Crazy Talk, The Great Obsession
Unlike most of our crowd, I did not get over my craving for liquor much during the first two and one-half years of abstinence. It was almost always with me. But at no time have I been anywhere near yielding. I used to get terribly upset when I saw my friends drink and knew I could not, but I schooled myself to believe that though I once had the same privilege, I had abused it so frightfully that it was withdrawn. So it doesn’t behoove me to squawk about it for, after all, nobody ever had to throw me down and pour liquor down my throat. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 181)
For some of us who are in recovery this rings very true to each one of us. For others of us who suffer with these kinds of cravings, we are not familiar with the idea because our cravings are disguised as what we believe to be logical thoughts.
In other words some of us are having deep cravings to relapse but we keep telling ourselves that the “crazy-talk” going on inside our head is really sensible reasoning. Thoughts like:
“That person uses and seems to be doing fine, I just need to use like them.”
“If I change to _______ it is not what I normally use so it doesn’t count.”
“I cannot handle life like this; I just need a little to mellow out.”
“I cannot handle life like this; I just need a little to help me focus.”
These and similar thoughts are the proverbial “devil on your shoulder” trying to talk you into self destructive craziness. Anytime we find ourselves listening to that voice or pondering what it has to say, you are well into the kind of cravings we are describing here.
For some of those around us, we may even seem to be more fun or somehow better when using. These people may even try to help us find reasons or ways that we can use safely. They become (whether knowingly or unknowingly) the voice of the devil on our shoulder. Look at this passage:
He enjoys drinking. It stirs his imagination. His friends feel closer over a highball. Perhaps you enjoy drinking with him yourself when he doesn’t go too far. You have passed happy evenings together chatting and drinking before your fire. Perhaps you both like parties which would be dull without liquor. We have enjoyed such evenings ourselves; we had a good time. We know all about liquor as a social lubricant. Some, but not all of us, think it has its advantages when reasonably used. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 110)
The fact is, if you find yourself in recovery, in jail, in a hospital due to your using, being told by recovery or psychological professionals that you have an alcohol/drug problem, you have legal, social or family problems that others tell you are because of your using etc. you can never safely use.
All of the ways we looked at before that disguise the craving or if you are just fighting an obvious craving, the focal point is should not be what the reasons, reasoning or feelings are to use. The focal point is one question: Can I ever use safely?
Let’s focus on the idea of comparing ourselves to other people that use and seem to still function reasonably or who in some cases seem to function perfectly. There are many reasons a person could give why this may just be appearances or that these people are only functional in some ways etc., but these arguments have little to do with the real point that is being missed. It doesn’t matter if that person is the smartest rocket scientist on the planet who smokes crack for breakfast, drinks moonshine for lunch, shoots heroin for dinner and is a tenured university professor in the evenings while smoking methamphetamines during class breaks. That is them! The point is you are not that person.
This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)
All of this is tied to Step 1 of any Twelve Step program:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)
Part of recognizing that you are powerless is the idea that you are not like that person or any other person: YOU ARE YOU! EITHER IT IS SAFE FOR YOU TO USE OR IT IS NOT! No matter what you see others doing, no matter what ideas you can come up with that make this time or this way different, no matter what someone else is telling you makes it safe for you; EITHER IT IS SAFE FOR YOU TO USE OR IT IS NOT!
Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 31)
Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of our kind like other men. We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30– 31)
All of us at this level of using have a problem: WE ARE DRAWN TO BEING INTOXICATED. We have a particular way of getting there and type of “high” that we prefer (A.K.A. our drug of choice) but our true love is the “high”. There are different reasons, and different preferences, but we have one thing in common: the deep, compulsive desire to be intoxicated.
Whenever we give in and use something that can get us intoxicated we are in terrible trouble. No matter what the reason, no matter who else can do what with no problem, no matter if it is your preferred “high” or not, no matter if it is strong as what you usually drink/use and on and on. In recovery a key rule to remember is: YOU ARE EITHER SOBER OR YOU ARE NOT! There is no “kinda sober” or “partially sober” or “almost sober”: EITHER YOU ARE OR YOU ARE NOT SOBER.
If you are at the more advanced levels of alcoholism/addiction then any time that you are under the assumption that you can control your desperate desire to be intoxicated you are convincing yourself of a lie. That is a complete breakdown of Step One in your recovery.
In the original Twelve Step materials (the Alcoholics Anonymous book) the authors described this as “The Great Obsession”:
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)
This terminology is a great description. The word obsession is defined at Dictionary.com in these ways (Obsession @ Dictionay.com):
- the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
- psychiatry – a persistent idea or impulse that continually forces its way into consciousness, often associated with anxiety and mental illness
- Compulsive preoccupation with an idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.
- A compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion.
The big persistent idea that continually forces itself into your consciousness and dominates your thoughts is the ridiculous illusion that there will be some way to use that will somehow not be destructive to you.
I had some discussions today about things like drinking when that is not your “drug of choice” and how smoking marijuana is not destructive like other intoxicating substances so it should not count (“after all you don’t hear about people killing people on marijuana…”). It is not the various arguments that are the sign of a problem or the truth/lack of truth of the arguments that is the problem: it is the fact that a person in recovery is having to try to justify some reason for getting high that is the evidence of a problem. If it really wasn’t a problem then first off you would not be in recovery, discussing recovery, etc. Second if these things were really a problem than the obvious thing to do, considering that several people who call themselves experts say it might be a huge risk, if you could really take whatever or leave it would be to leave it all alone just because it is too much risk with too little to gain. (Yet many of us can find the small group of people and experts who have some theory that you can somehow use safely and we run to that with desperation and a sense of relief – another sign of a problem).
I love the arguments for marijuana. The question I always ask is what would you do if all the marijuana you smoked had no THC and did not get you intoxicated at all. Most people hate that idea at the core of their pot smoking beings. The real reason almost all people use marijuana is to get a high. If you are an alcoholic/addict in recovery then that is the worst possible scenario. Picture a recovery program with classes all day and group sessions at night and all of the people there are drunk and high. It might be quite entertaining, but probably not really productive.
The real problem here is not if some people can drink/use safely, the real question is if you can drink/use safely. If you are in recovery the answer is NO! The point is to stop using and you want part of your recovery to be using. You can’t love Mary-Jane, Capt. Morgan, and recovery at the same time.
If other people can use safely then that’s good for them; YOU AIN’T THEM! It’s you that cannot use safely. Even the need to argue about what you can use and not use is a part of the craving and the insanity that we all need to be free of.
Stay Sober My Friends…