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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Obsession of the Mind

"We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from drink, as he may do for months or years, he reacts much like other men. We are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to stop. The experience of any alcoholic abundantly confirms this."
"These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body."
The two paragraphs, above, taken from pages 22-23 of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, address the effects of the physical and mental cravings of the body for more alcohol once drinking has commenced; but, more importantly, they address the obsession of the mind for alcohol when the alcoholic addict is not drinking.

The word 'obsession' comes from the Latin obsidere, meaning 'to sit down before' (as an army sits down before a walled fortress, besieging it.) Its original fourteenth century English usage was to denote "being assailed by an evil spirit or fixed idea." Both the origin and first usage of the word 'obsession' are particularly apt, for how many of us did not at first struggle or ceaselessly fight with the seemingly ever present idea that taking a drink or drug would fix the way we were feeling? Was the thought of drinking and/or getting high not a strong and frequent temptation?

For many of us, we were like a city under siege and the thought of drinking or using was more or less constantly with us during the first weeks or months of recovery. Even thereafter, many (and perhaps most) of us were left with a mind highly susceptible to other obsessions, once the obsession about alcohol and/or drugs lifted. How many people, for example, have replaced their obsession for drugs or booze with an obsession for physical fitness, or an obsession for work, relationships or money? Quite a few, in my experience. And the list of such 'replacement' obsessions is both incredibly long and fraught with peril.

How then do we lift the siege, so to speak, of our obsessive minds. In its paradoxical way, the 'Big Book' indicates that the answer to this "main problem" of the alcoholic (which, after all "lies in the mind") is also internal.

On page 55 of the 'Big Book' we read:
". . .(D)eep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. . . .'

"We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was a part of our make-up, just as much as the feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had to search fearlessly, but He was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that he may be found."
It is thus, by accessing the hidden dimension of God within us, by attaining to a lasting peace and quietness, that we are relieved of the raucous obsessions of the mind that drive us wildly. It is a reality that we can in fact become spiritually awakened and attuned to a deeper consciousness than that of the obsessive mind of self or ego-consciousness - whether such a spiritual awakening occurs suddenly or gradually evolves.

In the Spiritual Experience appendix to the 'Big Book' we read:
"With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves."

"Most of us think that this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it "God-consciousness.""
 Thus it is that the higher spiritual mind of man, replaces the lower obsessive mind of the ego, or self. And with that, the obsessions for alcohol, drugs or their replacements can be expelled. As Carl Jung put it in his famous letter to Bill Wilson:  "The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum." That is, the experience of God rather than alcohol is that which solves our all-too-human dilemma.

1 comment:

  1. ..great post..and so true for me..i tend toward an addictive personality..its something i must be aware of and monitor when anything 'new' comes along in my life..even the obsessive compulsion with going to meetings can be problematic for me..of late i find myself questioning if perhaps i have become obsessed with my new found God consciousness..the reason i say this is because i was just recently booted-out of a facebook group for what i must assume was for being too God oriented in my comments..or could it have been dogmatism?...i must confess that i often feel the need to 'guide' others toward God..i guess i've always assumed that it was God that was doing the urging in me to 'help' others..could i somehow be confusing my ego for God?...thanks for a very thought provoking post..