One of the difficulties associated with recognizing alcoholism as a disease is that it just doesn't seem like one at all. It doesn't behave like a disease and people who are dealing with it never seem like they are sick. Alcoholism is difficult for some people to associate with a disease because it generally resists treatment and many people like to deny that it even exists. However, alcoholism has been recognized for many years by professional medical organizations as a progressive, chronic, primary, and even fatal disease. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence have their own definition of alcoholism, though the easiest way to explain it to anyone is that it is a mental obsession and urge that causes the compulsion to drink alcohol.
The problem with an alcoholic's obsession is that it may seem so subtle, the individual may not even realize that it is present. They may feel completely fine and then find themselves with a sudden urge to drink - and nothing can stop them. Once they have started, it can be very difficult to get them to stop. They only know that they need to have that drink in order to feel comfortable again. Many people have no control over this experience at all. In its early states, having a few drinks may be all it takes for that obsession and need to stop for a small moment. Yet as it continues, the individual realizes they need more alcohol to continue that sensation for a longer period of time.
The progression of this disease is so subtle that even the alcoholic may not realize that they have a problem. It occurs over an extended period of time. The individual may be able to recognize that they have a problem at some point, but they may not be able to tell you when it first occurred or when it started getting worse.. Denial is a universal symptom of this disease. Those who have an addiction to alcohol almost never want to admit that they have a problem. For many, if they were just willing to admit that there was a problem, it would be easier for them to be able to get help and find suitable treatment. However, because there is so much denial involved, it delays the amount of time that could be used towards finding treatment in the long run.
Once someone has become addicted to alcohol, it's very easily to have relapses even when they have been in a treatment program. Someone might become sober, but there's nothing to stop them from taking another drink or having another experience with alcoholism. It is a challenge for them every day to not give into those temptations. The individual might experience situations where there are behaviors and factors that trigger them to want to drink. That's why many alcoholics who are seeking help and support find that they have better results if they are able to stay active within an Alcoholic Anonymous group where like-minded individuals share their struggles and encouragement.