Lately I’ve been participating more in meetings (of course, declaring that I am not an alcoholic). I have not received any open criticism. It actually has been a good experience. I can totally relate to a lot of what other people are saying, and I just go with it. I keep my shares short and acknowledge both the similarities and differences with others.
Tonight I was invited to participate by reciting one of the many canonical passages from the Big Book. It starts like this:
Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.
It goes on and on like this: We are different, we are ill, we are obsessive, we are cursed, we are bound to fail. Drinking will destroy us.
I recited it slowly, with meaning and gusto – and perhaps just a tinge of irony. I think that simply by having an outsider there reading it makes others think more carefully, and perhaps see through the blatant brainwashing. Is it really true? No doubt, some in the meeting resented my reading it. People seemed extra yawny tonight, and some left early.
We went on to read a chapter titled: Missing Link. Everyone took turns reading a paragraph. The story is about a Jewish boy who starts drinking during a trip to Israel, and soon after starts drinking way too much. He searches his life top to bottom, and can’t find anything wrong. He even sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. What could be wrong with this boy that he feels compelled to drink until he is unconscious? Even though he is often sick and has lost friends, and his job is in jeopardy, he keeps at it. What’s the Missing Link?
The answer is: there is no missing link. This boy is an alcoholic. He has the alcohol disease. Otherwise there is nothing wrong. There are no unresolved emotional issues.
Modern psychology knows this to be false. There are always underlying issues, even Dr Drew would agree. There is something wrong with the boy that preceded his drug use. Perhaps he is angry with his parents for some reason, or he feels overweight or unattractive, or he has violent tendencies and uncontrolled impulses. There is something that this boy is suppressing by drinking. Normally this group would read this story and accept the truth of it completely. They do not question the Big Book. I’d like to think that the participation of an outsider would encourage them to view it with a more critical eye.
The Power of Suggestion can be very strong in a closed environment. But shine a little light, and its strength quickly dissipates.
Nevertheless, some in the group remarked on the similarity of this story to their own life, for example getting to work late and giving crazy excuses (about which they seem to take some jocular pride).
This group was somewhat raggedy. Many would look at this group and say, “We need to protect them.” I can totally understand that. But I also think that we are not doing them any favors by making them think that they cannot control their own behavior. After all, if they can’t control drinking, what else can’t they control? Sex, gambling, eating, etc etc.
We need to assume that people are fundamentally strong and resilient, not weak and needy. In fact, if we really believe that, don’t be surprised by what will happen. Remember: the Power of Suggestion works both ways.
I almost wonder if we unconsciously tolerate this modern delusion in order to maintain a permanent underclass….