PP 32-33 More about alcoholism (We can't drink normally)

The book Alcoholics Anonymous, aka The Big Book, is the basic text for the AA program of sobriety. "Alcoholics Anonymous" Copyright 2012 AAWS, Inc. All Rights, Reserved. Short excerpts used by permission of AAWS
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Karl R
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PP 32-33 More about alcoholism (We can't drink normally)

Post by Karl R » Sun Sep 21, 2008 5:47 am

Good Morning,

Yesterday's passage looked at the things we do to avoid the admission that yes indeed we are alcoholics.

I've posted today's below.

Today's passage points out that the disease of alcoholism is often progressive. No one with active alcoholism ever gets better over time we only get worse. I know in my case that process of getting worse was glacially slow over 26 years and veiled in a busy family life and busy career but indeed I did get to the place the author's speak of where I was powerless over alcohol.

Once we reach that stage of being powerless over alcohol what is the only thing we can do and what spirit do we have to do it in? (for a clue see the last paragraph) I've provided a nice virtual blueberry scone in honor of our readers from across the water as a virtual breakfast prize to whomever gives us the correct answer :lol:

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 - 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, 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." 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.
Last edited by Karl R on Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by dwelling » Sun Sep 21, 2008 9:22 am

Hi,
It seems that the man of thirty only suffered from half the dual edged sword of alcoholism when he stopped drinking (much like a lot of members of AA). When he started to drink, the phenomenon of craving took over and he had to drink because of the illness of the body. Yet, he was able to choose whether or not he would pick up that first drink. He used his willpower for 25 years to stay away from the first drink with success. He did not need a higher power to do so for him. But then he did pick up. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, over time it gets worse. Over time, when the disease is out of remission, we get sicker quicker. The man of thirty now was powerless over the first drink, he had to take it and could not stay away from the first drink now. He died.

So , was he truly powerless at thirty? He did not have the obsession plus allergy. Unfortunately there are a lot of AA members today who would not think that this man was indeed a real alcoholic or an alcoholic of our type because he did not possess both sides of the sword of alcoholism. Some members would even go so far as to claim that this man can't recover from alcoholism because he isn't an alcoholic! How absurd and sad.

What do you think?

dwelling, "Our men have sworn great solemn oaths that they were through drinking forever. We have believed them when no one else could or would. Then, in days, weeks, or months, a fresh outburst."

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Post by avaneesh912 » Sun Sep 21, 2008 10:09 am

The book does not talk about the mental state of this dude the 25 years. It just says he was bone dry. It does say he had a successful and happy business career. He could have been a miserable boss.

I am told this story was put to show the progressive nature of the disease.

"Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." 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.
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Post by Karl R » Sun Sep 21, 2008 11:21 am

"But here is a man who at fifty-five years found he was just where he had left off at thirty."

At age thirty he did the first part of the first step. He admitted he was powerless over alcohol at that time and place. He didn't do the second part of the first step and admit that his life was unmanageable-nor did he follow up with any subsequent steps listed in the BB. That's why he ended up dead of alcoholism.

"It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities."p. 85 BB

I know we haven't gotten there yet in this study(p. 85 that is) but he didn't pursue a vigorous spiritual program of action by working the steps. Our reprieve is only temporary but alcohol is subtle foe that is permanantly waiting in the wings.

in peace,
Karl

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Post by dwelling » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:47 pm

25 years is a long time to stay away from alcohol if one is powerless over it.

This man wasn't powerless at thirty, he used his willpower.

Yet he was alcoholic?

I understand the progression analogy used in this story, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic, but step one talks about being powerless over alcohol.

I suppose there are different " types" of alcoholics after all.

dwelling, "And now you know that he can stop if he will! Time after time, this apparent calamity has been a boon to us, for it opened up a path which led to the discovery of God. "

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Post by Karl R » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:57 pm

"Our reprieve is only temporary but alcohol is subtle foe that is permanantly waiting in the wings".

He had a very strange kind of powerlessness. He made a devil's bargain with a subtle foe. He had no power over the outcome 25 years later. He ended up dead.

He should have paid attention to the warning signs and taken care of the problem when he was a young man and he would have lived to a ripe old age. I regret that I ignored the warning signs as a young man-it would have saved a lot of wreckage.

in peace this evening,
Karl

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Post by Blue Moon » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:30 am

dwelling wrote:25 years is a long time to stay away from alcohol if one is powerless over it.

This man wasn't powerless at thirty, he used his willpower.

Yet he was alcoholic?
He had the allergy of the alcoholic, as do many who drink excessively.

