XXVIII-XXX The Dr's Opinion (Why we drink)

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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XXVIII-XXX The Dr's Opinion (Why we drink)

Post by Karl R »

Good Morning,

I've posted more from the Dr's second letter in The Doctor's Opinion.

Thanks to all who have shared their ES & H here as well as those who have shared their experience in the BB and AA History. Your shares help everyone who reads.

The doctor starts in with a statement that 'frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices' to turn us around. This was true in my case. My wife and kids made several emotional appeals to me to quit without success. It was only when another alcoholic appealed to me with depth and weight that alcoholism was deadly serious did I think about recreating my life.

The Doctor continues with the fact that the AA message as the original 100 worked it (a one-on-one altruistic solution) contributed more to rehabilitation then anything else tried in the 30's.

The third paragraph describes why we drink. In my case, I faced a choice of my own every night when I came home-to take that first drink of the night. I made the same insane choice every night with predictably uncontrollable results. The choice to have that first drink, precipitated by my mental obsession, was followed by 8 more drinks nightly spurred on by my physical craving and allergy. My self will was only capable of making the same insane choice every night. It was only when I reconnected with a HP and gave up my will in the matter that the mental obsession was removed.

Other's ES & H regarding mental obsession, physical craving, and spiritual change as regards why we drink? Please share.

The doctor continues with the idea that after we connect with a HP's control rather then our own self-will all we need to do to stay sober is follow a few simple rules. Wallk the steps as outlined in the BB and pass it along.

Other's ES & H regarding simple rules to being recovered alcholics? Please share.

The doctor concludes with the idea that recovery is not a matter of our own mental control. In my brief experience my own self will and mental control were not enough to stay sober. I needed to tap into a power beyond my own self will.

Other's ES & H with their own power and a HP? Please share.

The doctor closes today's passage with the thought that this business of recovery is deadly serious.

In peace,
Karl

Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives.

If any feel that as psychiatrists directing a hospital for alcoholics we appear somewhat sentimental, let them stand with us a while on the firing line, see the tragedies, the despairing wives, the little children; let the solving of these problems become a part of their daily work, and even of their sleeping moments, and the most cynical will not wonder that we have accepted and encouraged this movement. We feel, after many years of experience, that we have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabilitation of these men than the altruistic movement now growing up among them.

Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.

Men have cried out to me in sincere and despairing appeal: “Doctor, I cannot go on like this! I have everything to live for! I must stop, but I cannot! You must help me!’’

Faced with this problem, if a doctor is honest with himself, he must sometimes feel his own inadequacy. Although he gives all that is in him, it often is not enough. One feels that something more than human power is needed to produce the essential psychic change. Though the aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole. Many types do not respond to the ordinary psychological approach.

I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely a problem of mental control. I have had many men who had, for example, worked a period of months on some problem or business deal which was to be settled on a certain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.

There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather than continue to fight.
Last edited by Karl R on Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:00 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Post by jak »

Thanks Karl
There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather than continue to fight.
The ‘situations which (arose) out of the phenomenon of craving’ in my ‘last days of heavy drinking’ were leading me to "the supreme sacrifice". I was restless, irritable and discontented even when drunk. I had tried a psychologist. I had tried religion. I had tried will power to be good and right. I had tried control. I had tried treatment and AA meetings. I had tried drugs without alcohol.

Soon after each new attempt came the obsession for the first drink. Immediately during the first drink came the craving for more. Followed at once by the downward spiral of degradation and dysfunction.

I had not ‘tried’ suicide. I had seen it faked. Phony ‘attempts’ just to get attention and manipulate. But on my last drunk, I wanted to die. I wanted the hassle to end.

I picked a drunken fight with a person who had once cut me during a drunken fight. I challenged a duel with knives. She would not take the challenge. She called for help. Help came in the middle of the night. A sober AA member. He put the knives in his car and sat with us. We laid out a plan. I followed that plan. I joined AA rather than just ‘trying meetings’.


