Sober since April 6, 2006


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Battle Against the First Drink

Alcoholism is a battle against taking "the first drink".

From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

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 that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better (30).

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 nonalcoholic. 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. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people! (31)

We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom 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 (31-32).

What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink? Friends who have reasoned with him after a spree which has brought him to the point of divorce or bankruptcy are mystified when he walks directly into a saloon. Why does he? Of what is he thinking? (35)

Whatever the precise definition of the word may be, we call this plain insanity. How can such a lack of proportion, of the ability to think straight, be called anything else? (37)

But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge (39).

The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power (43).

"Normal" people can take a first drink, and stop halfway through. They can walk away from a beer or a glass of wine that is only halfway consumed -- and think nothing of it. They can walk away and never give a second thought to the remaining contents of that glass. Normal people can do that. Alcoholics cannot. An alcoholic would AGONIZE over leaving anything behind -- it is the ultimate torture.

Once a tiny bit of alcohol reaches alcoholic blood, it unleashes a true "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" transformation. The alcoholic loses all control.

For an alcoholic, that first drink is symbolic of jumping off a cliff: once I jump, I will fall until I hit the ground. I cannot "control" my fall -- I am powerless over gravity. In the same way as an alcoholic, I am powerless over alcohol. And once I take that first drink, I will lose control over my alcohol consumption, and I will drink until physically incapacitated.

To make matters more complicated, the alcoholic mind is bent on denying the facts. Right now as I write this, I know that I can never take even a tiny sip of alcohol. If I do, I will lose control of my drinking and I will "fall" until I hit rock bottom. But in a few hours (or even minutes), vivid thoughts of enjoying a glass of wine will fill my thinking. I will smell it, taste it, and even feel the rush from the alcohol through my veins. I will begin to feel that I can control my drinking this time, and I will seriously consider drinking. I will devise plans and excuses to make that drink possible. My mind will obsess over it until I arrive at an emotional breaking point.

That's precisely why they say that alcoholism is a mental illness -- a type of insanity. Regardless of what I know to be true, I will convince myself otherwise. It's only by the grace of God that I abstain from alcohol. If left to my own devices, I will drink today.
The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power (43).

I am unable to stay sober on my own power. Even with everything I know about alcoholism -- my mind will inevitably twist it, and I will fall again.

I hear in AA that we must begin and end every single day on our knees in prayer. We begin the day asking God to keep us sober, and we end the day by thanking Him for keeping us sober. And the more that I practice this, the more I see how vital it is.

Every sober day is a true miracle. It's a battle that has been won with God's help. I'm grateful to have that help available to me today.

1 comment:

amy j. said...

Thank you for expressing my feelings so succinctly!
I have been stuck (in and out) on the first 3 steps for 4 years now and it is true. This is all stuff I knew, but it always helps to hear outside of my own head. I am always trying to minimize my lack of control over alcohol and it is totally insane the crap my brain will come up with to justify taking just one drink. At least, by this time, I can say that "just one drink" always sounds like a lie to me now.
I hope you continue with this blog when you are ready.