Self-knowledge is NOT the Cure!!!

Self-knowledge is NOT the Cure!!!

That may be true of certain nonalcoholic people who, though drinking foolishly and heavily at the present time, are able to stop or moderate, because their brains and bodies have not been damaged as ours were. But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 39)

Looking at this passage the first thing we have to consider is that there are different groups described here.  There is one group all of this discussion is going to apply to and one this does not apply to.

There is the group who can stop using and actually not go back and there is the group who cannot stop without going back to using.

Now, before you feel relieved and tell yourself you are in the “can stop” group, let’s look a little deeper. 

Picture sitting with me at a bar or if you are more comfortable watching a reality show about alcoholics and addicts and I am this weeks star who is sitting in a bar.  Everyone is having a good time, but I am drinking heavily.  The bartender says something to me about my daily drinking and how I am overdoing it now.  The bartender then suggests that I may actually be an alcoholic.  I tell the bartender I am in complete control and in complete control of my alcohol use.  I then suggest to the bartender that I can prove it.  I am going to stop right now and pour ot the rest of my drink.  Five minutes later, I say, “See I can stop whenever I want to and don’t have to go back.”  Then I proceed to order another drink.  Have I really proven to anyone that I am in total control and not an addict?  

What I am getting at is that if you have periods of sobriety and then returns to using, it is probable that you DO NOT have control of your using and you probably are an addict/alcoholic.  Quitting for a week, a day, a month, six months or a year or two is not really quitting:  THAT IS TAKING A BREAK!

If you are in the “unable to stop” group or the “think I am able to stop, but just realized I only take breaks” group then this passage is written to you.  Those who can stop completely are not as far along as us or are somehow different than us and that has to be okay with us.  They are different than me and I am absolutely not one of them.  This reality is a huge part of the Step One experience.

For those that can stop PERMANENTLY whenever they want there simply has to be a strong enough reason for them to stop.  For them just information might be the cure.  This is the kind of person who when someone mentions that he or she might have a big problem, they never use again.  The kind that the first time that he or she is arrested or is almost arrested while he or she is using decides to quit altogether and never uses again.  The kind of person who the first time he or she notices that he or she gives less attention to his or her child when using quits completely and permanently.  For this kind of person just telling him or her that their using is causing a problem in an understandable way will bring about complete abstinence.

If that is not true of you, then it is likely that no amount of showing or telling you about the way that using destroys you, the lives of those around and destroys everything you care about eventually will make you stop for too long if it can stop you at all.

“Self-knowledge” will not be enough to keep someone like us sober.  That is who this passage is written for and in fact all of the Twelve Step materials.

The bottom line:  Information, in and of itself will not keep you sober.  The information is only as powerful as the amount of changing it causes in your life.  The Information is one of MANY tools that can be used in the process of change, but hearing and retaining information about alcoholism, addiction and about recovery will not keep you sober just because you heard it or heard and remembered it. 

No amount of information will keep you sober.  Either you are different or you are the same.  If you are the same, then you will get the same results.  If you are different, then you will get different results.  That includes being the same and knowing more stuff.  If you are pretty much the same except for knowing a bunch of recovery stuff.  You will do the same except for knowing a bunch of recovery stuff.  You may end up as a high or drunk person with a little more guilt because of the information you now have.

I say this because – – – well, as you read this, you can clearly see that I am in the information business.  What I am not is under the delusion that reading and memorizing this stuff will somehow magically make you sober as if I was writing a magic spell book that you can read and get better.  Nor is the alcoholics anonymous a spell book as such.  As a matter of fact, no recovery information is the MAGIC CURE. 

Information and education are a big part of the recovery process, but all of the information you take in MUST be an instrument of change or it is just more stuff padding the inside of your head to keep your ears from falling inward.

The knowledge is not the cure, you must somehow be changed completely by the knowledge you take in.  After all; either you are different or you are the same.  If you are the same it is reasonable to expect the same results.

3 thoughts on “Self-knowledge is NOT the Cure!!!”

  1. This makes a lot of sense, but if the internal change is the key, then how does the change occur? Do you wait for the higher power to “gift you” with a changed soul? Do you make the correct decision to quit, and then hope the higher power affects the change needed to stay in that good decision? This almost sounds like just trying harder or taking a break. Unless something materially changes your character or your soul, why wouldn’t you eventually just go back? It’s almost as if spiritual salvation is similar to addiction recovery. Unless you ultimately decide to trust God (faith), then you are not saved. But even if you make the intellectual decision, the actual process of being saved is completely done by God.

    1. Thanks for commenting and for your questions, I hope something I can say or do can be of some help or plant some seed that betters your quality of life and recovery.
      I have listed some posts that are also on this blog that I think might address some of your questions in some detail….
      Am I Willing To Let Go
      Recovery: Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude
      The 4 Necessary Discussions for Recovery – (The 4 Flat Tires)
      Is Your Recovery Pointless? What is the Point?
      The “Decision” to Take Step 3
      Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 1)
      Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 2)

      Many of the things you ask are awesome questions that were simply not addressed as part of this particular topic, but I think were at least somewhat discussed in the links I have listed above.
      About your specific questions:

      Do you wait for the higher power to “gift you” with a changed soul?

      – As a starting point I suppose YES (kinda) – think of the Christian concepts of salvation and sanctification. Salvation is specifically about eternity and “Judgment Day” (fire insurance) while sanctification is about growing in connection to God between Salvation and your death. Look at the dictionary definition of sanctification:
      b: the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion
      – Acceptance is access to sanctifying power but sanctification is a cooperative process runon God power. Both salvation and sanctification are gifts. Sanctification is the gift of the process of growing in divine grace.

      Do you make the correct decision to quit, and then hope the higher power affects the change needed to stay in that good decision?

      – NO. That is like a person praying for God to help them get a job then never leaving the house waiting for the employer to come knock on the door. It is not that that cannot happen; it is just not how God normally does things. He normally expects you to go put in applications and participate in Job interviews etc. with the faith that he has divinely empowered you to get jobs you normally would not get.
      – IN recovery it is not that God couldn’t “fairy dust” people sober, but normally there is a process of growth that ultimately makes them more useful in helping others through a similar process.

      It’s almost as if spiritual salvation is similar to addiction recovery.

      – Relative to and in light of my previous comments, YES, Very Much so.

      Unless you ultimately decide to trust God (faith), then you are not saved. But even if you make the intellectual decision, the actual process of being saved is completely done by God.

      – Much like the process of saving (from “Judgment Day” – fire insurance) is done by God, the Christian concept of “sanctification” is that it is God’s power that we allow to flow through us into the loves of others. This is what leads to change.

      I think (hope) I might have explained with just enough complexity to be understandable and only be a little confusing, I hope that something in all of that was helpful. I dare not make it all any more complicated sounding.

      Thanks again for the questions and comments…
      WADE H.

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