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fighting

Post by Karl R »

Thanks jim,

I know about fighting-not with knives and such but my wife and I spent the last 10 years or so screaming at each other and throwing things. Proof of God's power is that it is now peaceful in our family. It may be an uneasy temporary truce because she wants ammends NOW and for me to talk about issues NOW but so far my wife is patiently waiting until I'm ready. More proof of God's power. My job is to get ready by working the steps and listen for God to tell me it's time for ammends and relationship rebuilding.

cheers,
Karl
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Post by Paul N »

ES & H regarding mental obsession, physical craving, and spiritual change as regards why we drink? Please share.
The obsession for me wasn't only tied to the drink, it was to convince others that alcohol wasn't the problem, they were. When alone in that deep down place that I could never escape from, came the knowledge that I couldn't drink any more, without getting drunk. My spiritual health was fairly simple. I grew up being taught certain things through a particular religious faith. I focused only on the gloom & doom of what I had been taught and was convinced that God as I understood Him then, had no use for me as I had no use for Him.
ES & H regarding simple rules to being recovered alcholics? Please share.
The word "recovered" eluded me for the first number of years in being sober. I had seen & heard the word but then became confused with the fact that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. It wasn't until a number of years later, that I learned the word "recovered", is in terms of the seemingly hopeless state of mind & body. In regards to the few simple rules, it was clear & made sense right away ... to change my life, I'd have to work the steps. What used to be so cliche' back then (in the way I interpreted that) has become the very core of what I am and continue to want to be.
ES & H with their own power and a HP? Please share.
I ran for years in this program chastising my religious faith and the way I was raised. Ebby took that excuse away based upon his talk with Bill in the kitchen. That too took a number of years to realize. Ironically, my relationship today with God, is no different than what I was raised around or with. Everything doesn't have to fit perfectly in a box, if that makes sense. In the old Paul, that was a must.

The less I fight, the more I win. The more I surrender, the more I gain. I can't stay sober alone. Without God and other AA's, I'll repeat the mistakes of my past.
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Re: August 24, 2008 BB The Dr's Opinion pp xviii-xxx

Post by Blue Moon »

Karl R wrote: I faced a choice of my own every night when I came home-to take that first drink of the night
It's surely an oxymoron in AA to state "powerless over alcohol" followed by "I choose not to take that first drink".

Whenever I have a choice, I am not powerless.

Chapter 3 sums it up pretty well - "Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defence 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".

If I always had a choice in whether or not to drink, then I was never powerless over alcohol, never needed a Higher Power, therefore never needed to work any Steps, and certainly never needed any meetings. All I ever needed to do was very simple:

Just Don't Drink.

But....... if a person doesn't always have a choice, without a solution the "Just Don't Drink" mantra is doomed to eventually fail.

Silkworth's essay goes into the "what happens when an alcoholic drinks". But he can draw little conclusion about why an alcoholic drinks in the first place, aside from observation - "men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol". He observes that these people were "restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks".

But as Silkworth was not alcoholic, he had very little first-hand insight into the inner workings of a sober alcoholic's mind preceding the first drink. He observed the "restless, irritable and discontent" from an external perspective, and also observed that alcohol offered almost instant relief from that agitated state.

If you're "restless, irritable and discontent" to such an extent, and alcohol is the only workable relief on offer, there is no choice - you have to drink. For an alcoholic, sometimes life becomes more threatened by not drinking.
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Post by jujub »

i remember the first time i read "restless, irritable and discontented"--it was september 1989. someone had finally put into words what i had not been able to identify. it was truly a description of me.

unfortunately it still is, and the ease and comfort alcohol afforded me is becoming more and more elusive. it simply does not work anymore despite my attempts to entice my old friend into behaving.

whether it is a manipulation, a cry for help, whatever...suicide has become more and more of an palatable option. the images torture me at times. i try to hide from them, don't want to be an attention seeker. but the relief i have sought from alcohol is failing me. tom petty's song, free falling is never far from my awareness--"i just want to leave this world for awhile". and from another artist--"the peace you say is promised me seems too much to comprehend"

why is it i can only find myself in the words of others? probably not a question for this forum. i need the solution...

judi
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Post by avaneesh912 »

yes. that is exactly what we need to recover from. booze was a solution to us. understand the powerlessness, believe that there is a power greater than ourself and get on with the program. you will get a relief quickly.
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 ann2 »

jujub wrote: why is it i can only find myself in the words of others? probably not a question for this forum. i need the solution...
I think that question is relevant to A.A. and recovery.I need someone else to share in order for me to understand myself because . . . you know, I don't think there's one true answer. The best one I can come up with is . . . because I hear my higher power through other people. Me resisting my higher power is obvious when I am fighting what someone else is saying to me. And when I give myself permission to relax and accept the good things other say -- especially say from my sponsor, that's the hardest for me to accept -- I know my higher power is talking.

