We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous describes the first step as follows:
Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. 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.
We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking.We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals - usually brief - were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better. Pg 30
Notice that they say We had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we are alcoholics! This is the first half of step one. They describe being an alcoholic as:In the preceding chapters you have learned something of alcoholism.We hope we have made clear the distinction between the alcoholic and the nonalcoholic. If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer. Pg 44
With a sincere desire to stop, I can't stay stopped for long. And once I start I have no idea when I'll stop, maybe weeks or months. I might be able to function in-between drinks long enough to go to work or some event, but as soon as I get some free time, I'm off to the races again. As my illness progresses once I start I have to be stopped. Either I pass out only to wake up and continue where I left off or I am physically stopped and dried out or detoxed by making it impossible for me to get to and consume alcohol. Whether or not I am an alcoholic has nothing to do with any circumstances that may happen because of my drinking! DUI's, lost wives, lost husbands, lost jobs, irate friends and family, my financial situation or where I live. These may be direct results of my actions but the only two factors that determine whether or not I am an alcoholic are: Can I quit for good when I want to, or once I start can I always control my drinking, when I really want to control it.
The second half of step one completes the illness of alcoholism.Not everyone that suffers from alcoholism is alcoholic, but every alcoholic suffers from alcoholism. More than half of the 100 men and women that took part in writing the book Alcoholics Anonymous suffered from what they see as alcoholism, but were not alcoholic. This part of the illness they called selfish and self-centered. It is this part of the illness that places us in the position of becoming alcoholic. Together they complete the spiritual malady. Let's talk about the main symptom of alcoholism as this is the one that brings the alcoholic to his or her knees, and leaves them open to the possibility of spiritual help: Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this was a tedious process; we hope no one else will be prejudiced for as long as some of us were. Pg48
In the Doctors Opinion the doctor suggests: We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; 3rd edition Pg xxvi / 4th edition Pg xxviii
Doctor Silkworth also describes several types of alcoholics with one symptom in common: All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence. 3rd edition Pg xxviii / 4th edition Pg xxx
Once we become alcoholic our bodies react differently than a normal person,(or one who is not alcoholic),when alcohol is introduced to the body. It is then that we develop the one symptom we all have in common or the phenomenon of craving. I am thirstier at closing time at the bar than I was when I walked in at 5pm. The doctor gives his explanation of why I drink and what happens when one who has become alcoholic stops for a time: Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks-drinks which they see others taking with impunity. 3rd edition Pgs xxvi-xxvii / 4th edition Pgs xxviii-xxix
As time goes on I can not even tell the difference between simple truths and lies. My whole being depends on my drinking and what I must do to get that drink, even convincing myself that a lie is true. Not only am I convinced that my drinking patterns are normal but I also am now drinking to feel normal or to be able to function in an every day normal situation, both physically and emotionally. When I stop for a time I am, as the situation dictates, restless, irritable or discontented until I can find a way to bring myself into a comfortable state of mind.: After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over... 3rd edition Pg xxvii / 4th edition Pg xxix
Most of the time this now involves having a few drinks. The problem now is I can not stop at a few! After the well known stages of a spree run it's course I know I have to stop this! I am never going to do this again, I'm tired of hurting the people that I care for by my drunken behavior or I'm just plain tired of what I am doing to myself. This may work for a time and then I am restless irritable or discontented, as the situation dictates, and it happens all over again.
Remember when they described the first step they concluded with: We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better. Pg 30
Over any considerable period DRUNK or SOBER, we get worse never better, if we are the type of alcoholic that they are. The type described in this book. Alcoholism as they see it. This is why it is important to see if I have what they suffered from. If I don't then I can find out what my problem really is and quit wasting my time with the drinking thing.
In the original manuscript right after the ABC's on page 60 it said: If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!
Alcoholism as they see it, what is described in the basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous!
