I recall distinctly, after going out on another binge, my wife and in-laws asking me, “I don’t understand, when your life and family and all you love is on the line, why you CHOOSE to drink.” The truth is, I didn’t understand it either. It was unexplainable. I had been in the program of AA for over a decade, with several long stretches of sobriety, and I still didn’t fully understand my alcoholic behavior.
Going back a few days before the conversation above, I was about 90 days sober – again. I escorted my wife and kids to a family wedding reception. There were two kegs of homemade craft beer in ice tubs on both sides of the door going into the house. I saw several people grab a glass. It was quite warm out and I recall vividly the condensation dripping from the sides of their glasses. I heard those talking about the homemade brew with cheer and I thought to myself “I would love to try a glass of that”. Strange thing is – I don’t even particularly like beer. But I wanted it anyways. I like the effect alcohol has on me – not the drink itself. The obsession of the MIND has now set in.
For the next three days straight, around the clock (even in my dreams), I obsessed about a drink. I knew there was a real problem looming. I knew I needed to tell on myself. I called my sponsor and told him what was happening and talked to several people in the program. I prayed. All of those things helped in the moment, but the obsession was still there. On day 3, about half way through the day, I decided I was going to drink. I knew it was stupid. I knew what the result would be. It seemed like the only way to relieve the mental torture in the moment. So I left work and got on the interstate and headed for my favorite bar.
I talked to myself the entire way there – yelling and cussing at myself at time. I had even at one point gotten off the interstate and turned back around heading back towards home… But the obsession had firmed its grip around me once more and I got back on the freeway heading towards certain destruction. I arrived in the familiar place, still stinking of stale cigarette and cigar smoke from years past before smoking was unlawful in such an establishment, ordered a drink and hesitated only slightly before swallowing the first gulp. The obsession was instantly removed. My mind quit racing. My worries disappeared. The first drink was gone, immediately followed by the craving of the BODY for more… The manifestation of the allergy has now set in.
I think about the jaywalker story in the chapter “More about alcoholism” and think about what an absurd idea it would be for someone to get a kick out of jumping in front of fast moving cars. I had wanted in times past to jump in front of a fast moving car – but not for the thrill of it. My drinking is just as absurd. I realize now – finally – that my disease is two-fold. It affects me both bodily and mentally. It affects me BEFORE AND AFTER the first drink.
“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” -Big Book pg 24
So what exactly is the defense against the obsession of the mind that precedes the first drink? The simple fact is that if you are truly an alcoholic, it is very likely that you will have thoughts of drinking when getting sober. It may even be overwhelming at times. If you read the Big Book and believe the text as I do, it is explained that a spiritual experience is necessary to find true recovery.
“There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.
The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.” -Big Book pg 25
When I had decided to leave work and go to the bar, I did not use any of the tools laid at my feet to fight the obsession. I didn’t pray to the God of my understanding. I didn’t pick up the 900lb phone to call my sponsor. I tried to do it alone instead of accepting the help freely given to me by God and the fellowship of AA. Through faith in a Higher Power and working the 12 Steps, the obsession of the mind can be lifted thus putting the disease into remission.