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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Three Delsuions: Control, Normalcy and Manageability

"'Denial,'" I've heard it said, "is a treatment center word, while 'delusion' is what we talk about in Alcoholics Anonymous." The reason for this is quite clear: denial is saying, to one's self or someone else, what one knows not to be true; while 'delusion' means saying that something that is not true is true - and believing, in fact, that it is. In most instances, therefore, the still practicing alcoholic addict is not 'in denial', but is 'delusional.' He or she really believes that he or she is not an alcoholic addict.

I remember that I used to say do the guys I partied with, "For me its recreational, for you it's therapeutic." How wrong I was, and I had no idea! I was clearly delusional when it came to my addiction. And it was only after being in recovery for a number of years, that I began to realize that this was not the only area of my life where I was completely delusional. My whole life, I came to realize, was nothing but an illusion.

There are three delusions (or illusions) that the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous specifically addresses. The first two 'delusions' are discussed at the beginning of the "More About Alcoholism," while the third (and all important) 'delusion' is discussed following the description of the alcoholic addict as an "actor," in the "How It Works" chapter of the 'Big Book.'

At the beginning of the "More About Alcoholism" chapter, the first of these 'delusions' is set out in the following way:
"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."
In the next paragraph, we read that, "(t)he delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed." This is the second of the three 'delusions.'

Finally, after the description of the alcoholic as "actor," on pages 60-61 of the 'Big Book,' we are asked:
"What is (the alcoholic's) basic trouble? Is he not a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?"
[Emphasis added.]
All of the 'three delusions' speak to Step One of AA's program of recovery. The first 'delusion' speaks to the first part of Step One, where we admit we are "powerless over alcohol," while the second and third 'delusions' speak to life's unmanageability.

Because, both physically and mentally, we are "powerless over alcohol" - because we simply metabolize it differently than does the non-alcoholic -  it is a delusion that one day we will somehow be able to control and enjoy drinking once again (if we ever had any control in the first place), even though we may well believe it to be true. It is a delusion.

Carl Jung
While the second 'delusion - "that we are like other people, or presently may be" - seems on its face to be related to both alcoholism and the first delusion, in essence, it is not. It is much more related to the self-centered, ego-centric, nature of the alcoholic addict's personality.

It is because we are not like other people (or perhaps that we are just like other people, only "way more so') that Carl Jung observed that wholesale psychic changes "in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements" are necessary for alcoholics to attain and maintain their sobriety.

Commenting on the nature of these "phenomena" that supplied the required psychic change necessary to arrest alcoholism, Jung observed that: "Ideas, emotions and attitudes that were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 27.]
"Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity," we are not, nor will we one day be just like other people. It is necessary for the alcoholic addict to concede this and set the fears and delusions of the alcoholic mind to one side before he or she can truly recover.
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 62.]

Which brings us to the third delusion. The basic problem of the problem being egoic, self-centeredness, we claim a right and a necessary imperative to manage life - and manage life all by ourselves. And that is the great delusion, really. Life is inherently unmanageable by the individual, precisely because he or she is an individual - a part of a greater whole.

Life manages itself quite well, irrespective of our input and desires, all of which are driven by what it is we think we (or others) need to be happy and content. And, until we can fully concede that no matter how hard we try we will never be able to "wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world" simply by managing well, we are not really in a position to believe that "a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" - and, moreover, we are in no position to "turn our will and our lives over to the care" of such a Power.

And here's the kicker, until we concede that is delusional, in fact, to think we can somehow learn to 'manage life,' we will never be in a position to understand who we are, what we are, and what life is all about. Until we do so, we remain ever vulnerable to drink and drug; and, if long experience is valid, it seems very likely that the person who retains management rights over life will almost invariably do so.

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