We have briefly gone over the physical part of alcoholism or being alcoholic. There are those who do not suffer from the physical part of alcoholism because instead of turning to the drink or drug to bring themselves into a comfortable state of mind they turn to_________(fill in the blank). Their addiction to whatever behavior is no different than ours. It is just that we have found that the booze or drugs work for us. Some of us may have even substituted various things in the past for drinking but ultimately found that the drinks were more convenient and always did the trick. Of course the real work is done one on one, a recovered alcoholic working with an alcoholic who is in untreated alcoholism: But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished. That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured - these are the conditions we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again. Pgs 18-19
Now lets take a look at the role that our mind plays in being alcoholic. How come when I really want to I can't stay away from the first drink: For those who are unable to drink moderately the question is how to stop altogether. We are assuming, of course, that the reader desires to stop. Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not. Many of us felt that we had plenty of character. There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible. This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it - this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish. How then shall we help our readers determine, to their own satisfaction, whether they are one of us? The experiment of quitting for a period of time will be helpful, but we think we can render an even greater service to alcoholic sufferers and perhaps to the medical fraternity. So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink? Pgs 34-35
Also in How it Works they say: Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. Pgs 58-59
They describe this as the utter inability to leave it alone no matter how great the necessity or the wish. That is what is cunning, baffling and powerful! So the main or crux of the problem for the alcoholic is the mental state just before a relapse into drinking: At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected.
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. Pg 24
At a certain point in my drinking I cross over an imaginary line and I become alcoholic. Once I cross this line I can't go back and become non-alcoholic. Once this happens it is a fact, and no one knows why, I lose the abillity to say if or when I'll drink again. Most times my will power will not help me stay sober. All the pain and suffering that I went through and put others through during my last drunk dosen't even come to mind. As a human being I am without defense against the first drink.: The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.
The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's how!" Or perhaps he doesn't think at all. How often have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to ourselves, "For God's sake, how did I ever get started again?" Only to have that thought supplanted by "Well, I'll stop with the sixth drink." Or "What's the use anyhow?"
When this sort of thinking is fully established in an individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably placed himself beyond human aid... Pg 24
Knowing what will happen to me if I start with so much as one drink, knowing that I will probablly do something that I will regret. Not wanting to start again, I do! And then I covince myself that this time it will be different. Or I might as well just go for it, what the hell. Sometimes I think in the very back of my mind I shouldn't do this, but at times I don't even think at all. I just start!: In some circumstances we have gone out deliberately to get drunk, feeling ourselves justified by nervousness, anger, worry, depression, jealousy or the like. But even in this type of beginning we are obliged to admit that our justification for a spree was insanely insufficient in the light of what always happened. We now see that when we began to drink deliberately, instead of casually, there was little serious or effective thought during the period of premeditation of what the terrific consequences might be. Pg 37
Even when I say to myself that I'm going to do it up right because of ___________(fill in the blank), I don't think sanely about what might happen once I start and how this drunk will end up.
The basic text describes two different scenarios. One is Jim and the other one is Fred. The first thing that must be pointed out is that both Jim and Fred are having normal days. Jim is having a day where it seems that he may have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed so to speak. We all have days like this! Bill described them as certain trials and low spots: My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that. Pgs 14-15
With Jim it appears that he started a program of action and got to a point where he became comfortable and he stopped. He had the knowledge of what it was to be an alcoholic and yet: Here was the threat of commitment, the loss of family and position, to say nothing of that intense mental and physical suffering which drinking always caused him. He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk! Whatever the precise definition of the word may be, we call this plain insanity. How can such a lack of proportion, of the ability to think straight, be called anything else? You may think this an extreme case. To us it is not far-fetched, for this kind of thinking has been characteristic of every single one of us. We have sometimes reflected more than Jim did upon the consequences. But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened. Pg 36-37
When we read Jim's story we see that he vaguely thought he wasn't being too smart but that thought was easily pushed aside. He knew that he can't drink safely and he knew what happens when he starts. He knew that His family would not put up with his drinking because they were just brought back together. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain by drinking. You would think that things are looking up for Jim because he is sober, and yet he is off to the races again!: Some of you are thinking: "Yes, what you tell us is true, but it doesn't fully apply. We admit we have some of these symptoms, but we have not gone to the extremes you fellows did, nor are we likely to, for we understand ourselves so well after what you have told us that such things cannot happen again. We have not lost everything in life through drinking and we certainly do not intend to. Thanks for the information."
