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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Main Problem of the Alcoholic Centers in the Mind

"All (types of alcoholics) . . . have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence."
-- Alcoholics Anonymous, "The Doctor's Opinion," p. xxx --

The physiological basis of alcoholism has been confirmed by many studies since the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous was written. But, as the 'Big Book' tells us, this would all be moot if the alcoholic addict never took a drink in the first place. Therefore, the problem appears to be both genetic and environmental, both nature and nurture. Instant (or gradual) alcoholic? Just add booze. Indeed, at page 23 of the 'Big Book,' we read:
"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. (Emphasis added.)
The alcoholic, we read, drinks chiefly for the effect. He or she likes the experience of being under the influence of booze more than being sober. It is no mere coincidence, then, that a spiritual experience - an awakening of spirit - has proven effective in relieving alcoholism. As Carl Jung pointed out in his letter to Bill W., "Alcohol in Latin is "spiritus" and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: "spiritus contra spiritum.""

Of course. it was Jung's work with Rowland H. which was where "the taproot" which would become A.A. "first hit water." Jung's conversation with Rowland H. is set out at pages 26 and 27 in the 'Big Book.' And, helpfully, at page 27 Jung describes what the essential factors of the "vital spiritual experiences' which have relieved alcoholism are. "Ideas, emotions and attitudes which were once the guiding force of these (alcoholic) men," he points out, "are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them."

"Ideas," of course, are our thoughts, while "emotions" are the feelings that results from these thoughts. An "attitude," in turn, is a "way of thinking" and "behaviour reflecting this." (Oxford English Dictionary.) Thus, the relief of the problem of the alcoholic - centering as it does in his or her mind - is a completely new way of thinking, a completely new set of "conceptions and motives" (i.e., thoughts and attitudes). Indeed, the common solution that most sober A.A. members have found (irrespective of whether they may recognize or describe it as such) is a new state of consciousness and being, a state of God-consiousness rather than self-consciousness, that begins to dominate our thinking.

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 this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it God-consciousness."
"(W)e are now on a new basis," we read at page 68 of the 'Big Book.' "the basis of trusting and relying on God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely upon on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity."

Thus, we see that attaining and maintaining a new theocentric attitude to replace our normal, egocentric thinking, is the key to relieving the problem of the alcoholic addict which centers in his or her mind. As Jung pointed out to Bill Wilson, "The helpful formula therefore is: "spiritus contra spiritum."" Inspired (or "in spirit") we are enabled to lead sane and productive, sober lives.

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