My step one | 12 Step Meetings and Anonymous Groups - Part 11

My step one

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    NeverThought: I may be in for one heck of a challenge. Is this true? Is this when one either relapses or takes the next step and joins AA?

    Maybe the best place to start is with the question: “Are you an alcoholic?” “Or are you a heavy drinker or a problem drinker?” Not everyone who seeks help in Alcoholics Anonymous is alcoholic. One can be a heavy drinker or a problem drinker but not be an alcoholic. Next question: “What is the difference between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker or a problem drinker?” The short answer: a heavy drinker or a problem drinker can stop drinking on their own if given sufficient reason to stop. An alcoholic cannot.

    If you can stop drinking on your own, and stay stopped, there is really no reason for you to go to AA, or to find any program of recovery whatsoever, for that matter.

    Alcoholism 101. Alcoholism is an illness of body, mind and spirit. An alcoholic has two characteristics: “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.” p. 44 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (1st Ed.)

    Real life application of loss of control: I am an alcoholic. If I drink, I cannot control the amount I drink on any given occasion. I may have one drink, but it is much more likely that I will lose all control and drink into a binge. I cannot guarantee every single time that I will have a set number of drinks. After I have lost all control, I am full of shame, guilt and remorse, not to mention having a host of negative consequences.

    The reason I lose control over my drinking is because alcohol triggers a physical craving or allergy (i.e., an abnormal reaction). My body does not process alcohol in the same way that normal drinkers process alcohol. “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.” p. xxvi of the Doctor’s Opinion, BB of AA 1st Ed.

    Real life application of loss of choice: I am an alcoholic. If I stop drinking (i.e., swear off drinking after an especially bad binge), I cannot stay stopped. I will return to drinking despite my knowledge of alcoholism as a disease, despite my knowledge of myself as an alcoholic, despite my attempts to exercise my willpower, despite all of the negative consequences that have occurred as a result of my last drinking binge.

    The reason I lose choice in drinking is because my thinking leads me back to picking up that next first drink. I have these “peculiar mental twists”, “mental blank spots” and at times just “plain insane ideas”. There is a mental obsession aspect to alcoholism. At times it is a pitched battle raging in my mind. But usually is is so subtle that I don’t even realize it is happening to me. It is that quiet whisper. “This time will be different.”

    Additional examples: “I haven’t had a drink for x amount of time, surely such a long period of abstinence enables me to drink like other people.” Deliberate decision: “F… it. I just don’t care anymore.” No defense raised: I have no thought at all, it’s the perfect end to a perfect day, no cloud on the horizon, and wouldn’t a glass of wine with dinner be nice. I order that glass of wine and I am off on a binge. Plain insanity: “If I buy a loaf of bread and if I make the sign of the cross first, I could celebrate communion at home with some bread and some wine.”

    “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.” p. 24 of the BB of AA 1st Ed.

    The first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” Powerless means loss of power, choice and control (as described above). How does your experience with alcohol and with drinking fit with what I have explained to you? Are you an alcoholic? If you are an alcoholic, then the next question is what do you need to do about, assuming you want to do something about it. But first things first, how does your experience compare?




    Thank you Susan!

    You have given me much to think about. However, I simply don’t want to drink ever again. At first, I’m feeling super confident, but the end of the week, It’s taken its toll physically and mentally. I told my counciler that I am alchoholic. I am treating myself as an alcoholic. Frankly, in my opinion, what’s the point of decifering whether I’m a heavy drinker, problem drinker or alcoholic. I had been spending probably $300 a month on vodka. I’ve given many years of my life away as well and I felt physically and mentally damaged. I smoked weed from when I was 20 until 30 and switched to drinking from when I was 30 until now at 41. This is the first time in 20 some years that I’ve gone 11 days (prior was 10) without and substance. I’ve never felt so good in all of my life. I just have to face reality and the problems and disappointments in my life that made me rely on a substance.

    Today is the best day ever. I sincerely thank you for the information you have provided. Again, I have a lot to think about. I’ve committed to myself, my family, my counciler that there is no reason for me to ever drink again. I hope I can follow through!! Best regards



    @Neverthought 2987487 wrote:

    I’ve committed to myself, my family, my counciler that there is no reason for me to ever drink again. I hope I can follow through!!

    I hope so, also, Neverthought. The reason I have found it important to distinguish (for myself) whether I am a ‘real’ alcoholic or not, is that my experience (and the sum total experience of AA) tells me that if I’m the real deal, all of my commitment, desire, and strength will do me no good. I can hope all I want, but I will drink again unless I treat the spiritual problem.

    AA BB 1st wrote:
    The tragic truth is that if the man be a real alcoholic, the happy day may not arrive. He has lost control. 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.

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