Q&A

the other day, i wrote a post about my reaction to reading an article about alcoholism in the chicago tribune. i wrote the author to express my opinions about the subject, and there was a really great dicussion/question session in the comments. i wanted to definitely get around to addressing this, but it just took me some time

first of all, i *did* get a response from mr. witt, which follows —

Dear Ms. Geboy,
Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. I regret that I had neither the time nor the space in my story to more fully describe the AA program, which I know has been successful for many people. The next time I return to this topic, I will be happy to contact you to gain your very valuable perspective.
Regards,
Howard Witt

Howard Witt
Southwest Bureau Chief
Chicago Tribune
Houston, TX

glad that he responded and he was cordial, but i don’t like the answer that basically he didn’t have time to do good reporting. nice..

now to the reader comments:

I haven’t read the article yet, but you make some compelling points. If it’s cool with you, a couple thoughts to pick your brain with…

Question: if people drink or drug for the mental “relief”, and over time they end up filling that with what they’re supposed to – self-fulfillment, spirituality, whatever the case may be, but DON’T have the physical addiction of cravings, are they still considered an alcoholic/addict? Do you have to have both?

In my mind, there are 2 veins of issues going on. Some people fully believe it’s genetic, and some people poo-poo that idea. To me, the likelihood of having a physical craving/biochemical reaction of cravings is more likely to be genetic.

The spiritual part seems to be the other vein that I seem to see in others more often – and there are varying degrees of control and awareness in that – without that craving/longing.

To me, the 2 veins explain how some people CAN just quit something and not struggle with it, especially once they figure out the Why; and others, no matter how much the Why is known, embraced and the solution integrated into their life, still can’t get away from the immense craving/longing. (to Dr. Nunes point)

Does that make sense? Am I missing something? I’d be curious what other Recoverers that read this would say. am

okay. here’s what my thoughts are on that … first and foremost, AA doesn’t make a claim that it is the monopoly on the way to get sober. i know of two people in my life that were completely sucked in by cocaine (one) and heroin (another) and who have found relief in spiritual things. yoga, healing, spirit of the universe, etc. they both still drink alcohol (or recently have) from time to time, but the main things that held them down they no longer participate in.

however, it remains of note/interest to me that they still needed a spiritual answer of some sort. so, i believe that all addicts (and most humans) suffer from a spiritual malady. i also believe the reason i’m an alcoholic is because i used drugs and alcohol to fill that spiritual-sized hole. it was the easiest and quickest way to get out of myself, to forget about things i didn’t know i needed to forget about, to not feel ‘restless, irritable and discontented.’ i also have other addictions, because i have used money and relationships (and now sometimes, food), to fill that ache/hole/need. i’m probably a relationship addict before an alcoholic, though, because i used that first and continue to struggle with these things. however, like i said, i quickly found out that drugs and alcohol worked quicker and even when i was struggling with relationships, they still worked.

the genetic part, imo, deals with the physical allergy part. i’m a good example with the fact that i really never got hangovers and once i started drinking, i wanted more regardless of the situation. but there are far ‘better’ examples of people who can drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol that should kill a similiar person. there is something different about their makeup that allows that to happen, tolerance notwithstanding. i know i have some of that, but i also joke that i have 1/2 my mom’s ‘throw up’ genes. so, i could never drink as much as some of my compadres.

anyway, i digress. the question asked that if someone integrates the “Why” into their lives, they can’t escape the craving. let me define “craving” as the big book does. i cannot cause the “phenomenon of craving” unless i actually drink. the craving occurs when i drink and then i have a craving to drink more and can’t stop. (“normal” drinkers have one or two and are satisified/capable of stopping/when they stop at that limit, they don’t want to tear their hair out) however, if i don’t ever pick up a drink, i won’t have a craving in the terms that i’m talking about. the second part of the disease (caused by the spiritual malady), is that if i’m alcoholic/addict, i can’t *not* drink. my brain will come up with all sorts of ideas/excuses/rationalizations/needs to drink. i never really tried to stop when i was drinking (thank god), but even in my ‘binge drinking,’ i didn’t need much. again … the times when i thought i was “bored,” i was really restless (if not irritable and/or discontented). drinking/smoking alleviated that very quickly. no more “boredom” (no more restless, irritable, discontentedness). i’m happy. i’m sad. there’s nothing to do. it’s a holiday. i’m bored. i’m stoked. others are doing it. it’s an outing. etc., etc., etc. the big book tells me if not drinking is my only problem, i should be fine. but the problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than his body… the ‘obsession of the mind’ concept also speaks to the idea that the drink comes first … above mom’s bday parties, going home, getting up for work the next day, showing up for friends, etc.

also, there are ‘functional alcoholics/addicts,’ but i don’t want to be around them when they’re not drinking. generally, they’re crabby, angry, uncommunicative, (restless, irritable, discontented anyone?) and all that goes away once they have the ease and comfort of the first drink.

so … i guess my two answers are … some people do quit once they have spirituality, which to me is the essence of the program, no matter how you get it. and the other is, as AA defines it, you can’t have physical cravings once you stop drinking … but you can still suffer from the obsession to drink, which sets off the craving once someone succumbs to it. there are also people who quit cold turkey and “white knuckle it” for awhile, but normally they end up drinking without something greater than themselves … this is from their stories, not mine.

i think there are those of us who have found AA to be the easiest and most palatable way to get the ‘spiritual awakening’ it promises if we work all 12 steps.

Which begs the question I always ask, why does AA say sober? I mean it is possible for even an alkie to drink a couple and not get drunk. I mean they probably will end up drinking to excess at some point, but they aren’t drunk after one. Saying alcohol or drug free makes more sense.mor

But AA redefined it. Sober means “not drunk” it doesn’t mean alcohol free. This is in no way support of the theory alkies can drink, they can’t. My guess is the response to Joc will be along the line of every person that abuses alcohol is not an alcoholic, and yes that AA is peer pressure, but so what? If it works it works regardless of how it gets defined.mor

okay. first of all, there are two meanings for sober even in AA. the first just refers to what many others call sober. the total abstinence of alcohol or drugs in the system. the dictionary says “not drunk,” but i would argue not even as an alcoholic, but as a practical person, that after two drinks, the average person is at least ‘buzzed,’ (the elusive state all alkies are trying to maintain, but can’t due to their phenomenon of craving) which to me says ‘not sober.’ decisions, feelings, thoughts, inhibitions are affected even at ‘buzzed,’ and that’s why non-alkies still use alcohol to ‘loosen up,’ ‘relax,’ ‘be able to be more outgoing at parties,’ etc.

as far as the second definition, in AA we also tend to distinguish between “sober” and “dry.” now, that’s an AA thing. dry is the abstinence of drugs and alcohol. sober is being ‘happy, joyous and free’ while abstaining from drugs and alcohol. there are plenty of people in and out of AA who are ‘dry,’ but are miserable as hell and have no coping skills for life. truly “sober” people in AA are happy, contented and can act like a decent human being — no lying, showing up on time, doing what we say we will, being in reality — “living life on life’s terms.” from personal experience, it SUUUUCKS to be dry. being sober is good stuff. and sometimes, i have to work through being dry until i do the work to feel ‘sober’ again.

so. hopefully that answers the questions from the mind of smussyolay. i in no way claim to speak on behalf of AA — this is just one recovering drunk’s experience.

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