Imagine opening the door in what appears to be a very large banquet. The banquet room is filled with tables and tables and tables of food. There is every kind of food possible and more of it than imaginable.
There is a man sitting in that banquet room in the middle of all that food. He is consuming all the aromas but the plate in front of him is empty. He appears to be starving.
It is easy to see the problem. He has long wooden spoons tied to each hand. The spoons are just a little too long. The man cannot get the food to his mouth. He is indeed sitting amongst plenty and starving.
You are in Alcoholics Anonymous and you are happy about it. You listen to people tell stories of their lives becoming amazing. Their friends and coworkers are noticing that “something is different about them”. Their wives are beginning to trust them. Their husbands aren’t questioning every move they make. They are enjoying spending time with their parents. Jokes seem funny again.
This is what you hear the people in AA refer to as the “spiritual life”. It’s what you want. You plan to come back to another meeting.
The other clients in your Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) are beginning to uncover what seem like very hard truths about themselves. They seem to have confidence in their counselors and case managers. You have always felt as though there was something terribly wrong with you. You have believed that if people really got to know you, they wouldn’t like you. You have remained guarded and protective. You haven’t let people get close. You are certain the other clients in this group do not feel this way. You’ll come to another group to listen and find out.
Alcoholism is a subtle foe. The laughter, the promise of friendship, respect from family members and co-workers, regaining trust and healing shame and inadequacy are some of the many “foods” on the banquet table. Alcoholism ties the long wooden spoons on your arms.
You begin to judge the people in Alcoholics Anonymous. You are smarter than the majority of them. You have been to college, you have two degrees. You have a better job and you drive a nicer car than most of them. You hear the word “God” and although members quickly point out it’s simply a “higher power of your understanding”, you want to argue more because the meeting is often closed with a Christian prayer. You have done nothing more than listen to stories in AA meetings and your alcoholism has begun to wake up. It is awake just enough to deny its existence. It ties the wooden spoons to your hands and it hopes that you won’t hear enough to identify to your innermost self the true nature of your malady. You are the man in the banquet room. You are in the middle of the solution to your lack of power with alcohol and you cannot access it. Alcoholism does not want to lose its grip.
If IOP and/or Alcoholics Anonymous are not for you, simply stop attending. There is no need to make them wrong, ineffective or negligent. If you were referred to AA, go back to the referral source, the court, your boss, a parent, a spouse and tell them you attended AA. Do not say you “tried” AA because you didn’t. You simply sat in the room with long wooden spoons tied to your arms. You could not get the food to your mouth. Tell them simply, AA is not for you. Tell them you are prepared to accept the consequence they presented at the time the choice to attend AA was offered. If you went to Alcoholics Anonymous with no nudge, simply stop attending.
The non alcoholic who gets arrested for driving under the influence after leaving a wedding where he drank a little too much and is invited to attend Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings as a part of the consequences for that arrest will attend open meetings. He will sit quietly and listen. He will not put up a fuss about “God” or prayers. He will have no need to convince anyone that he is not an alcoholic. He will attend accepting his attendance as the consequence of choosing to drive after drinking. But not so with the alcoholic who puts up a fuss and claims the court is forcing him to believe in specific religious practices. He claims his rights are being violated. What he is not verbalizing is that Alcoholics Anonymous was one of two or more choices he was offered. He chose Alcoholics Anonymous.
Why the severe reaction? Alcoholism hides in self righteous indignation. It hides in the ego. It hides in self centered fear. Alcoholism manifests in rationalization, justification and denial.
The man who has an obsession to drink alcohol and a reaction when he does, a reaction that sets up the phenomena of craving that says he must drink again, that man is desperate to maintain his right to drink alcohol in spite of the evidence that says he should not drink.
What should that man do? Perhaps he should do what the man in the banquet room sitting in the middle of all that food did. He noticed he was not alone in that room. The room was filled with other people. All the people had spoons tied to their hands and they couldn’t eat either. He looked closer and realized they were the people in that AA meeting and they were all happy, full and content because one man was taking a spoon full of food and feeding the man next to him and he was feeding the woman across the table. One man feeding another. One woman feeding someone else. Let someone feed you and then turn and give a spoonful of food to someone else.
Can it be that easy? I believe so. Stop fighting and simply enjoy. Do what the people who seem happy have done. Do not simply “go to AA”, “do AA”.
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