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Posted by on in Alcoholism

"Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not."

Alcoholics Anonymous, page 34, More About Alcoholism

Of the many internal rearrangements I experienced as a result of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the most profound was in how I understood the disease.  This shift was a direct result of being able to align the experience and pain of my repeated relapses with the explanation of the disease in the first 63 pages of the Alcoholics Anonymous text book (with the help of a terrific teacher).  Ideas and concepts I had held for decades about the nature of alcoholism were rendered embarassingly inaccurate.  Many of the AA sayings  I had chanted effortlessly for years (just don't pick up the first drink!) suddenly felt like codependent sloganeering.

Had you asked me several years ago what the difference was between a drinking problem and alcoholism, I would have likely responded "not much."  Try to explain it to me?  I'd have politely nodded but dismissed you as someone with way too much time on their hands.  I simply was not there-- I had double digit sobriety, a good life and the assurance that by keeping my memory green about where alcohol had taken me, I'd never drink again.  I've since learned that alcoholism is cunning and baffling; it can also masquerade as sobriety.  In retrospect, I was unaware that the very proclamations I valued as manifestations of my sobriety were really untreated alcoholism.  And it was biding its time, trying to find another way in.

But back to the point of the post-- what's the difference?  I see it this way:  the person with a drinking problem should stop, and usually can.  The person with alcoholism must stop and cannot.


Posted by on in Alcoholism

"Yet we can't well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn't receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn't communicate when we might have done so. So we AA's failed them. Perhaps more often than we think, we still make no contact at depth with those suffering the dilemma of no faith."

Bill Wilson, AA Grapevine, April 1961 "The Dilemma of No Faith"

Cross posted at Thump.Increase

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

IncreaseI stole this Nikos Kazantzakis quote from the Facebook page of a Thump fan, Robi Carlson, because I love language that challenges conceptions of spiritual power.

"The Great Spirit does not toil within the bounds of human time, place, or casualty. The Great Spirit is superior to these human questionings. It teems with many rich and wandering drives which to our shallow minds seem contradictory; but in the essence of divinity they fraternize and struggle together, faithful comrades-in-arms. The primordial Spirit branches out, overflows, struggles, fails, succeeds, trains itself. It is the Rose of the Winds."

In order to be willing to believe in a power greater than myself, I needed to set aside all of my ideas and concepts about "God."  I wiped the slate clean, even of the word "God." My conception of a higher power could not be tethered to human expression, not because I was special or intelligent, but because all language and expression carried some baggage, and I needed to be free of that.  It was the only thing that would work.  I needed to experience a power greater than myself, not define it.

Cross-posted at Thump.


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Posted by on in Alcoholism

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.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

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