That may be true of certain nonalcoholic people who, though drinking foolishly and heavily at the present time, are able to stop or moderate, because their brains and bodies have not been damaged as ours were. But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience. Pgs 38-39
When we take a look at Fred he is not willing to admit that he has crossed the line and become alcoholic. He certainly is not willing to take a look at a spiritual way of life. With Fred he is having one of those days that we all wish we had more often, it seems like nothing could go wrong. He also is confident that he can quit drinking for good and he knows what he needs to do: I felt I had every right to be self-confident, that it would be only a matter of exercising my will power and keeping on guard. Pg 40
This is what Fred says about his spree: Not only had I been off guard, I had made no fight whatever against the first drink. This time I had not thought of the consequences at all. I had commenced to drink as carelessly as though the cocktails were ginger ale. I now remembered what my alcoholic friends had told me, how they prophesied that if I had an alcoholic mind, the time and place would come - I would drink again. They had said that though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow. Pg 41-42
For an alcoholic that is hopeless or chronic there are times that they describe as strange mental blank spots, that I am not able to keep myself from taking the first drink and starting the cycle in motion. As a human being I do not posess the power that is needed to bring myself out of the predicament that I have placed myself in. I don't have the power to fight off something that most times I can't even recognize.
In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for a time, but he usually winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have tried these methods. These attempts to do the impossible have always failed. Pg 101
I can fight the temptation to drink when I have the thought firmly planted in my mind. I can run to a meeting or call a sponor and that may succceed for a time. But if I have an alcoholic mind I will drink again, there will come a time that I will just pick up a drink setting off the allergy: They piled on me heaps of evidence to the effect that an alcoholic mentality, such as I had exhibited in Washington, was a hopeless condition. Pg 42
Now lets take a look at the second part of step one. That our lives had become unmanagable. When we begin to get honest with ourselves we see that our lives had always been unmanagable. I always seemed to be in control of situations and circumstances always fell into place right up to the point that I had no control over the outcome. For example: Have a date for Friday night. Made dinner reservations. Cleaned the car and washed it. Filled the tank. Got a hair cut, new jeans and a shirt. I have been thinking about her all week and I can't wait to get together.We talked often this week, I really like this girl. I make sure I have plenty of cash. Everything is falling right into place. Friday afternoon she has to cancel the date. I have no control over the outcome. Unmanagability.
I get up early and I leave the house much earlier than usual to get some extra work done at my job. Traffic is unbelievable and I am late for work. Unmanagability.
Some examples of the unmanagability of our lives are more complicated than others, but as we get honest we can see them everywhere. There are also times when everything just goes right according to plan. Everything is perfect. Sounds like Jim and Fred? This is what Bill said about this: Here was love, applause, war; moments sublime with intervals hilarious. I was part of life at last, and in the midst of the excitement I discovered liquor. Pg 1
As human beings our only desire is to be happy. Each individual has their own tastes, likes and dislikes. As I try to make myself happy I hurt others. As others try to make themselves happy they hurt me. Sometimes several people come together with common interests and other times we are all on different pages.: Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?
Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. Pg 62
It is in the middle of this that I discover that alcohol can bring me into a comfortable state of mind. When things are going good alcohol heightens my joy and when I have some rough going, alcohol smoothes things over. So now as I go through my day trying to make myself happy, and situations don't go as I would like them to, I begin to feel a range of emotions that often times are not the way I want to feel. At times I can be patient and bend alittle, other times I am pushed to the breaking point. This is when I begin to turn to alcohol to ease the situation. I might even begin to experiment with different behaviors as a tool to bring myself into a comfortable state of mind or manage my life. Sometimes I use alcohol to enable me to act out in different ways or behaviors. But for me I find that the alcohol seems to be the one thing that always seems to do the trick, when at times other things sometimes still leave me empty. After awile I begin to lose the ability to choose whether or not I am going to have a few drinks or get hammered. I may go on the wagon for awhile. Then I'm back at it. I may do this several times. I may just continue to drink although I am beginning to have unfavorable circumstances as a result of my actions. Finally I see that I have to stop drinking completely. I'm done forever. I need to get sober. This is where the book draws the line between the hard drinker and the alcoholic: Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason - ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor - becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.