It upsets me still, but I am after all only human and at least it's not a burning bush.

Ann
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Post by Karl R »

Yes--relief is what we're after. I didn't realize how much relief I had gotten from the depression and hopelessness of my drinking days until the other day when the thought popped into my mind that "everything was going to be all right" and I really truly feel fine today-there is nothing negative that I have created today and I haven't felt hopeless once in the last 70 days since a friend asked me "what may I do to help". I about fell out of the tractor seat with that stark realization (I know-it seems mundane to oldtimers but bear with me).

Our program is not about intellectual play in our minds. It's not about friendship. It's about getting some relief in our own head so we can move on with a new life to be helpful once again to those that cross our path.
God does work miracles-I know because I'm one of them.

So---that being said----how do we find relief?

Start here---we can't ever ever ever ever ever drink even one drop. I know where that got me. For the rest of the process to work I had to have a clear mind and the thought that when I quit I had quit forever.

Next---I had to examine what being powerless over alcohol meant to me--we are all powerless in slightly different ways. For me it was the bit about a daily mental obsession to drink followed by a physical craving to drink more followed by unpredicatable results. Every day I thoughtlessly came home from work and had that first beer. It was followed by my body sending me to the fridge for more until I fell asleep, ran out of beer and was unable to get more, or...in the last couple years-blacked out.

Next---I had to examine briefly the unmanageable things in my life. It was just enough to look at stuff and say--"that's unmanageable" Examining all the negative stuff in detail can come later. The point is to really and truly accept that alcohol has made our life chaotic, we have been the manager of our life (no one else) and we haven't been doing such a swell job.

Next---I had to think about the concept that since I hadn't been doing such a swell job of managing my life---is there a "who" or a "what" that could help me with that job of managing my life. This part doesn't say I have to fully develop what that "who or what" is just yet. Leave that for another day.

That's how I started to get relief.

in peace and relief today and every day,
Karl
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Post by Blue Moon »

jujub wrote: unfortunately it still is, and the ease and comfort alcohol afforded me is becoming more and more elusive. it simply does not work anymore despite my attempts to entice my old friend into behaving.
That's end-stage alcoholism. When all alibis are exhausted, when even alcohol no longer seems to work, when the only escape on offer is to drink ourselves to sleep only to wake up again.

Suicide tends to become a very real danger for the alcoholic in this situation. It seems that nothing else worked. Hell, even AA seemed to be hopeless. If AA could have convinced me that if I carried on drinking I'd be dead within a week, I'd have carried on drinking.

The only real concern I had with suicide at that time was that it might not work. Perhaps fear of failure saved my life. I was no longer afraid of dying, but I was terrified of living. I had this picture of waking up, and being "diagnosed" in a locked ward for the next 6 months.

From within that mire of despair, we need to find some glimmer of willingness to do what only the dying can do.

Trust? Forget about it :!: My trust had gone into alcohol and f***ed up relationships, and look where that got me! I was on skid row, feeling that guys living under a bridge in a cardboard box were better off. From that position how could I know I can trust AA, God, or anything else? No, after all I'd said, done and thought, if any "loving God" really existed he'd want nothing to do with me!

Yet here I am, over 8 years later, sober. So I guess something went right. Sometimes I wish life could be even better, but it's very important to get these occasional reminders of how it used to be, that I never need go back to that place again. So thank you for being here, and maybe if you stick around you'll get better too :)
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Post by jujub »

thanks for your comments ann, karl and ian.

especially related to you, ian. like you, if someone told me today that if i drank i'd be dead in a week, my reaction would be--thank god, finally!!! and i'd haul my ass to the nearest liquor store. i've always been afraid of death, but the fear and disgust of living as i am is beginning to trump that. the terror of living without alcohol is worse still.

