People often use intoxication as an excuse for having engaged in otherwise unacceptable behavior. “I’m sorry. It was the alcohol talking,” “Alcohol makes me argumentative,” “I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing,” and so on.

However, people who are intoxicated have much greater control over their behavior than generally known. For example, in some societies people didn’t think that alcohol caused disinhibition and, therefore, it never did. But after those societies came into contact with Western people who believed that intoxication caused disinhibited behavior, it began to “cause” disinhibition among the non-Western people, who also used it as an excuse.

Experimental research has demonstrated that when subjects are given alcohol, their performance on tasks decreases. But when they are rewarded for good performance, they do just as well as sober subjects.

Research has also found that when people are falsely led to believe that they have been consuming alcohol, they tend to act intoxicated. Likewise, when people are falsely led to believe that they have not been consuming alcohol, they tend not to act intoxicated.

People around the world have demonstrated their ability to control their intoxicated behavior when sufficiently motivated to do so. For example, the Lepcha people of Nepal become sexually promiscuous when drinking and that behavior is acceptable when drunk. However, violation of their very complicated incest taboo leads to execution. So no matter how drunk and promiscuous they become, they never violate the complex and confusing taboo.

Because alcohol doesn’t cause bad behavior, it’s never a legitimate excuse for doing what we shouldn’t do.

Similarly, some people blame their drinking on their supposed disease of alcoholism. If they’ve attended AA or a rehab using the 12 steps, they’ve been taught that they are powerless over alcohol, that they suffer from “loss of control,” that they must forever be on guard against relapsing, that they will never recover, and that they will be alcoholic for the rest of their lives.

So instead of “the alcohol made me do it,” the excuse now becomes “my disease made me do it.”

Scientific research has disproven the disease theory of alcoholism and its system of beliefs. Because the 12 steps have a success rate of only about 5% after one year (that’s only one person out of every 20!) the non-profit, non-religious St. Jude retreats developed their highly effective Cognitive Behavioral Education program. Its long term documented success rate is at least 62%.