I have read the Alcoholics Anonymous book “The Big Book” several times over and have spent countless hours pondering and relating to the ideas in it. Bill W., one of the AA founders, was the author of the majority of it. Being new to recovery and accepting the fact of alcoholism as a disease can be a hard concept for many newcomers to grasp.
Although the entire book, the first 164 pages especially, are excellent relevant reading for the newly-sober person or for those pondering if they are truly alcoholic – I feel that none of the text relates quite as well as “More About Alcoholism” for the newcomer. You can read the chapter here – More About Alcoholism.
“Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.”
There is so much information in this first paragraph – let’s dissect it a bit. It was so difficult for me to come to the realization that I was a real alcoholic. I saw others drink with impunity – why couldn’t I? Why did I obsess about drinking? Why am I so weak? How come he can have 3 beers and stop and I can’t? The text above calls the idea that we are like others an “illusion”. The definition of illusion is: a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses. Yes – the idea that I can drink like others is an illusion.
“We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.”
I am a REAL alcoholic. There is no bones about it. This disease is the only disease that requires self diagnosis. Many others have called me alcoholic, but until I admitted it myself, nothing could be done for me. This is not something I admit once and I am done. This is a decision that needs to be made daily. I am not like other “normal” drinkers. That IS a delusion.
“We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals-usually brief-were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.”
When I started drinking, it was fun and carefree. There were no consequences. It helped with social issues that plagued me. It was a great way to unwind from a hard day. It was a great way to escape the troubles of life. Alcohol was the solution – it was not the problem. I was a cucumber. At some point, drinking became a problem. I don’t know at which point I crossed that line and decided to jump into a jar of vinegar – but I did. And there I stayed. I tried several times to control my drinking and sometimes I was successful, but it never took very long for me to unravel and for alcohol to take over once again. One important word in the reading above is the word “illness”. Was I really ill? Did I truly have a disease? Yes – I do. The “Doctor’s Opinion” describes this illness further in stunning detail. Even while sober, my illness is getting worse. Every time I relapsed after a period of sobriety, I was drinking again as if I had never stopped and it always got worse.
“We are like men who have lost their legs; they never grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of our kind like other men. We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.”
I am a pickle. I am no longer a cucumber and can NEVER be a cucumber ever again. I have tried. COUNTLESS times. Sometimes I could keep it under control, but eventually, I found myself right back in the fierce grip of alcohol. Ruining my name. My family. My job. Everything in my life was lost once again. And yet I still thought that I could drink successfully. The vicious cycle continued.
“Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!”
I was labeled a “chronic relapser” in this program. Stayed sober for 2.5 years the first time. Thought I could control my drinking. Started drinking again and watched as my life went to shambles in just a few short months. Came back to the doors and started over again with a new sobriety date. Stayed sober another 2.5 years. Drank again. Life went to crap again. Came back. Stayed sober another 3.5 years. Same obsession. Same result. I forgot I was an alcoholic each time. If I am ever confused about whether or not I am alcoholic, I read the descriptions of the different types of drinkers on Page 21-22 in “There is a Solution“. The truth is, I cannot control my drinking. Once I came to the full acceptance and realization that I was alcoholic and could no longer control my drinking, recovery started to happen.
Please respond to this and let me know your thoughts!