A wildly imaginative dianoetic rambling concerning the the “basic text” of Alcoholics Anonymous (viz. the Big Book) (our comments in red print)
Chapter 3 More About Alcoholism (pp. 30-35)
MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM
Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics [ie. chronic alcoholics]. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. 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.
We learned [the definition raises the question of whether this knowledge - or insight - is effectively acquired through instruction or, in our view, more likely experience. From this it follows that NO amount of study (of the Big Book or any other text for that matter) will be sufficient in itself to effect the required 'psychic' transformation. See for example Rowland Hazard III on the limitations of the purely cognitive approach] that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals—usually brief—were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man [and woman!] that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive [ie. chronic] illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.
We are like men who have lost their legs; they never grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of our kind like other men [but the research looks promising]. We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet [“yet” being the operative word].
Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore non-alcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right-about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him [although definitionally (AA) he/she is probably not an alcoholic or alcoholic of our type ie. “real” or chronic]. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!
Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums—we could increase the list ad infinitum.
We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself [this is the basis of AA's principle of self-diagnosis. Each individual decides for themselves on the basis of their OWN experience and their OWN judgement whether they are alcoholic or not. NO member has to provide evidence of this or in any way 'qualify' themselves in order to participate in AA. That is THEIR business!] Step over to the nearest bar-room and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition [in other words direct experience is usually the deciding factor when it comes to taking Step One – not study (of the Big Book or for that matter any other text) or bare cognition].
Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time. We have heard of a few instances where people, who showed definite signs of alcoholism, were able to stop for a long period because of an overpowering desire to do so. Here is one.
A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree drinking. He was very nervous in the morning after these bouts and quieted himself with more liquor. He was ambitious to succeed in business, but saw that he would get nowhere if he drank at all. Once he started, he had no control whatever. He made up his mind that until he had been successful in business and had retired, he would not touch another drop. An exceptional man, he remained bone dry for twenty-five years and retired at the age of fifty-five, after a successful and happy business career. Then he fell victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has [therefore implicitly not all] —that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men. Out came his carpet slippers and a bottle. In two months he was in a hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried to regulate his drinking for a while, making several trips to the hospital meantime. Then, gathering all his forces [ie. will-power], he attempted to stop altogether and found he could not. Every means of solving his problem which money could buy was at his disposal. Every attempt failed. Though a robust man at retirement, he went to pieces quickly and was dead within four years.
This case contains a powerful lesson. Most of us have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could thereafter drink normally. But here is a man who at fifty-five years found he was just where he had left off at thirty. We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again: “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’’ [ie. chronic alcoholism] Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever. If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.
Young people may be encouraged by this man’s experience to think that they can stop, as he did, on their own will power. We doubt if many of them can do it, because none will really want to stop, and hardly one of them, because of the peculiar mental twist [delusional state] already acquired, will find he can win out. Several of our crowd, men of thirty or less, had been drinking only a few years, but they found themselves as helpless as those who had been drinking twenty years.
To be gravely affected, one does not necessarily have to drink a long time nor take the quantities some of us have. This is particularly true of women. Potential female alcoholics often turn into the real thing and are gone beyond recall in a few years. Certain drinkers, who would be greatly insulted if called alcoholics, are astonished at their inability to stop. We, who are familiar with the symptoms, see large numbers of potential alcoholics among young people everywhere. But try and get them to see it!*
As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking many years beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him try leaving liquor alone for one year. If he is a real alcoholic and very far advanced, there is scant chance of success. In the early days of our drinking we occasionally remained sober for a year or more, becoming serious drinkers again later. Though you may be able to stop for a considerable period, you may yet be a potential alcoholic [ie. progressing towards the chronic condition]. We think few, to whom this book will appeal, can stay dry anything like a year. Some will be drunk the day after making their resolutions; most of them within a few weeks.
For those who are unable to drink moderately the question is how to stop altogether. We are assuming, of course, that the reader desires to stop [a key feature of recovery – alcoholics generally cannot be persuaded to stop or for that matter compelled – even by other AA members would you believe! Employing AA parlance they have to reach their own 'rock bottom']. Whether such a person can quit upon a non-spiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not [this might be considered a rather contentious statement depending on one's definition of the term “spiritual”. It is already evident that agnostic/atheist/secular members can get and remain sober without any kind of belief in God. The term “spiritual” (a somewhat vague concept at the best of times) clearly is not necessarily synonymous with any kind of adherence to a theistic religion]. Many of us felt that we had plenty of character. There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible . This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it—this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish [from this it may be seen that until an alcoholic has developed the necessary experience-based insight into his or her own condition they will not stop drinking].
How then shall we help our readers determine, to their own satisfaction [NOT someone else's!], whether they are one of us? The experiment of quitting for a period of time will be helpful, but we think we can render an even greater service to alcoholic sufferers and perhaps to the medical fraternity. So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.
* True when this book was first published. But a 2003 U.S./Canada membership survey showed about one-fifth of A.A.’s were thirty and under.”
Note: the frequent repetition of the word "control"
Coming next – Chapter 3 More About Alcoholism
The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)