A friend of mine loves to tell the story of how he first came to AA. He had heard that AA helps with drinking and he had first come to the room to seek a way to continue his drinking safely. He could not believe that AA even had sponsors. He figured: “Great! I’ll learn how to drink and I’ll get someone to pay for it as well!”
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous makes a differentiation between:
- The moderate drinker – The one that could take it or leave it
- The hard drinker – The one that should stop or moderate
- The real alcoholic – The one that is without defense against the first drink.
But my God! The book never wrote anything about the whining that alcoholics can do!! So many people come to the meetings of AA wanting to believe they are hard drinkers and not alcoholics. Worse thing is that most of the whining takes place by alcoholics who, for some reason or another, wish they can someday drink again like ‘normal’ people.
Here is a few examples of what can be heard:
- I miss my friends. We used to meet over a few drinks for Happy Hour and now I have to give that up.
- I use alcohol to wind down after a stressful day at work. It helps me to relax and calm down again.
- My girlfriend drinks.
- I won’t be able to go to any social gatherings anymore.
The list never seems to end….
What is amusing is to notice how the speaker can go on and on but never really listens to him- or herself! They may start with a reasonable story and somewhere in the middle of it all they are very convincing to everyone in the room, except themselves, that they are exactly where they are supposed to be.
Alcohol is either justified or blamed so often for our own shortcomings. There are so many other ways and methods to deal with stress. Those with a belief can find them in faith, those with no belief can find relief through nature, sport and physical activity. Allowing others to justify your own addiction is also typical alcoholic behavior. Either you can be at peace with your environment and not feel hounded by the alcohol around you or you can always find a safer environment to place yourself at. And those that won’t wish to be with you cannot be considered your friends anyway. Trust me, I believe my family would rather not have me at their wedding party than have me there drunk.
The Big Book suggests the person who is unsure of him- or herself to try some controlled drinking when in doubt. This tool is used to remove any doubt and helps to illustrate how the mind of the alcoholic is powerless when it comes to drinking. Psychologists today at times also use the same tool. They ask someone with a drinking problem to record, or chart, their drinking pattern. This is not done for the psychologist to gather any data, it is used to teach the clients how they have started to use alcohol as a crutch throughout the day. A crutch which needs to be replaced by something else. If alcohol didn’t really matter to you one way or another you would not be sitting across your shrink to start off with.
Many of us, however, seem to find in these exercises a ray of hope that somehow, or someday, we might be able to resume our drinking again.
“The Wolves Within”
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story.
I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
That wolf inside, calling me out to drink, will continue to live for as long I keep on feeding it. Unfortunately the wolf doesn’t only get fed by us, sometimes we can observe others feeding harm in others to benefit themselves. Some therapists, for example, are actively recruiting candidates with promises of being able to drink normal through techniques and coping skills. If I need to learn special skills to make me able to drink less than I would really like to, I need to seriously ask myself: “Why Bother?” Would it not be so much easier to find a way not to be trapped by drink for once and for all? Morally it is the equivalent of choosing to give someone fish every single day for the rest of my life rather than teaching them to fish. This therapist will forever keep the client captive, never able to let go completely of that which has caused so much harm. The wolf, my obsession, will always be kept alive this way and will be waiting for the right moment, when I am weakened, to overtake me and bring me down on my knees again.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”