The Illusion and the Bull-Droppings
We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
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. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)
I have been pondering this idea for a couple of weeks in the midst of several encounters with people struggling with alcohol/drug challenges who insist that the alcohol/drugs are not the problem.
Many of these encounters were conversations I was not directly involved in, but were taking place in a way that I was allowed to observe or I simply was not noticed.
As I watched these conversations I kept thinking to myself: “If it is such a small thing to you, that you can take it or leave it, why don’t you just stop, just in case you are wrong?”
Then the word “delusion” from the preceding passage had new meaning to me that a definition cannot truly capture.
The cases I was observing were extreme cases where extreme cases where there were things like physical problems associated with excessive alcohol/drug use, history of excessive problems like arrest, violence, public and family embarrassment, spouse and family distress and complaining and on and on.
All of the people I witnessed had some level of functionality and thought they were managing their use. I suppose in terms of the clinical idea of “harm reduction” these people are not nearly as bad off as they could be and their ideas of “managing” their alcohol/drug use have yielded some change in their amount of use.
The challenge I was noticing with these particular situations is that there were other people who had both past and more importantly present problems related to alcohol/drug use.
This is not always a perfect measure of ones using as the people around us as alcoholics/addicts could just be messed-up too and as such be just vomiting their crazy on us as we try to get better, but as I listened to these particular situations, I had to say that the basic points the friends and family in each situation were making sounded like valid concerns. The problems they mentioned sounded like valid and immediate problems.
Then I remembered a couple of concepts that I was told in my recovery that I found to be key:
“I am not the right person to determine how good or bad my using is or my recovery is going”
“One of the first indicators that I am getting out of control or that I am out of control is that my using begins to bother others around me.”
“The self-diagnosis that I have it all under control is a part of the sickness of being an alcoholic/addict.”
“Lying to myself and others is a major part of the sickness and one of the biggest obstacles to recovering.”
These key concepts as a backdrop change the way I would have the same conversations if I was the person who was using. If my relatives, friends, spouse, children, parents, etc. say that my drinking is starting to concern them, I have to assume that that is true, because I HAVE PROVEN THAT I AM NOT CAPABLE OF JUDGING IF I AM MANAGING ALCOHOL/DRUG USE MYSELF (one of the reasons I simply don’t use at all and plan to never drink alcohol or use drugs again). I would be forced to respond as if it is a proven fact and stop, assuming that my drinking/using is at least a major part of the problem(s) if not the source all together.
This brings me back to a story I have used a few times here in different posts that I think has to be considered in this conversation:
Our behavior is as absurd and incomprehensible with respect to the first drink as that of an individual with a passion, say, for jay-walking. He gets a thrill out of skipping in front of fast-moving vehicles. He enjoys himself for a few years in spite of friendly warnings. Up to this point you would label him as a foolish chap having queer ideas of fun. Luck then deserts him and he is slightly injured several times in succession. You would expect him, if he were normal, to cut it out. Presently he is hit again and this time has a fractured skull. Within a week after leaving the hospital a fast-moving trolley car breaks his arm. He tells you he has decided to stop jay-walking for good, but in a few weeks he breaks both legs.
On through the years this conduct continues, accompanied by his continual promises to be careful or to keep off the streets altogether. Finally, he can no longer work, his wife gets a divorce and he is held up to ridicule. He tries every known means to get the jay-walking idea out of his head. He shuts himself up in an asylum, hoping to mend his ways. But the day he comes out he races in front of a fire engine, which breaks his back. Such a man would be crazy, wouldn’t he?
You may think our illustration is too ridiculous. But is it? We, who have been through the wringer, have to admit if we substituted alcoholism for jay-walking, the illustration would fit us exactly. However intelligent we may have been in other respects, where alcohol has been involved, we have been strangely insane. It’s strong language – but isn’t it true? (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 37 – 38)
As I listened to these various conversations, I had to ask myself a huge question: “At what point does a person have to face the fact that their efforts at managing alcohol/drug use are failing and look at stopping altogether?”
When each person I listened to was planning their efforts at managing alcohol/drug use their mind allowed them “set the bar” at “As long as annihilation of my entire world has not happened ALREADY, I am doing a good job of managing.”
The conversations I overheard involved ideas such as divorce, death and other terrible occurrences in a way that sounded imminent. The persons in question seemed to feel that as long as they could make some kind of argument that either shut the worried person(s) up or that made some other problem seem like a bigger problem alcoholism/using can be taken off of the table completely.
To be completely honest, the best way I can describe the conversations I was hearing is to LOOSELY quote an old saying that many of us have heard:
“IF YOU CAN’T DAZZLE THEM WITH BRILLIANCE, BAFFLE THEM WITH BULL-DROPPINGS!”
The conversations sounded like one person grasping at every straw imaginable, and using every trick in the book to avoid one possible conclusion at all costs. That conclusion is the one that says: “My alcohol/drug use is a part of and possibly the source of this problem.”
I have come up with a new concept that may be a general rule for all of us:
If you have to argue, discuss, debate or otherwise convince others that your drinking/using is not a problem then it most likely is a very serious problem!
I believe there are people who are not as advanced as I was who can moderate or stop drinking/using with a little guidance, but I also believe there are those of us so far advanced that there is no longer a safe amount of alcohol/drugs we can use ever. Those of us in the second category seem to often believe ourselves to be in the first category and this is what is known as “The Great Obsession”.
Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)
If you are not sure where you stand and others are concerned, I would advise assuming the worst and seeking treatment that will help you learn to stop using alcohol/drugs all together. It would seem considerably better for a few people who could have moderated to stop completely then for several people who might have been saved to absolutely destroy their own lives and possibly even die thinking they are “moderating”.
Stay sober my friends,