But it seems he didn't have the mental obsession to the extent that he must drink, until later in life, for which only a psychic change can conquer. So, no, he wasn't powerless over alcohol at that age. He had the power of choice. As such, he would have had no reason to work AA's Steps (if they'd existed at the time).

Of course, by the time he drinks again his body has naturally aged, perhaps already damaged from his prior heavy drinking. He hasn't even taken the first part of Step 1, hasn't realised he can never drink safely. Even when healthy, the older body is less able to process alcohol. He drinks, the allergy kicks back in, and now he cannot stop. Now a full-blown alcoholic, he dies drunk.
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Post by jujub » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:53 am

morning everyone,

the only option i have with regard to my powerlessness over alcohol is to stop fighting my powerlessness over alcohol. give up the unending battle to control the results of my drinking. they obviously have not worked. but maybe this idea of not picking up the first drink will keep me sober. Brilliant!!! but i need the 12 steps to help me with the source of my problem--me, my attitudes, and my perceptions of where i fit in this world.

"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." my thinking has used this quote to justify continued drinking. i have never really wanted to stop drinking until i've stopped drinking. i've wanted the consequences to end and if i could've figured out a way to make that happen and continue to drink, i would have. i have a desire to not drink today. but that is only a result of not drinking for awhile and paying attention to the steps and my program of recovery. that's why i cringe when someone says, "maybe you're not ready". hell, if i waited until i was ready, i'd be dead--or at the very least still drunk.

judi, alcoholic

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Post by Karl R » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:26 am

Right Judi,

For me there seems to be no waiting. Each action in the steps presents another call for more action. If I wait I find myself getting irritable and discontent again. It's that bit about building an archway to freedom (BB p. 75). You have to build a strong foundation brick by brick and then the archway to freedom stone by stone. Then make a decision to walk through to freedom. All waiting does is postpone the freedom.

Now--that said--I am struggling to learn patience. Patience in amends and patience in externals such as family, job, and finances. But for me and what's inside of me---there is no waiting for freedom.

in peace,
Karl

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Post by Blue Moon » Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:05 am

If I'm powerless over alcohol, surely it's an oxymoron to then say "I choose not to pick up the first drink".

Some groups of folk in AA say this all the time - then wonder why they relapse. Usually, the answer offered is "didn't pray" or "didn't go to a meeting" or "didn't call a sponsor".

But by making such a statement, "I choose not to pick up the first drink", what's really being said is "I'm not really powerless over alcohol". To be powerless means to have no choice in the matter.

Curious how the first Step doesn't say "We admitted we were powerless over the consequences of alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable".

Lack of power is the alcoholic dilemma. Sometime ... somewhere ... somehow ... the memory of the misery and suffering of even a short time ago is but a dim one. "It wasn't so bad". "This time will be different". The discomfort of not drinking eases out the memory of the past.

At certain times, left to our old will-power, we are without effective mental defence against the first drink.

I once took a firm, fervent decision that I was not going to drink that day. I'm usually a pretty tough cookie when it comes to decisions - I can be slow to make one, but once I do I tend to grab on like a floppy-eared puppy tenaciously holding onto a worn slipper.

But on that day, within about half an hour I had a drink. Did I really want to drink? No. But at the time, and under the circumstances, it just somehow seemed sillier not to.

Step 1 means just this: if we do nothing else, sooner or later we who are alcoholic will drink again. And when we do, in our fevered minds it will (mostly) make perfect sense to do so!

The flip side also applies. Having taken and applied the 12 Steps in life, I am no longer powerless over alcohol. When it comes to alcohol, I've got more power than I know what to do with! New power came in, and so far has stayed despite those bumps in the road of life which, in a past lifetime, would have immediately had me sitting at a bar drowning my sorrows.

So yes, drunk or sober, I was powerless over alcohol. And I could be again if I stop doing what is appropriate to keep right-sized in my own head.

So if there's any choice involved, it's "I choose to do whatever I need to do for the purpose of sobriety today". Be it following the direction of whatever Step I'm on, or else turning my thoughts to someone I could help.

Of course, I need to not be drinking (or doing any of a bunch of other mind-altering stuff). We need to be physically separated from alcohol, perhaps with medical help. But AA's not about detoxing people, it's about staying and living sober.
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Post by jujub » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:27 pm

i think i do have a choice every day how i'm going to live it. if i'm choosing not to pick up a drink for that day, i need to follow that up with actions that allow the grace of a higher power to reach me. i too have made many decisions not to drink and ended up drunk a short time thereafter. alcohol owned every thought, feeling and behavior. a decision is just that--a decision. doesn't mean a whole lot unless i'm getting my feet moving and doing something for recovery--meetings, sharing my struggles, asking for the care of a hp, reading the literature, saying thanks, living my gratitude for not being a hopeless drunk today. left alone and inactive, i will find drinking a perfectly logical activity. without this program of action and a higher power--that ain't me--i'm doomed to repeat the past.

judi

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Post by ann2 » Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:56 am

I think the guy at 30 had a higher power -- his business. It took him through to step 3. I myself stayed sober on the first 3 steps for 17 years. Could probably have gone longer but you guys interfered :-)

His choice of a higher power was unfortunate, because it ended when his retirement came. No business, no higher power. No defense against the first drink.

