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STAGES TO OVERCOME ALCOHOLISM
Blocks Must Be Removed by Patient Effort and
Application of System
(Fifth of Six Articles)
wishes were horses, beggars would ride; and the alcoholics
could come into his cure on the gallop.
True enough, the deliverance
of the alcoholic already begun with the soul-deep wish to
be free of this weight that rides him relentlessly and as
odiously as the Old Man of the Sea rode Sindbad the Sailor
in the Arabian Nights.
Then, as explained in
the preceding article, has come the recognition of human
helplessness and complete reliance on the Supreme Power
as the one way out.
But the steps have only
turned on the lights of faith and set the stage for action.
The leading man must now make his entrance, play his part.
The first word of the
first act is honesty. To be honest, says the
dictionary, means to be straightforward in thought and conduct;
free from any deception or fraud.
chapter of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, entitled
How It Works, begins: Rarely have we seen
a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those
who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely
give themselves to this program, usually men and women who
are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.
are such unfortunates. They seem to have been born that
way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing
a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.
Their chances are less than average.
are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental
disorders; but many of them do recover if they have the
capacity to be honest.
You will note the cardinal
emphasis on this business of being truthful.
If the alcoholic who
seeks relief by this technique is too befogged, too jittery,
to think honestly it is usually wise, on the advice of a
physician, for him first to be given the care that will
enable him to think straight, even if it means a period
in hospital or sanitarium.
You need your brain
to beat alcohol. When the bees are buzzing in it, and pink
elephants are beginning to think you might soon have some
peanuts for them, it is hard, if not indeed impossible,
to think straight. Everybody is out of step but you.
The alcoholic, then,
has to be his real self, and have the help of God, to take
the next steps on the road to freedom.
While Alcoholics Anonymous
suggest a program numbering 12 stages, individuals vary
as to the ones they emphasize. Lives are different, hence
recoveries differ also.
remaining nine steps therefore will be treated here as two
general units: one, cleaning house; and two,
helping others. Let us examine them.
The alcoholic has been
living an undisciplined , self-centered life. Whether he
admits it or not, competent outside observers could demonstrate
it in two minutes, The history of a leading physician in
an eastern city, whose guest I have been, may be extreme
in illustrating this, but it is typical.
After having been 35
years on the bottle, he has now been weaned for nearly five
years. He is one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
He told me this story:
had developed two dandy phobias that kept me in a spin.
I feared that I should not be able to sleep at night unless
I went to bed well oiled; and I feared that if I were under
the influence during the day, I should not be able to earn
enough money to buy enough liquor to get drunk enough to
sleep at night so I could work the next day to get more
money to buy more liquor so I could go to sleep..... and
so on and so on, around the clock.
during the day I doped myself with heavy sedatives to hold
down the jitters, and at night, having sneaked my liquor
in, I drank myself to sleep.
in 35 years of such a squirrel-cage existence, was there
a chance for this doctor to live the generous life---one
guided by consideration for others? In the presence of his
obsession with alcohol, nothing else counted heavily, no
matter how many or how frequent were the isolated acts of
kindness and generosity he performed.
He was living for his
alcoholic self. All alcoholics, in varying degree, live
that way. Hence they have cluttered their lives with wrongs
to other people.
Part of the housecleaning
process consists in acknowledging these wrongs; inventorying
them; righting them insofar as possible without doing further
harm to people; asking God to remove shortcomings; and continuing
to take personal inventory day by day, admitting and undoing
a committed wrong as soon as discovered.
These are the most difficult
stumbling blocks for many. To get over them, not only is
rigid honesty with self and others obviously a prerequisite,
but also moral courage of the highest degree.
Yet, at this juncture,
the alcoholic is reminded of the saying of the Man of Galilee:
Lo, I am with you always. He does not need to
One alcoholic, in fear
and trembling, set out to square himself with some business
acquaintances upon whom he depended for what was left of
his livelihood. Like most alcoholics, he thought few people
knew the extent of his former dependence on drink, and he
feared that he would alienate them by telling them how he
failed to measure up to business requirements.
But they knew. Whats
more, they understood and sympathized with his new position.
Sincerity and clean purpose seem irresistible even to the
This man returned home
elated. Hes been going like a house afire ever since.
If you were convinced
that such a mans real purpose was to fit himself to
be of maximum service to the people about him, and there
were no room for suspecting him of hypocrisy or self-deceit,
what would be your attitude toward him, Alcoholics Anonymous
Well, thats the
way it works!
final step of cleaning house is the morning preparation
for each day.
Now, it is evident that
any alcoholic, unless he be in the very throes of death
from delirium tremens or some other complication, can live
without a drink for 24 hours. Many have repeatedly done
so--in jails, in psychopathic wards, in hospitals and sanitariums;
or just on plain will power.
If the stake was high
enough, theyd do it merely on a bet, sitting on a
barrel of their favorite brand with the bunghole open. But
without bolstering of some kind they could not add another
24 hours to another indefinitely.
Theyve invariably failed. Thats why they are
But when they exchange
such enforced and material aids for the spiritual help of
that Power-Higher-Then-Themselves, the way one dry 24 hours
follows another is simplicity itself.
The alcoholic who is
following the procedure here outlined begins his day by
making conscious contact with this Power--with God. Some
call it prayer. Some call it meditation. Some read the Bible.
But all of them try honestly to square off the day
in the presence of God.
Twenty-four hours to
go without a drink. Twenty-four hours to be honest. Twenty-four
hours to live like a man. Thats all. No worry about
the next day, the next year, or the next five, or the next
Shucks, cant he
drink if he wants to? Certainly. But the next 24 hours belong
to God. No drinks. And sufficient unto the day are
the evils thereof.
O.K., then. If he does
the same every morning and comes through clean, even a fuzz-wit
can see that the man will be sober the rest of his life.
And as the blessings
of freedom, and growth toward the full rewards of living
sanely, pile up, every day becomes easier. Life gains momentum,
in the midst of peace.
The alcoholic just entering
upon this new life is actually thrilled to discover that,
he is to have not one but many true and generous human friends
below--friends who have been through his special kind
of hell and have conquered. They will understand.
Thats a bracer
with a wallop such as he was never able to get from alcohol.
The twelve steps complete
will be found on page
30 of this booklet.
Houston Press Index
Story of a Way
Out for Hopeless Drinkers
to Drink: Alcoholic's Burden
How it Started
and Gained Speed
Twelve Stages to Overcome Alcoholism
A New Approach
to Psychotherapy in Chronic Alcoholism