TWELVE STAGES TO OVERCOME ALCOHOLISM
Stumbling Blocks Must Be Removed by Patient Effort and
Daily Application of System
(Fifth of Six Articles)
If 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.
How It Works
The 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.
“There 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.
“There 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.
Two General Units
The 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, maybe 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:
“I 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.
“So 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.
“Where, 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 go alone.
One alcoholic, in fear and trembling, set out to square himself with some business acquaintances upon whom he depended on 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. What’s more, they understood and sympathized with his new position. Sincerity and clean purpose seem irresistible even to the congenital skeptic!
This man returned home elated. He’s been going like a house afire ever since.
If you were convinced that such a man’s real purpose was to fit himself to be of maximum service to the people about him, and there was no room for suspecting him of hypocrisy or self-deceit, what would be your attitude toward him, Alcoholics Anonymous asks.
Well, that’s the way it works!
The Final Step
The final step of cleaning the house is the morning preparation for each day.
Now, it is evident that any alcoholic, unless he is 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 willpower.
If the stake was high enough, they’d 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.
They’ve tried. They’ve invariably failed. That’s why they are alcoholics.
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. That’s all. No worry about the next day, the next year, or the next five, or the next 15.
Shucks, can’t 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.
That’s 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.