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Post by ann2 »

Oj, if only I could be dead within the week if I picked up again. I sure wouldn't want to live through the years and decades of horror that my picking up would mean. I mean, if I tried to drink and stay alive at the same time. If I tried to drink and die from it, I know that the end would still take years and be utterly gruesome.

I know this because of listening to experiences of people who have made 12th step calls to people who have blood coming out of every pore, waste on their clothes, no food in their fridge, nothing but the continual desire to drink. People who have lived this way for years. Yes, eventually they die, but alcoholism had to torture them first. For a long, long time.

I also got to watch my father lose his soul over the final years. He started falling a lot and hurting himself. Finally one night he fell out of bed and my mother didn't do anything about it because she was so used to it. The next morning, well, that was the last time he fell out of bed.

yeah, we have our rosy ideas about slipping off into never-never land comforted by our friend booze. I am convinced, because of what I've heard in meetings, that this illusion never happens. We suffer horribly and can do nothing about it except continue to poison ourselves.

Not to mention the possibility of killing or maiming others while drinking. How about living with that? I know people who do. I pay close attention to things like that, because I hope that I never have to find out.

Ann
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Post by jujub »

hi everyone,

my assignment is to answer the questions karl poses. so, here is what i know. (or don't know :? )

my mind tells me it's ok to drink--one more time, no one will know, i'll get sober tomorrow, it's inevitable, i'm one of the constitutionally incapable, what's the use, blah, blah, blah...

once i start i don't EVER stop until i've blacked out and passed out. the next day is consumed with manipulations to clear my calendar so that i can drink again in peace. and when the day comes when i'm too sick to drink, i realize for the umpteenth time that i can not stop. so i'd drink anyway, throw it up, and try again. and again and again and again.

i know i can't get me to stop. i don't have a clear idea of what can. but i know i went to 2 meetings today, got on my knees and asked something for help, spoke with other alcoholics, and i will go to bed sober. what got me to the end of the day without drinking? i don't care. but i'm thankful. maybe those are the actions that constitute the simple "rules" for being in recovery. sorry, but i don't buy into the "recovered" theory. that has not been my experience.

i have volumes of experience in determining the fatality of my own power and will. certainly in failing to get or maintain sobriety, but really in every area of my life. failure in relationships, failure in thinking i know what is best for me, failures professionally, failures in my physical well being, failure at being a good daughter, friend, partner, etc...

the strange thing is my will failed me again a little over a week ago. i was intoxicated, under the influence of drugs, and sitting in my garage with my car running, dogs at my side, and some insanely sad somebody done somebody wrong song in my ears. for once i wasn't afraid to die, in fact i was at the place of welcoming the permanent relief it promised. i remember little, but i know it was a real peaceful sleep. for some reason i was startled awake and i got my dogs and myself back into the house. i believe my will failed me, and the will of some greater good took over. i don't understand that power--i drank again a few days later. but since that last drunk, the most recent failures, i have seen things i haven't seen in eons.

it started the night i saw that shooting star. a glimmer of hope. there was something out there bigger than me, and maybe that something was interested in my life. and i became interested in it. i find it very difficult to put into words...all i know is my self will has failed miserably and thankfully. but there IS something bigger and better, more pure. i hope you guys understand what i'm trying to say. maybe i'm letting go of my preconceived ideas of "god"--for something i can believe in and trust. it is available to little old me--because of and in spite of my failures. there is so much to learn. i'm awed by the largeness of life. the life i've been trying to blot out for so long. today was a good day...

thanks for listening to my ramblings--
judi, alcoholic
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Post by Karl R »

I'm glad you had a good day Judi.

I'll 'see' you here tomorrow. I'll be sober and I know you will be too.
Beyond that..... I guess we'll work on it with the rest of the people here tomorrow.

I've got to let the dogs out before I go to bed. I'm glad you have dogs. I now know something about you. Anyone with a dog has to be okay.

have a great night,
Karl
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Post by Karl R »

This statement from the good doctor rings like a bell to me tonight.

"I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely a problem of mental control."

I had no mental control over alcohol. Having succumbed to the mental obsession to take that first drink, thinking, to escape, it was off to the races. Being an alcoholic, the physical craving kicked in and control was lost. It wasn't about escape anymore it was about trying to satisfy and impossible to satisfy craving.

Grateful to be sober tonight and relieved of the obsession.

Karl
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