But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink. Pg 20-21
Now I see that I need to get and stay sober! For some of us as a result of a particular circumstance I am pushed into AA.and I stay. I find it easy to get and stay sober by going to meetings and fellowship. For some of us that doesn't work. I try everything that I can and nothing seems to work so I come to Alcoholics Anonymous. For either type of drinker How I get here doesn't matter. Some by the way of detox or a treatment center and some just off the streets.What does matter is what happens next. I do get sober for a time, from a few days to a few years, but for the real alcoholic there is still this emptyness inside. Now lets see why. This brings us to the other symptoms of alcoholism as they see it.
The Basic Text tells us in several places that drinking is not my problem but it is one of the main symptoms: We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. Pg 19
Once confused and baffled by the seeming futility of existence, they show the underlying reasons why they were making heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question, they tell why living was so unsatisfactory. Pg 50-51
Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions. Pg 64
After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol. Pg 103
Let's take a look at why I,( the real alcoholic), has this emptyness when I get sober.The basic text calls some of the reasons the bedevilments: We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people Pg 52
We were having trouble with personal relationships. Most times I can't seem to get on the same page or wave length with people in my life. Whether this is family, friends or employees. They don't know where I am coming from and I don't know or want to know where they are coming from. This may also affect my sex life.
We couldn't control our emotional natures. Sometimes I am extremely happy and then for no apparent reason I am angry, frieghtened, uneasy, irritable, jealous, frustrated etc. I can't harness or control how I feel and I have no reason to be going through these different ranges of emotion.
We were a prey to misery and depression. Like a lion preying on it's victim, misery and depression come upon me suddenly and without provocation.
We couldn't make a living. This isn't saying that I can't hold jobs, although this may be true. Just getting up in the morning and going through my day has become a real chore. At times I find it almost impossible to deal with simple everyday tasks.
We had a feeling of uselessness. I feel like whatever I do has no good purpose and that my efforts to accomplish anything worthwhile are wasted. We were full of fear. Simple everyday worries are eating at me and seem to be tearing me up inside. They are becoming a constant battle for peace and serenity.
We were unhappy. With all these things going on I am restless, irritable and discontented.
We couldn't seem to be of real help to other people. I can't deal with my own problems let alone try to help others. Most times I try to avoid others if I know they are coming to me with their problems, I just want to be left alone.
The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear. Pg 145
These are all brought on by selfish and self-centered behavior or attempts to make myself happy. To be content. To be sober and at peace..
Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.
Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. Pg 64
This is a brief description of alcoholism as they see it. As a result of my life being unmanagable I use alcohol to help manage it and make life worth living. As I lose the ability to control the alcohol it brings a different kind of unmanagability into my life which affects me in a way that is now taking away everything that I have. My family, friends, job, health, living arrangements etc. So when I take alcohol out out of my life I now am faced with an emptiness that I have inside me that is tearing me up. I am torn between being sober and taking a few drinks. The lonliness and anxiety, fear, depression, anger, frustration. All these manifestations of self are killing me. I need something to ease the pain and fill the void. But I know what will happen if I drink. I now see that I am truely powerless to help myself and, if I am honest with myself, my own experience tells me that no one else can help me. As time goes on I get worse instead of better and I am sober.: If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort. Pgs 25-26
Blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could. This can be done by anything that brings me temporary relief when the symptoms are showing themseves. Here too we can________ fill in the blank. Calling sponsors and running to meetings and any of the 100s of slogans and sayings that I have heard at meetings. Anything short of spiritual help!
There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. Pg 25
If you can see in your own experiences that you do not have alcoholism as they see it, then you have made way too big a deal about the drinking thing and you need to find out what you are suffering from so you can address it.. If you have found that you really are not alcoholic but a hard drinker, that is certainly good news.
Either way please quit trying to help the real alcoholic because your advise and opinions are killing them.
If I can see in my own experiences that I have got alcoholism as they see it, then I am ready to take a look at step two.