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Advice That Can Kill: One Day At A Time

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On the first Monday of each month, my beginners meeting reads from Living Sober.  I'm not sure who wrote this tragic little book, but the fact that Living Sober is conference-approved AA literature is one of the great mysteries of the AA fellowship.  Put nicely, there's just very little in Living Sober that you can line up with the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In fact, much of it runs completely counter to the Big Book.  I like to think of it as  an operators' manual for the willpower.

And last night, we found ourselves reading one of my favorites, the chapter "Using the 24 Hour Plan."  This little treatise suggests that anyone can stop drinking for 24 hours, and that sobriety is really just stringing those 24-hour successes together.   One could argue that since AA has largely become a pep rally for abstinence, "Using the 24 Hour Plan" could be our new "How It Works."

I've got nothing against keeping it simple in the early phases of sobriety.  Getting past the physical urge to drink or use drugs is arguably the hardest thing we do, and unless we're locked up somewhere, it does require willpower.  Getting clear of that craving-- that maddening itch that needs scratching-- can be helped by breaking it down into digestable time segments.  I get it.

The problem, as I see it, is that many never get past One Day At A Time.  They grind it out, the physical obsession quiets, and they feel better.  They equate that physical restoration with recovery.  The condescending term used in AA for this feeling is a "pink cloud."  "Be careful," nods the sage oldtimer, "you're on a pink cloud."  This diagnosis is rarely followed with precise direction as to what the newcomer might do to guard against the looming relapse, unless you consider "keep coming back" to be meaningful advice.

What happens?  The mental obsession kicks in, and the alcoholic finds themselves defenseless against the first drink.  They are left confused and befuddled as to how they could have possibly thought that picking up again was a good idea.  They believe they have failed, when the truth is, by not presenting the dire nature of their condition and the path to recovery through the 12 steps with urgency, AA has failed them.

AA is not a "don't drink one day at a time" program.  The program of recovery presented in our textbook offers a solution to the drink problem, relief from the mental obsession through treating the spiritual malady that is our alcoholism.  Our first step does not say "Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, unless it was within 24 hours, in which case we were hunky-dory." 

Powerlessness is unconditional. 

Cross-posted from Thump.


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