I'm with Judi on this -- it's the follow up to my decision that counts. And I can take the actions that keep me away from the drink without even having the decision not to drink, and they still work.

Willpower isn't necessary a bad word. We need to exert our will daily in expressing forgiveness, in keeping silent, in taking the time to pray, in putting aside resentment. It just doesn't work on its own for an alcoholic trying not to drink.

Ann
"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada

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Post by avaneesh912 » Sat Nov 08, 2008 4:16 am

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.
=================================================

I guess its just semantic. Our book says we have lost the power of choice in drink. So all we strive to do is to stay hooked the the Power as you understand. And that will solve your problem.

On the will-power, under 11 step meditation:

How can I best serve Thee, Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: 9/21/08 BB More about alc. pp32-33 (we can't drink normally)

Post by Karl R » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:29 am

I just came back to this thread over a year after it starts. Remarkable in the descriptions of powerlessness here and in the carpet slipper story.

Something from the literature......

As Bill Sees It

"POWERLESS OVER ALCOHOL", p.283

I had gone steadily downhill, and on that day in 1934 I lay upstairs
in the hospital, knowing for the first time that I was utterly
hopeless.

Lois was downstairs, and Dr. Silkworth was trying in his gentle way to
tell her what was wrong with me and that I was hopeless. "But Bill has
a tremendous amount of will power," she said. "He has tried
desperately to get well. We have tried everything. Doctor, why can't
he stop?"

He explained that my drinking, once a habit, had become an obsession,
a true insanity that condemned me to drink against my will.

********************************

"In the late stages of our drinking, the will to resist has fled. Yet
when we admit complete defeat and when we become entirely ready
to try A.A. principles, our obsession leaves us and we enter a new
dimension-freedom under God as we understand Him."

1. A.A. COMES OF AGE, p. 52
2. LETTER, 1966

__________________________

cheers,
Karl

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Re: PP 32-33 More about alcoholism (We can't drink normally)

Post by leejosepho » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:46 am

Looking back just a bit:

"If hundreds of experiences have shown [the alcoholic] that one drink means another debacle with all its attendant suffering and humiliation, why is it he takes that one drink? Why can't he stay on the water wagon? What has become of the common sense and will power that he still sometimes displays with respect to other matters?" (page 22)

There are two places in A.A. literature where Bill does his very best to cover every possible issue or nuance that could trip someone up and possibly keep him or her from achieving permanent recovery. He does that in relation to Step Two in "We Agnostics" (Chapter Four) and in our 12&12, and he does that is relation to Step One right here in Chapter Three.

Bill begins:
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 ... (page 32)

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! (pages 33-34)
The matter of it being "obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit" (12&12, Step One) others of us also is part of what Bill is doing here, but he is actually trying to help all of us see self-knowledge (of our physical "allergy") is not going to keep us from drinking ... and that is because of the mental part of our alcoholism:
We have heard of a few instances where people, who showed definite signs of [the physical part of] alcoholism, were able to stop for a long period because of an overpowering [mental] desire to do so. Here is one.
A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree drinking ... [and ultimately] fell victim to a [mental] belief which practically every alcoholic has - that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had [physically] qualified him to drink as other men.
All of that is addressing a mental issue, not a physical one, and Bill is trying to help us see abstinence does not fix either. No matter how long any one of us might be able to "Don't drink", the "alcoholic mind" (page 41) is still there just as surely as our physical allergy awaits its next opportunity to drag us into yet another episode of "pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization." (page 30)

Looking at that example again:
A man of thirty [remained bone dry for twenty-five years] ... [falling] victim to a [mental] belief ... that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men ... 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. (emphasis added)
Bill is addressing the first of various kinds of "alcoholic thinking" that can take people like us back to drinking, and he is doing so in hopes of our taking Step One completely:
If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking [mental] notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.
=======================
"We A.A.s do not *stay* away from drinking [one day at a
time] -- we *grow* away from drinking [one day at a time]."
("Lois Remembers", page 168, quoting Bill, emphasis added)
=======================

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