Update: This is a post from another blog. I migrated it to this blog because it’s an important part of my story. This was posted just over three years before I fully surrendered and accepted that I am an alcoholic.
Sunday night, I had a relatively long conversation with a friend about my drinking. My friend has been sober for quite some time after coming to the realization that he was an alcoholic. He told me that I was doing a good thing by taking some time off and offered that there might be some good in exploring A. A.
I admit that I’m highly resistant to the idea of A. A. for a number of reasons. First, I’m not sure that I’m an alcoholic. I do understand that many alcoholics are also unsure or unwilling to admit to the disease. I’m also keenly aware that there are people who have a habit of heavy drinking who are not physiologically addicted to alcohol. These people are generally classified as problem drinkers rather than alcoholics.
Secondly, as I have reviewed materials publicly available on the A. A. site and as I understand them, A. A. has a strong basis in religion and I’m not entirely comfortable with this. Six of the twelve steps make reference either to a higher power or God (Source: This is A.A. An Introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program):
- Step 2 “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
- Step 3 “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”
- Step 5 “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
- Step 6 “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
- Step 7 “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
- Step 11 “Sought through prayer and mediation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to cary that out.
I’m sure that there are other benefits to the program, but frankly, I am not a man of strong faith. I am a firm believer in Free Will and personal responsibility. I cannot accept that a higher power is responsible for the direction of my life. As such, it seems very unlikely that I can rationalize working on this problem within the confines of the AA program.
Still, after talking with my friend, the I have not ruled A. A. out. He shared his story with me before asking to hear mine and he told me how A. A. is helping him. I know that the program has benefitted millions of people since it was started in 1935.
I truly appreciate him calling, in fact he was one of the first people to call me about this and that says something, because while we are definitely friends, we don’t particularly know each other well having only known each other for about five years.
My friend also recommended a book, Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism, which I ordered immediately from Amazon in paperback (my iPhone didn’t show it as a kindle book, but I found that it was available on kindle the next day – so I bought it twice).
The book was written in the 1980s, and so at first glance it might appear to be dated (it refers to BAL rather than the more modern BAC), but it is a fascinating read that discusses the science of how the body reacts to and processed Alcohol. I’m about a quarter through it at this point and looking forward to getting through the whole book.
In particular, there is a chapter dedicated to the discussion of problem drinking versus alcoholism. I’ll be very curious to read this and see if it informs me more about my own situation.
I can say that I’ve not had any significant withdraw symptoms. In the first three days, I had two migraines, but have been migraine free since then. At least one of those migraines can be attributed to a nightmare scenario at work. I have had the urge to have a beer at the end of the day, but this hasn’t been a compulsion or an overwhelming craving – and I have beer and bourbon (as well as other less desirable choices) in the house. So, if I really wanted to have a drink, it wouldn’t be that difficult.
Thus far, I have maintained true to my conviction to fast from alcohol. I set an arbitrary number of 30 days in the beginning because a month seemed like a goal that was not too short, but not to long and had meaning. Having said that, I am no longer counting down the days to my next drink – rather, I’m counting down to the day when I will decide what my next step will be.
It may be to have a drink, or it may be to keep going. I’ll decide that when the time comes.
10 responses to “An Important Call and an Update”
Do what feels right to you. It’s obvious that you have a worry about your drinking, so lay off for a while. I don’t think you could be classified as an alcoholic since there is still easily accessible alcohol and you’re not compelled to drink it. I don’t think alcoholics have that level of control–especially after a stressful situation like you had at work.
As far as AA… It seems that you are doing well without it. I have the same issues with anything faith-based. My higher power is me, my mind, and my sense of ethics. If you need support, talk to your friend in AA, other friends, or family (hell, even I might suffice in a pinch.)
Stay strong, brother.
Thanks Jim. I’m thinking that things are going well. Keeping my options open and appreciate all the support from all my friends. Any of my brothers would “do in a pinch” — some might not give me great advice, but I’m sure you don’t fall in that group.
So we never talked about this, but I attended NA (follows the AA model), and what I came to realize after some time is that all the people I was talking to had simply replaced the need to get high with the need to attend meetings. Now, obviously, one is less destructive than the other, but it’s still not healthy. And, as you say, the program essentially, at it’s core, requires that you accept their religion. You don’t have to call it god, but it is very much a religion. But it should also be noted that I didn’t find it all bad. One thing often discussed was the need to change one’s thinking and ways of both approaching, and of dealing with, all the crap that happens as a matter of course. In the end, I took some lessons from them, but realized that whether I wanted to be high or not was up to me. And nothing else, no religion, no number of meetings, no anything, was going to change that, and so I had to fully embrace responsibility for my actions. That was well over 20 years ago. I’m still sober. Weird, but sober.
In the end though, you have to decide what’s right for you, as no one can tell you what the right path is. But whatever you decide, I wish you success.
Thanks Rob. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been sober for 20 years. That’s awesome!
[…] any rate, while I have maintained that I’ve not suffered any major withdraw symptoms over the past two weeks, I’m conceeding that my irritability is likely a sign of […]
I have been reading a blog by Holly Whitaker called Hip Sobriety and listening to a podcast she co-hosts called HOME. She has a major problem with AA as a modality and with the lack of options regarding recovery, in general. One of her concerns regards step one when it refers to life being “unmanageable” as it turns away so many people that may not have “hit bottom” or consider themselves alcoholics, but do have very valid. albeit, different levels of concern regarding their drinking.
I find AA helpful, but totally understand those who don’t. I also don’t think there’s one right way to get and stay sober. AA will not be my only path. It’ll be one of many tools I use to stay sober.
Holly and Laura are great. They are excellent resources. There are many paths up the mountain. If you find the right group you’ll find that there can be many paths within the fellowship as well – a lot depends on the groups in your area and who you chose to work with as a sponsor.
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I was lucky and found a great AA home group from my very first meeting. I haven’t gotten a sponsor yet. I think some of that has to do with my shyness and difficulty reaching out. BUT…I know I need to leave my comfort zone and I’m working on it. 🙂
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That’s fantastic! Having a great group to be comfortable with is so important. I completely get how intimidating asking someone to be your sponsor can feel. It took me 11 months to work up the nerve to ask the man who is my present sponsor. Many chairpersons will help you find a “temporary” sponsor if you’d like. I worked with a “temporary” sponsor for 11 months – We didn’t get very far in the steps, but he is a good friend and it was important to have him to call on many occasions. I guess what I’m suggesting is don’t get too wrapped around the axle – just make sure you have someone who you can call when you need to .
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[…] this because I’d spent a long time resisting facets of the recovery culture that I perceived as overtly religious. The references to God in the steps were off-putting. I struggled with them and they were a huge […]