This blog will be of use to those afflicted/suffering from drug or alcohol dependency/addiction. This is a non-profit site. Money is paid to ensure that advertisements are not displayed. The author offers his experience and help free of charge to those who want and need it. He does that because someone gave their time freely to him. This site will remain non-profit and free no matter how popular it becomes. The author does not represent any organisation, neither is he affiliated to any company, organisation, or anyone. He simply discusses the experience of his own recovery and is familiar with a procedure that connects someone to a Higher Power that prevents further relapse. If it turns out, you are not a real addict or alcoholic, the author will make suggestions of where to go to find help. To be clear, he is not a health professional and in those circumstances, he will recommend you consult a suitably qualified person (Anonymous 1939 p 133).
His recovery is 12 step based as described in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA; Anonymous 1939). The author considers this book the only relevant to 12 step work. He is not currently a member of any 12-step recovery fellowship neither is he affiliated to one nor a member of any homegroup therein. Any opinions the author expresses will be his own. The author is currently seeking a sponsor albeit for the reasons discussed below, real recovered alcoholics with the right message are as rare as rocking horse manure. Another purpose for this site.
The author will not suggest work here, he is not continuing to do, or has not completed himself. He will endeavour to present no opinions. Anything he writes will be within his own experience, will be referenced to material that he considers to be accurate and correct, or will be information that has been passed down from sponsor-to-prospect through direct linage from one of the founding members of AA. The author suggests you pay no attention to anything that cannot be reconciled with the material contained within the first 181 pages of the big book (Anonymous 1939).
Throughout his recovery the author sought out direct lineage to Dr Bob Smith, a cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous (Anonymous 1939 p 171). He believes the message he is carrying is as close to the original as is humanly possible. He has worked very hard for many years to ensure he could be of maximum help to people who need to go through the work. Part of the work involves a correct diagnosis. The author takes the responsibility of working with others very seriously. For the real addict or alcoholic, it literally means life or death.
To date, the recovery rate of the real alcoholics the author has worked with is 100 percent. Over the last decade, the author has been suffering from an illness that leaves him compromised and it is getting worse. Hopefully, this blog will permit him to fulfil his 12th step which he considers to be the foundation of his recovery (Anonymous 1939 p 89).
The author’s writing style is as meandering as his thought patterns. Hopefully, you will find it pleasing.
Today Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 step fellowships are ineffectual. The title of this blog is intended to highlight the many erroneous interpretations that exist of Alcoholics Anonymous basic text and the distortions of the original 12 step work. Work that once boasted a nominal recovery rate of 75 percent (Anonymous 1939 p xx).
To assess the efficacy of your local 12 step fellowship, assume the occurrence of the real addict and/or alcoholic to be in the region of 1 percent of the population. Find the results of the residential census for your local area and calculate the value of 1 percent [A]. Then over guestimate the number of people in your locality that attend fellowship meetings [B]. Assuming that all the members are real alcoholics, which they are not, the calculations for AA in the author’s hometown indicates it is now 0.088 percent effective (B/Ax100). Half measures avail us… (Anonymous 1939 p 59).
For the last 12 years, the number of AA members has either been static or has dwindled. Globally each year, there are around three million alcohol related deaths (WHO 2020). In the early days of AA, with the work in Cleveland, Clarence Snyder had a success rate of 93 percent (Dick B. 2008).
Why is AA so Ineffective?
The original purpose of AA meeting was to discuss the program of recovery (Wilmington Preamble pre-1947). In 1975, Grapevine (the US share magazine) suggested adopting general discussion meetings. In those days, anything that would “change AA as a whole” had to be approved by the Trustees of the General Service Board (Anonymous 1939 Appendix 1C). Most groups permitted the change in the absence of General Service Board approval. Hence those groups breached AA tradition and therefore were no longer AA groups (Cliff B. 2010, personal communication). Originally if people came to meetings and did not want the program, they were sent away and only accepted back when they were ready (Anonymous 1939 p xx; Anonymous 1939 Appendix 1C). Prospects (newcomers) were asked two questions. 1. Are you prepared to quit the drinking game for good and all time? 2. Are you prepared to go to any lengths to do so? If the answer to both these questions was not yes, then the sponsor would go no further. No one would work with them until they were ready. People were properly diagnosed, and sponsorship was very strict (Anonymous 1939 p 92; Cliff B.; Cliff B.a).
My name is Chris, I have recovered from Alcoholism. Many people declare that they have recovered from Alcoholism when it is plain to those with this illness, that they are not of a similar type. Many will exclaim that they have had such a profound change in their personality due to a version of a 12-step recovery program, that they are now nice people. This is not impossible. Neither is anyone pronouncing real alcoholics or addicts nasty or bad people. Recovered or otherwise, in my experience it is rare for people to use the word nice when describing a real alcoholic or addict.
How I used to be
Grey areas in my life were absent. I was an all or nothing person. The answer to any question was always yes or no. I was once married to a nice girl. She used to answer questions with “maybe”. It used to infuriate me along with the many frustrating and incomprehensible things that people did. And, they all did it to intentionally to get at me. Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me! My perfectionism was only rivalled by the way I thought I did things, 110 percent. Everything had its place and the cleanliness of my environment reflected on who I was. It had to be spick and tidy.
At random times, everyone else was either inferior or superior. Huge swings in my emotional and mental state were minute-by-minute occurrences. I cared what others thought. I lived the public part of my life according to what I imagined would make others jealous or what they would want for themselves; anything to try and prove I was better than the next person. I used to belittle people or correct their pronunciation. When meeting a new person, I Instantly recognised of what they were self-conscious, and at every opportunity, I would hold them to ridicule. I was not a nice person then, and I am still not someone you would describe as nice. I am fundamentally the same person albeit my motives have changed.
Is the above information enough to diagnose me as a real alcoholic?
Not according to the only literature that has managed to describe the symptoms. Namely the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous (Anonymous 1939). The above account is only sufficient to diagnose me as self-centred and suffering from a condition most people endure. It is described in the book as a spiritual sickness albeit the bulk of the book does not make a direct link between that and alcoholism/addiction. The Doctor’s Opinion does, however, this part of the book relies on observations made by a nonalcoholic. The good Doctor also suggests that I will suffer from a mental obsession to do something that I know would kill me (Anonymous 1939 p xxviii). Not very likely. The opposite might be true. I might have a mental obsession not do something that I know would kill me.
People have since described alcoholism/addiction as an illness of the mind, body, and spirit. Whereas most of the book exclusively refers to “a hopeless state of mind and body” (Anonymous 1939 p xiii). If my spiritual condition or how I feel predisposes me to return to alcohol when I have previously made promises to never touch another drop, then it follows I am not powerless over alcohol; there is something I can do to save myself “from the alcoholic pit” (Anonymous 1939 p 79). I am not professing that how I was feeling or what had happened did not influence my consumption. It did exacerbate my usage albeit I was taking a drink regardless. My experience has taught me, I am most definitely a 100 percent hopeless alcoholic and I am still that today. “At certain”, unpredictable times, my power is useless for combatting alcohol. I cannot choose “not to drink today” (Anonymous 1939 p 24). Neither have I given up alcohol a-day-at-a-time. I live my life a-day-at-a-time because I have a daily living plan; the 12 steps (Anonymous 1939 p 59).
Why would I want to stop doing something a-day-at-a-time that would kill me? Why would my Higher Power provide only a “day’s” grace from something that is so harmful? The original message was “for good and all” time. If you cannot face not drinking or using for the rest of your life, then you are not ready for the 12-step work (Anonymous 1939 p 181, final paragraph). The only thing that will get an alcoholic to the point of wanting to stay sober for the rest of their life, is drinking hard enough and long enough until they cannot stand it any longer (Cliff B., personal communication; my personal experience).
The other expression the book uses is spiritual malady, which nowadays I refer to as marmalade. Akin to vomit, some people have chunky, others smooth. Even the enlightened fade in-and-out of consciousness. I have never been in prison. Hence one could argue that most of the people detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure are more spiritually sick than I ever was. Not all those people are alcoholics or addicts; clearly.
Buddhist monks spend all day raking a garden; some individuals overclean their homes; others are workaholics; some people go shopping; gossip; resent…and so on…ad infinitum. Not one of us is perfect and therefore all of humanity is to a greater or lesser extent, spiritually sick. Spiritual marmalade is not alcoholism/addiction, neither does it qualify you as being a real alcoholic or addict. It is possible to be alcoholic in the apparent absence of a pronounced spiritual malady (Anonymous 1939 pp 39-42; Harry B.). Furthermore, who judges your spiritual malady as so extreme, or of a specific type to discriminate you from the general public. “God gave us brains to use” (Anonymous 1939 p 86).
According to the definition of alcoholism described in detail in the big book, I fit the profile entirely. My last drink of alcohol was on the evening of the 21 September 2009. Notwithstanding many others boasting longer periods of sobriety, the first seven years were tough. During which time I found myself repeating the 12-step program of recovery nine times. Beware of people who found it easy. All that glitters is not gold. I do not have another recovery in me nor another drink. I am certain that if I ever drink alcohol again, it will be fatal, perhaps within 24 hours.
When I first attended AA meetings, I developed imposter syndrome. I thought I had an alcohol dependency. I knew my next drink would not kill me. I heard war story, after war story, and recognised that my consumption was less than the quantities those people drank. My motive was to stay around for a little while and get dry for three months. Then I intended returning to my old way of life. Things did not go to plan. In those days I took advantage of the third tradition that states: “The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.” (Short form; Anonymous 1939, Appendix 1). This is why we present newcomers with the big book description of the alcoholic and permit them to make the diagnosis. However, this does not mean we should not hold people accountable. Exactly what I mean by this will be clarified in a subsequent post.
AA did not present me with the correct definition of alcoholism. A circumstance that nearly proved fatal. It took 12 years for someone to fully explain with clarity, what it was to be a real alcoholic/addict. That was someone I had met in Cocaine Anonymous (CA). To be clear my drug usage appeared like that of a real drug addict, but when I made the decision to walk away from those substances, I could handle that decision permanently. I am an alcoholic; on my own power, I cannot decide to stop drinking alcohol permanently and succeed. This is why sharing your usage in a “drug-“ or “drink-a-log” is meaningless. It does not qualify you being there, it is unhelpful, it wastes people’s valuable recovery time, and is confusing and off putting to a newcomer. The purpose of sharing is to help others.
The Real Alcoholic or Addict
The description of the real alcoholic is in the big book, however, the interpretation of what is written, that has been passed down from sponsor-to-prospect for over four decades, is probably as close to the original message as we will ever achieve. It is difficult for real addicts or alcoholics to fully understand what is contained in the big book. We read it with prejudice. There were around 100 writers/editors of the big book. They included some misleading contradictory statements that I will elucidate as we progress.
Essentially, real alcoholics and addicts are not going to want to admit they are, nor are they going to want to stay in the rooms of a fellowship. There are exceptions, however, those people will be metaphorically battered, bruised and on their knees (Anonymous 1939 p 157). If then they choose a nonalcoholic to sponsor them, they are likely to relapse and die.
In contrast, nonalcoholics are all too keen to declare themselves alcoholic or addicts and think a fellowship is a great place spend their time. They will always describe themselves as recovering. Nowadays, they are surrounded by people just like them and they instinctively know it. Invariably in fellowship, nonalcoholics are both the vocal and physical majority and involve themselves in much service; some excessively so. They share what, where, and how they drank and used, but nothing of the countless vain attempts to stop (Anonymous 1939 p 30). They cannot because they have not experienced any. They are just nice people who got a bit naughty with a substance or two and found themselves with a habit and/or a dependency. That is not alcoholism nor true drug addiction. To reiterate, alcoholism is not a physical or mental dependency.
Initially, people with drug or alcohol dependency may need hospitalisation to separate them from their drug of choice (Anonymous 1939 pp 20-21). Alcohol was my drug of no choice. Heavy users and drinkers will have most likely drunk far more than the real alcoholic and/or used more drugs than the real addict. To them, the substance does not appear toxic (Anonymous 1939 p xxiv). They have something in their past or present that is causing or has caused them to drink alcohol and/or use. Or perhaps, they just like living that way.
The modern (post -1947) and discordant preamble states: “my primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety”. If I could stay sober then I would not be writing this blog, neither would I be compelled to work the program of recovery nor be in a fellowship. If I can help you to achieve sobriety, I must be your higher power yet the book states “no human power” is sufficient to overcome alcoholism (Anonymous 1939 p 60). According to the big book, my primary purpose is to place myself in a position to be of maximum use to my Higher Power and other people (Anonymous 1939 p 77).
By encouraging nongenuine alcoholics and addicts to remain deluded in fellowship, not only are we being unhelpful, but we are also depriving them of true fulfilment by not suggesting they tackle the route of their using and discomfort. As the father of modern psychology indicated: to paraphrase; the phycological methods works for most hard drinkers and users, however, a small percentage, real alcoholics or addicts, only respond to the spiritual approach (Carl Jung, Anonymous 1939 pp 26-27).
To leave you with at least one, I hope this first post has left you with more answers than questions? My next posts will not be informing you of what a wonderful day I have had with friends nor other “fluffy bunny and kitten stories”. My posts will, I hope, help you begin to recover from “a hopeless state of mind and body” or through a correct interpretation of the 12 step work, help you nurture a deeper relationship with your Higher Power (Anonymous 1939 p xiii).
First things first, to help you ascertain if you are a real alcoholic/addict or to save you from living a lifelong lie in fellowship, my next post will discuss exactly what the big book describes as alcoholism. I will not, as so often be the case today, simply declare: “you’re in the right place, keep coming back”. That would be pronouncing you an alcoholic/addict (Anonymous 1939 page 31).
Until then, Chris
Anonymous (1939) The “Big Book”. Alcoholics Anonymous Fourth Edition (first printing 2001). Alcoholics Anonymous World Service Inc. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/alcoholics-anonymous [last accessed 1 May 2020].
Dick, B. (2008) Big Book Sponsorship. https://bigbooksponsorship.org/articles-alcoholism-addiction-12-step-program-recovery/fellowship/sobriety-statistics-12-step-recovery-rates/ [last accessed 11 May 2020].
The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/about-aa/aa-traditions [last accessed 1 May 2020].