When I was newly sober, I heard the cliche that "alcoholism has very little to do with alcohol" many times. As I have stayed sober longer, I have found this statement to be extremely true. Alcoholism comes in a person, not in a bottle.
The First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous has two distinct parts. The first part states that we are powerless over alcohol (and drugs), and the second part states that our lives had become unmanageable. When I first saw this, I read it as "our alcohol abuse had become unmanageable." The truth is that our lives are unmanageable without alcohol as well. In my experience and opinion, my life became even more unmanageable without alcohol than it was with alcohol.
Alcohol was the solution. It worked. It helped me manage. Getting sober and admitting I was powerless over alcohol, I no longer had my chief form of comfort. Alcohol allowed me to not feel, and I wasn't sober frequently enough to fully experience the path of my unpleasant emotions. Suddenly I found myself in a world where I had no buffer between me and my emotions.
This unmanageability to me means that I cannot healthily and safely manage my life sober or drunk. My mind does not by default know how to appropriately respond to life. Alcoholism carries on just as well without the alcohol. As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, we have a physical allergy, mental craving, and spiritual malady. When I stop drinking, the physical allergy is no longer an issue. The mental craving is caused by my spiritual malady. It is for this reason that the focus of eleven of the Twelve Steps is on this spiritual malady.
As I work on my spiritual malady and get in conscious contact with my Higher Power, the mental cravings begin to dissipate. However, if I am not working on my spiritual malady, the mental cravings overpower me. The unmanageability is a direct result of my lack of a contact with a power greater than myself.
In this way, my alcoholism continues even without alcohol. I was completely without any way to cope with life on life's terms. Life is unmanageable, meaning that we are unable to manage it. However, when we find a power greater than ourselves, whatever this means to the individual, we are able to allow this power to manage our lives. Our alcoholic tendencies and unhealthy reactions diminish, and we are able to meet life head on without running.