Search This Blog

Monday, October 31, 2011

Three Delusions and a Few Conclusions

"(T)he main problem of the alcoholic," we read in the 'Big Book,' "centers in the mind." Why is this apparently so? Firstly, the alcoholic addict may harbor the delusion that, against all evidence, one day he or she may be able to control and enjoy his or her drinking once again. Secondly, there is the delusion that he or she is like other people, or one day will be. And thirdly, there is the delusion that he or she may be able "to wrest satisfaction and happiness out of life" if only he manages well.

The first of these delusions, that the alcoholic addict is one day going to be able to control and enjoy his drinking is belied by the evidence, both personal and anecdotal. No one but the alcoholic addict him or herself can effectually make the diagnosis that he or she is indeed alcoholic. Yet we read in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous that if when drinking you have little or no control over how much you imbibe, or you find that you cannot quit entirely on your own, you are probably alcoholic. Only the alcoholic addict can honestly answer those questions for him or her self. Anecdotally, medical doctors have established that the the phenomenon of craving for more and more booze when a person drinks is limited to one class of drinkers only - alcoholics.

Personally, I know that when I drank (or, in my case, used drugs) I always craved more and more, and that when I wasn't drinking or drugging, my mind was obsessed with just how and when I was going to be able to do so again.  I couldn't control how much I took, nor could I quit entirely on my own, and I thus remain convinced, even after twenty-odd years clean and sober, that I am both physically and mentally alcoholic. The delusion that one day I might be able to drink (or drug) like normal people who do not do so addictively has been smashed.

The delusion that I am like other people, or one day may be, is a delusion that is more subtle and persistent, however. I am not like other people, nor will I be, so far as booze or drugs is concerned, but am I not so in all other respects? Yes, but not exactly.

"Most people," we read at page 60 in the 'Big Book,' "try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like the actor who wants to run the show, is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way." In this respect, we alcoholic addicts, I have come to see are like other people, only more so. Happily, but cautiously, I can say that I am no different from other people in this respect: but most importantly, I know that I am.

An attitude of selfishness, self-centeredness and self-consciousness - the underlying ego identification with whatever we are thinking at the time - we read over and over in the 'Big Book' is the underlying problem of the alcoholic addict. We pray to be relieved of "the bondage of self," we make an accurate moral self-survey and share it, we make amends where possible for the harm we have done when acting on self, and we acknowledge that we are self-centered as we endeavor to be freed from the character defects which make us this way.

This is both a curse and a blessing. Acknowledging that we are "self-centered to the extreme," we can look around and see that most other people are merely 'extremely self-centered.' For most 'normal' people, their self-centeredness works to a greater or lesser degree - and it is usually the latter. But for the alcoholic addict whose two solutions to the innate irritability, restlessness and discontent of egoic self-consciousness is either to drink (and/or drug) or to seek a spiritual solution that will provide us with ease and comfort, such self-centerdeness is, we read, "infinitely grave." Shattering the delusion that we are like other people, or some day will be, is thus imperative if we are to make changes in our lives so that down the road (and, many times, years down the road) we do not run into a seemingly intractable situation in which our only alternative looks like a drink.

On the other hand, knowing that so-called 'normal people' are also predominantly self-centered (or egocentric) confers advantages upon the alcoholic addict in recovery. It allows us to understand the oftentimes peculiar motivations that drives others, it allows us to truly forgive others for their actions that may have hurt us, it allows us to make amends for harm done where we can, and when we are wrong it allows us to promptly admit it. We all, it turns out, have feet of clay.

Lastly, the delusion that we will be able to "wrest satisfaction and happiness out of life" if only we manage well also has to go by the boards. Each of us (and all our loved ones) will struggle, age, get sick and eventually die. Self-centered 'normal' folks will continue to step on our toes. The unexpected will continue to happen. The best laid plans will continue to go awry, and life will continue to be inherently unmanageable. Neither sobriety nor spirituality will make life "manageable." But working the Twelve Steps, if practiced diligently, will make life "acceptable" to us if we allow ourselves to "Let Go and Let God." "Mastery of life," noted an enlightened man, "is the opposite of control."

"Here is the how and the why of it," we read at page 62 of the 'Big Book.' "First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas," we read, "are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we pass to freedom."

We will not be able to control and enjoy our drinking one day, we are not like other people, and our lives do not become manageable by us. The acceptance of these facts of our lives, together with accurate self-survey, prayer, meditation and selfless service to others, however, allows us to live full, God-conscious, productive and loving lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment