Why do we drink

Perhaps the most vexing question to people who love alcoholics or addicts is, “Why do they do it?”  This morning I listened to my wife ask me the same question, tears running down her face.  The strange answer is, I don’t understand anymore than she does.  Chapter five of the AA Big Book says that alcoholism is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” 

In AA meetings, I’ve heard all kinds of things that are supposed to give me immunity to drinking one day at a time.  “Meeting makers make it; every day you go to a meeting, you won’t drink.”  “You’re guaranteed sobriety every day that you pray to be sober and ask God to take your will and life.”  “You’ll never drink on a day that you reach out and help another alcoholic.”  These tools of the AA program are powerful, and I by no means want to imply that they don’t work.  In honesty, I also must confess that this past Saturday I didn’t do any of them.  But I also know that I have left meetings and been drinking by nightfall (once even stopped at the liquour store on my way home from a meeting).  I have also drunk on days that I used the other program tools.

This clip from the movie My Name is Bill W does a great job of capturing the insanity of the obsessive urge to drink.  I resonate with Bill’s sense that alcohol creates a sense of safety that enables him to engage in relationships with others and the world and his statement that the depression and fear and anxiety of living can be so overbearing that the only good option seems to be to anesthtitize it.  After Bill’s painful dialogue to his wife Lois, he remarks that the insane thing is “all I can think about is taking another drink.”  My last bout of drinking was terrible.  There’s no fun left in drinking for me.  Lying, sneaking, hiding, and, eventually, having to sober up are all miserable ways to live.  And yet, today, the desire to drink is incredibly strong.  This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Cunning, baffling, and powerful to be sure.

I am told that working the twelve steps will, untimately, give me relief of the aspects of life that are so painful and troubling.  Not that the steps will make them go away, but that they will give me perspective that will allow me to accept life as it comes.  The problem is, this serenity doesn’t come until you’ve done the work of getting it, and in the meantime I have to ride the roller coaster and do my best to hang on.

Today, I am using the tools that I have at my disposal.  I went to a meeting.  I spoke with my sponsor.  I reached out to a new guy at a meeting.  I am praying for acceptance and sobriety.  I feel reasonably confident that I’m going to make it through today sober and tomorrow can get up and do it again. 

At the end of every meeting I’ve ever attended, the members circle up, join hands, and say, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.”  I’m working it, and I’m hoping like hell that it works.


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