Just “not drinking” is not sufficient to bring about a recovery from alcoholism. If it was, Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” in the 1980’s would have eliminated alcoholism. Alcoholism is a physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady
The alcoholic’s relationship with alcohol is bizarre when he drinks. This is especially true when he drinks with sufficient evidence to show him he shouldn’t drink ( a drunk driving arrest, a failed relationship, the non voluntary termination of employment). The drinker’s relationship with alcohol goes from “fun” to “fun with problems” and the drinker doesn’t see it. The disease is marked with rationalization and justification. He explains the problems and he believes his explanation.
The alcoholic’s relationship with alcohol is equally as bizarre when he isn’t drinking. He is restless, irritable and discontent. He doesn’t feel as though his skin fits. He feels strangely different than his peers. He feels less than or better than everyone in his life. He is certain all of these uncomfortable feelings will dissipate if he takes a drink of alcohol because that has been his experience time and time again. The mental obsession is the thought that there is nothing a drink can’t fix in spite of the growing negative consequences.
It seems the alcoholic is hopelessly doomed to live the alcoholic life. He can drink with a momentary reprieve followed by still worse consequences or he can not drink knowing he will have to drink again. To him it seems there is no reprieve. This might be true if it weren’t for the third leg of the disease. Alcoholism is also a spiritual malady. “Spiritual”, something in the fiber of the alcoholic is broken. The alcoholic lacks the tools to form partnerships with other human beings. His predominant character traits are selfish, self centered, dishonest and full of fear and at the same time he may exhibit a charm that encourages friends and family.
The spiritual malady is where the 12 steps in the 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous focus. As such, there will be talk of spiritual things.
The new man or woman, seemingly rebuffed at the thought of spirituality, may instantly begin verbalizing their inability to believe in a God. They may begin citing examples of where religious people have committed grievous offenses. This is another example of the mental obsession arm of the disease. The mental obsession will provide the alcoholic with reason after reason after reason for why a way of life free of beverage alcohol is not available to him or even desired by him.
Picture a man lost and wandering in the desert for four days. The average temperature is 104 degrees and the man has had no water for three days. He is dehydrated and literally dying of thirst. He is approached by another man who offers him a hot cup of coffee. His reply, without even taking the cup, “how will hot coffee possible be beneficial? Hot coffee is not what I need, I need water.”
Alcoholism acts in the same way when the alcoholic is approached by a spiritual solution. Doomed to continue to live in the despair and hopelessness of alcoholism, the alcoholic will challenge a spiritual solution with no better reason then the dying man denies a drink of hot coffee in the desert.
At its core a spiritual solution simply involves helping others. There is something inherently good in the feeling that follows helping others. The smallest acts of holding a door open for a stranger, giving up the parking space in the parking lot, smiling and saying, “good morning” as you pass a stranger seems to impact every human being at a spiritual level.
“Spiritual level”, just what does that mean?
There are a thousand definitions of spiritual. Each more complicated than the next. Simply put “spiritual” is a process of reforming the personality. The alcoholic is selfish, self centered, and grandiose. All of his thoughts and actions are viewed in terms of how they impact or benefit him. Coupled with the alcoholic’s low self esteem, sense of unworthiness, feeling of a mysterious “something” is wrong with me, the personality of the alcoholic demands something to relieve the discomfort. He turns to alcohol unaware that alcohol is no longer a solution. At some point in his drinking it turned from fun to fun and problems and is currently primarily only bringing problems. And yet, he will drink with little or no thought of the choice he is making but suggest a reformation of the personality and the same man will dig his heels in and demand another solution.
Addressing the physical allergy and the mental obsession involved eliminating the use of alcohol. Without alcohol there’s a scream building, the nerves don’t seem to end at the skin, everything is amplified and sped up and confinement to an institution is beginning to seem a preferable solution. Is it preferable to be labeled insane rather than to accept spiritual principles?
For those wrestling with this question, a man approaches and offers a hot cup of coffee to quench the thirst. A few will take the cup and take a sip.
The spiritual solution is a course of action which will reform the personality through the use of tools designed primarily to help develop lasting relationships between men and women.
Men and women who are essentially made up of stories learned as small children. The alcoholic’s stories all seem to have one of four themes: I am not good enough, there is something terribly wrong with me, there is a hole in me that the wind blows through, if you knew me you wouldn’t like me.
The spiritual solution to recovery takes a look at those stories and allows exposure of the selfishness, the self centered and self seeking motives, the dishonesty and the fear that is enmeshed in every story. Once the truth of each story is seen through adult eyes, other people involved in the story can be let off the hook and new stories can be written free of selfish, self seeking, self centered and dishonest motives.
By addressing alcoholism as a physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady, we learn to enjoy a cup of hot coffee in the desert.
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