process that involves proclaiming powerlessness over alcohol, seeking spiritual support to regain that power, to make amends to those you have hurt, and then to live a life on the straight and narrow.
The original 12 steps call out "God" multiple times--although there's a clause that this can be God "as we understood Him," it seems clear that the preferred God is the Christian version and not the Hindu Shiva.
So AA leaned hard toward Chrisianity as well as the categorical and absolute. The linchpin of AA's approach is that alcoholism is a disease that must be managed, a view with many detractors. Stanton Peele, author of Why Addiction Isn't a Disease, is the most prominent detractor of all.
As a kid, and for most of my life, I was not one of these critics. I learned young that alcoholism was a diseases and that the 12 steps and finding community were the only cure. Since then I've worried with every drink I've taken that I was on the slippery slope toward an alcoholic doom.
Perhaps it is not so dire. This weekend the Times published an extensive piece about alternatives to AA. Citing the Cochrane Library, reporter Gabrielle Glaser notes that AA has never been conclusively proven to reduce alcohol dependence. There are alternatives, including those offered by the Center for Motivation and Change and Moderation Management. It is possible to perceive addiction along a spectrum of behaviors that can be managed accordingly, rather than as a fierce disease that must be suppressed mightily.
That makes much more sense to me. If AA's approach works for any given person, they should continue walking that path. But we should beware the categorical and absolute, in this sphere of life as in all others.