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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fear, Desire, and Instincts Run Wild

"Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn't be complete human beings. If men and women didn't exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn't reproduce, the earth wouldn't be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires - for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship - are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given."

"Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man's natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is."

-- The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 42 --
 In taking our 4th Step inventory, Bill W. points out that "(w)e want to find out exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. . . . Without a willing and persistent effort to do this," he warns, "there can be little sobriety or contentment for us." (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 43)

It is necessary for us to get to the root of our discontentment, if we wish to remain clean and sober. After all, we alcoholic addicts drank primarily for the effect that it had upon us. The discontents which we harbored and drank to overcome, we learn, are rooted in the overblown, unquenchable desires of instincts gone awry. Thus, by objectively examining (and sharing) our resentments, fears and sex conduct, we become able to find not only how our actions have affected and affect others, but how and why we too were so affected.

In elaborating upon how and why our overblown instinctual desires fuelled our drinking, Bill asserts that "(a)lcoholics, especially, should be able see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking,"
"We have," he observes, "drunk to drown feelings of fear, frustration, and depression We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk again to make more passions possible. We have drunk for vainglory - that we might the more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power."
"This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon," he warns. "Instincts on rampage balk at investigation. The minute we make a serious attempt to probe them, we are liable to suffer severe reactions." (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pp. 44-45.) But, if we are to free ourselves from addiction, investigate them we must. Hence, the importance of sharing them with not just ourselves, and the God or our own understanding, but with another human being, preferably one who has taken the lonely road of self-examination him or herself.

"The unexamined life is not worth living," Socrates observed. To that we may add, for the alcoholic addict, an unexamined and unreconciled life cannot be lived soberly. Why? Simply because without a working knowledge of how our warped instinctive desires have driven us blindly, and the ability to make amends for how we have hurt others, we will find no relief from ourselves. And, sooner or later, we will need to seek relief - in whatever form it takes.
"Each of us would like to live at peace with himself and his fellows," Bill notes. "We would like to be assured that the grace of God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We have seen that character defects based upon shortsighted or unworthy desires are the obstacles that block our path towards these objectives."

"The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear," he points out, "primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands."
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 76.]
 Steps Four through Step Nine are the initial means we take to reduce our instinctive desires to the level where we can attain and maintain our sobriety and continue on the spiritual path. Steps Ten through Twelve is where we work to continue reducing our overblown desires - and the egoic self-consciousness that fuels them - at depth.

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