Why the Disease of Alcoholism is a Spiritual Bankruptcy Problem

Why the Disease of Alcoholism is a Spiritual Bankruptcy Problem February 2, 2022

My daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia just a couple of years ago. I remember vividly sitting in the hospital room as the doctor came in, sat us down, and begin talking through the diagnoses and treatment options with us. We were shocked. Just a few weeks before, our daughter had been a happy, healthy child, and now she was dealing with cancer that was in her blood stream. The Doctor talked through the various options for treatment. One of the options that were offered was to do nothing. This was not promoted as a good option, but one of the options. Obviously, we chose to do something and give her the full medical treatment prescribed and promoted.

As I think back on my recovery from alcoholism, there are many similarities to the recovery of a cancer patient. All leading medical providers list alcoholism as a disease. Mayo Clinic has designated a significant portion of resources to studying it. There are millions of people that are diagnosed and not diagnosed trying to recover from it. The similarities between recovery are stunning.

  • Cancer patients need support and community to recover. This has been well documented by the cancer recovery community. My daughter was given access to groups of people, camps, and relationships that were reserved for this recover. Alcoholism Recovery requires a community of support. A robust meeting that offers feedback and input as well as training is essential.
  • There are clear prescriptions in cancer recovery. Taking a medicine daily, or multiple times a day increases the chances for the recovery to be successful. The cancer patient must be intentional and routine about their well-being. The alcoholic must do the same. While there may not be a prescription medication that they need to take, doing the routine things of life without alcohol is an important step in the recovery process. There may be medications prescribed and necessary, as the alcoholic may also suffer from mental illness that drove them to a place of drinking (Alcohol Use Disorder).
  • Awareness is necessary in both cancer recovery and alcoholism recovery. When a cancer patient knows and understands what is happening in their body, they are able to deal with the trauma that the diagnoses may bring. An alcoholic needs to be aware of the dangers of drinking, what happens when they drink, and the cravings that they experience because of their drinking. If awareness is lacking, relapse is almost inevitable in alcoholism. If awareness lacks in cancer patient, fear can drive a person to the point of mental illness.
  • Money matters. In cancer recovery, the medical community does not work for free. Hospital bills, prescriptions, and transportation all cost money. In the case of alcoholic, they may need to spend money to get themselves to an inpatient treatment facility, transport themselves to an AA meeting, or pay someone to help coach them in recovery.

There are so many similarities between the cancer recovery process and the alcoholism recovery process. Today, I am sober. And today, my daughter is cancer free. It takes work, community, and significant awareness to arrive at this point.

A Marked Difference

There is one significant different in the cancer recovery process and the alcoholics recovery process. For cancer patients, the cause of the disease is often unknown. The body breaks down and the blood cells meant to fight off infection actually begin fighting themselves. In alcoholism, the cause is also unknown, but at the root of every alcoholics disease is a spiritual bankruptcy. I have heard it over and over again. Alcoholics routinely describe a deficiency that they have dealt with since they were young children. Something was missing in their life. They weren’t comfortable in their own skin. They had a moral failing that caused them to give up their beliefs or values. The stress of life had overtaken even their strongest beliefs.

When an alcoholic finds a remedy for their spiritual bankruptcy, they indulge in the pleasure of not feeling the down and out effect of spiritual void. They are able to withstand the depth of darkness that the spiritual bankruptcy demands. For awhile, alcohol works as the prescription, until it doesn’t. And it is at that point that an alcoholic is left spiritually bankrupt and often physically bankrupt as well. They may have liver failure. They may experience seizures, or other physical ailments because of their drinking patterns. The spiritual gap is widened during the drinking experience as this often drives away supportive relationships, and does damage to the ecosystem around the alcoholic.

For the cancer patient, there is often not a spiritual bankruptcy. In fact, cancer often brings about spiritual robust growth. The cancer patient is forced to rely on a higher power to get them through each and every day, every treatment, and they must place their faith in the medical community and God. For the alcoholic, finding life is serious quest. Spiritual bankruptcy too often wins and at the end of the day, the alcoholic is left with death. Doing nothing about their disease leaves them alone, in the depths of despair, and at rock bottom.


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