Driving down the street the car’s engine seemed to start sputtering. None of the lights on the dash board were on giving the driver any warning so he simply kept driving. A few miles later the car seemed to jerk a couple of times and then the engine shut off completely. Luckily the driver was able to coast to the side of the road. The driver knew very little about car engines. In fact, chances are, all he really knew was where it was located. He opened the hood and looked at it as though he knew what he was looking at. Fortunately he carried a tool kit in the trunk. He got it and went back to the engine.
Opening the tool kit, he only had one tool – a hammer. It was the only tool he ever used so it seemed pointless to fill the tool box with anything else. The truth is it was really the only tool he knew how to use. With precision he gently tapped on several different places on the engine. Completing the initial tapping he got back in to the car and tried to start the engine. Nothing happened. He went back to the engine, picked up the hammer and tapped a little harder. The car still did not start. He tapped even harder and still it wouldn’t start. Soon he was no longer gently tapping or really even paying much attention to the places he was slamming with the hammer. Nothing would start the car. Eventually he did so much damage he ended up beating the engine to death.
He called a towing service and the car was towed off the highway to a local automotive repair shop.
The next day the driver spoke to the mechanic who owned the shop. He had been able to diagnose the problem.
“The original problem,” the mechanic said, “was that you were out of gas. It will cost you about $1,400 for a new engine”.
There are many parallels between this story and the drinking of the alcoholic. The only tool the alcoholic carries is a bottle of beverage alcohol. When things go wrong the alcoholic drinks. The drinking does not resolve the problem. He drinks some more. The problem remains unaffected by the alcohol. The alcoholic drinks more. The situation is never remedied by alcohol and like the car engine, the alcoholic is figuratively beaten to death emotionally, physically and spiritually. The cost for this destruction is almost always high.
When there is reason to celebrate the alcoholic brings out beverage alcohol. It is still the only tool he carries in his tool kit. He takes a drink to celebrate and another and another until the celebration is somehow damaged by the drinker. Emotionally and spiritually many joyous celebrations are damaged and the costs to repair these damages are very high.
The alcoholic feels uncomfortable, less than and not a part of his family, his co workers, a group of friends and he turns to the only tool he ever uses, beverage alcohol. The alcoholic feels as though his skin doesn’t fit, he has social anxieties prior to entering a room full of people, he feels like a scream looking for a mouth and every nerve in his body feels as though it’s exposed. He reaches for his tool kit and there it is. The only tool he knows how to use. Beverage alcohol relieves every negative feeling until the day it doesn’t and he drinks more and more and more until everyone in his life has left and he knows a loneliness that carries a large price tag to rectify.
The same man walks in to Alcoholics Anonymous and is asked to surrender the only tool he has in his tool kit. He is told the tool kit will be filled with spiritual tools but he is uncertain of where he will get them and how he will use them once he has them. He becomes restless, irritable and uncertain.
The man will readily admit that the hammer was not the right tool for working on the engine of his car but he balks at accepting the idea that beverage alcohol has left powerlessness and unmanageability in its wake. He may resist the idea that anything is available to restore his life to any sense of normalcy and, if he does accept the idea, he will be skeptical about how that is going to look in this life. He will be hesitant to the concept of stepping back, looking at the engine of the car and admitting the hammer never had any positive affect. He may attempt rationalization in presenting an argument as to how the hammer might have worked had it been used slightly differently. He may make an effort to justify his action in pounding a little harder each time. He will certainly make an effort to deny any personal responsibility for the hammer’s ineffectiveness.
To convince the man that pounding on the engine of a car that’s out of gas will never be effective, the mechanic needs only present car after car after car that has run out of gas, filled up at a gas station and was able to keep driving. In the same manner, the alcoholic, sitting in rooms with other alcoholics, will eventually be unable to hold on to his doubt. He will witness other alcoholics and see that there are corrective actions that exceed his current experience and knowledge. He will agree that making himself available to those actions is truly in his best interest.
Returning the car with a new engine to our driver the mechanic hands him new tools for his tool kit. He now has a wrench, a screw driver and a pair of pliers to go along with the hammer. More importantly, the mechanic has included a business card with a schedule of regular services required to keep the car running, his phone number and the phone number of a local towing service should the man need a tow in the future.
The alcoholic has done very little and yet he opens his tool box and is surprised. His primary tool, beverage alcohol, is still there and will always be available for his use but now there are three other tools along with it. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are available to him. The tool kit also contains a schedule of regular activities required to keep the tools in working order along with a phone number of one of the many people who know how to use the tools and can show the drinker how to acquire additional ones. The growing tool kit will make the use of beverage alcohol unnecessary regardless of what life situations occur. There are also the numbers of additional persons who can be called should there be a need to be carried.
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