"One of the differences between this disease and most other chronic ones that is so difficult to communicate is that with Alcoholism, when you are the sickest and most acute, you don’t feel sick because you’re getting alcohol. When you arrest the disease by treating it, that’s when you feel sick: In remission. First from withdrawal symptoms, naturally, but more so from cortisol and the Symptoms of Sobriety. With cancer, for example, you don’t feel sickest when you’ve stopped the spread and gotten that disease into remission. You feel sickest when the cancer is most acute. Lyme disease or even the flu is the same way. An Alcoholic can feel the sick from the Symptoms well into remission, even eight to ten years after stopping the drinking, according to 1985 research from Clinton DeSoto, William O’Donnell, Linda Alfred and Charles Lopes (“Symptomology in Alcoholics at Various Stages of Abstinence” in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, vol. 9 1985).
That seems crazy: Other diseases don’t behave this way in remission.
And you are not crazy. You just need some adjustments. A diabetic, by comparison, would address the condition, not just symptoms, with small lifestyle adjustments. A severe diabetic would require more extensive life changes as well as professional help. He’d have an expert evaluate the meaning of his diabetic symptoms, wouldn’t he? Here’s another medical comparison. If migraine sufferers had the luxury of such clear warning signs as the Symptoms of Sobriety before the onset of a migraine, they’d take heed. Why should the Symptoms of Sobriety be evaluated any less thoroughly than the symptoms of diabetes or heeded less than the warning signs preceding a migraine? Neither diabetes nor migraines are as lethal as snapping Alcoholism out of remission.
The Symptoms aren’t some tabloid fad or syndrome-of-the-week; they are real. You feel like crap. It’s not imaginary. Not everyone will suffer from them though. For me, the third Symptom—the clarity—was my most pronounced and created the most havoc. I was so accustomed to thinking quickly on my feet. I believed the sharpness of the training as a journalist never dulled. At times though, even well after I stopped my two-liters-a-day drinking ordeal, I could not focus for more than 20 minutes at a time, couldn’t remember things I didn’t write down and had to re-read stuff to get the point. The cortisol was doing what the alcohol couldn’t: Singeing my brain, messing with my sharpness and my mental function. (Of course drinking that much blunted my judgment but at least I could make bad decisions more quickly.) I know this as a Symptom now. And now the Symptom is my own primary warning sign that there is something wrong and I need to address it and fix one or more of the sources listed at the end of the chapter, not just the Symptom itself."
--from Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pgs. 27-28