The Progressive Disease of Alcoholism

I came across this fantastic chart called the ‘Progressive Disease of Alcoholism’.Β  It was designed in 1967 in the US and really illustrates the drinking journey both to the bottom and the recovery path back out the other side.Β  Although it’s almost 50 years old it’s detail still applies today.

Disease of Alcoholism Chart screen

(click on to enlarge)

It classifies heavy social drinking as 5 or more per occasion on 2 or more occasions a week

It details the nine signs of alcohol dependence clearly:

  1. Drinking to relieve tension
  2. Drinking before a drinking function
  3. Increase in alcohol tolerance
  4. Desire to continue when others stop
  5. Uncomfortable in a situation where there is no alcohol
  6. Occasional memory lapses after heavy drinking
  7. Relief drinking commences
  8. Preoccupation with drinking (thinking about next drink)
  9. Secret irritation whenΒ  your drinking is discussed

It also lays out the time scales of early, middle and late stages of addiction which spookily mirror my experience:

  • Time to move from early to middle: 2-25 years with 12-15 years being the average
  • Time to move from middle to late: 2-10 years with 5-7 years being the average

And then the benefits of recovery on the other side leading to:

Enlightened and interesting way of life opens up with higher road ahead to higher levels than ever thought possible πŸ™‚

MrHOF and I have looked at this closely and we believe we stopped just before the red downward slope begins and at the last entry for the yellow bit at increasing dependence on alcohol.Β  It may have taken us a few more years to get beyond that point but for us the writing was on the wall, or chart in this case πŸ˜‰

Now I would say that I am at the: begin contentment in sobriety and improving peace of mind.Β  So we got off the ride down early and are reaping the rewards sooner because we were lucky enough to see what was coming if we kept going.Β  You don’t have to keep drinking until it decides for you – you can stop of your own choice with help and support. And the benefits of not drinking are everything that this chart talks about πŸ™‚

What do you think of it?

16 thoughts on “The Progressive Disease of Alcoholism

  1. Nice! I think that shows it well. I am happy that you out before the red slope started. I did a lot of the red slope. I guess my semi healthy eating habbits and the decision that drinking only starts at 18:00 hours prevented me from going very quickly.

    I like the ‘drinking with inferiors’ – totally politically incorrect of course which might be the reason that it is the first time that I see it in writing. Well, it happens. πŸ™ And for anybody that is pc; my definition of inferior would be people that have gone down the red slope more than I have. Yes, yes, very nice sample of addictive thinking where it is the other that is addicted and ‘inferior’. But what would be the correct term? ‘Searching company that drinks more so you can yourself feel less bad’?

    1. Glad you liked feeling πŸ™‚ Good isn’t it? Yes some of the language is a little outdated(!) but we know what they mean anyway πŸ˜‰

  2. that’s a great chart, yes, thank you! I was well into the red on the downward slope (though never drank in the mornings….) and for me that slope was really steep in time terms.

    how interesting that ‘loss of job’ is treated as a transition point. and also like their comment ‘activities interfere with drinking’. there is definitely a point when it changes from ‘drinking affecting your life’ to ‘life interferes with drinking’….

    love all those positive points on the way back up, too! particularly ‘new future faced with determination and courage’. that’s a fabulous mantra! xx

    1. Hey Prim πŸ™‚ Glad you liked too. On reflection I’m sure MrHOF & I were further along the red downward slope too – but our denial remains intact πŸ˜‰ xx

  3. What a great find πŸ™‚ It fascinates me that, though this chart was compiled 2 years after I was born(a loooong time ago πŸ˜‰ ), the symptoms, actions, and situations are still the the same, although the terminology is quite different now. I was in the red, where “activities were interfering with my drinking” and “onset of lengthy drunks”, which was the jolt I needed to get help, as my grandmother would spend days in the bed drinking and taking pills. I didn’t want to be like that. I’m so grateful I stopped in time, now I’m enjoying the uphill slope. Thanks for sharing. xx

    1. Hey Lori – less of the looong time ago! MrHOF was born in ’66 and me in ’68 πŸ˜‰ Happy to share πŸ™‚ xx

  4. Hey Lucy thanks for posting this I found it really useful. In an odd way its also healing, being the daughter of an alcoholic who didn’t make it some of his behaviours make more sense now. As for me…..I guess rather than loss of job, continual reduction in work committment, ‘getting away with it syndrome’, might be more near the mark.

    And as a ’68-ter, we aint old πŸ˜‰

    I’m going to save this somewhere and maybe print it off. Might go in my ‘recovery scrapbook’ of notes and stuff I find inspiring or scary. That one fits both.

    1. Hey Daisy Another ’68-ter huh? πŸ˜‰ It is definitely worth referring back to πŸ™‚

  5. 5 drinks twice a week. I think there are a lot of people out there who could honestly use this graph.

    I definitely was into the red. Although my job and family were secure, thinking of drinking had taken over and I would happily have a hair of the dog or three given an opportunity. Although I hated myself because of it. More downward slope.

    I am glad to be travelling on the upward trajectory. Life is a beautiful open book today. I plan to make the most of it.


    1. Hey Anne – I think you’re right about the no of drinks and frequency. Binge drinking has become so normalised that people don’t question it as problematic. I would have had a hair of the dog too given the opportunity! As for the upward trajectory – me too πŸ™‚ Have a great day xx

  6. A really good chart, thanks Lucy- it is helpful to me today. I definitely was at the “activities interfered with drinking” area too…but my drinking escalation also coincided with several personal and family tragedies. Its really interesting to think about, thank u:)

    1. You’re welcome Mallards. I thought it was a bit of a find and I’m glad that you agree πŸ™‚

  7. I think I was a fair bit into the red ( which is quite scary to think about ) . I live alone and in a different city to my family . I was at the stage where I was having time off work because of my drinking (and it was becoming obvious that it was my drinking to people at work ) .
    I think if I had lost my job I would have gone into free fall with my drinking . If I hadn’t got a job to go to I would definitely have started the day with a hair of the dog ( and often did at weekends ).
    Btw I’m an early ’69er .

    1. Hey flip πŸ™‚ I’m a late ’68er so we must be very close in age! Thank you for sharing your view too xx

  8. A sobering list if you will forgive the my choice of language! Interesting find indeed – definitely identified with seven out of the nine signs. Thanks for sharing xx

    1. Hey soberinlondon πŸ™‚ A very sobering list indeed and you’re welcome πŸ™‚ xx

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