Monday, September 7, 2009
Sobriety or Dry
I was at the Centre daily noon hour meeting today on Davis street. A handsome fellow told a story of his hearing how a man ate some Russian lizard testes and said that cured him of his alcoholism. Now he didn't need to drink but every few months could have one or two drinks, all because of the Russian lizard testes. The fellow said, "that got me thinking again that maybe I could drink like a gentleman, normally again, with or without the lizard testes." We all laughed. In another meeting I remembered a different fellow saying, "I never drank like a gentleman and wouldn't want to drink like a gentleman if I could." The program is one of 'rigorous honesty' and as we identify with each other's honesty we find laughter in our commonality.
The idea of sobriety isn't just stopping drinking. That's a 'sympton' of the spiritual disease of alcoholism. It's the necessary first step in recovery and all it takes to be a member of AA is a 'desire to not drink." However, if you just don't drink, you're said to be 'dry'. It's like wood easily set on fire and refers to the underlying rage and seething passions that the 'Steps" of the 12 Step program address. Underlying alcoholism is fear and resentment. Why else would people want to take the equivalent of 5 to 10 mg of valium every glass of alcohol. Alcoholics are very up tight 'stressed' people when they aren't drinking. The person who just stops drinking remains "restless, irritable and discontent'. Sobriety, in contrast is about living "joyous and free".
Many people stop drinking. They become 'rageaholics" though or take up another addiction, the common one today being marijuania. But they don't drink like 'normal' people. Normal people don't want to drink more than one or two drinks. Alcoholics who 'don't drink' are forcing themselves to 'not drink' so are 'white knuckling' it. This isn't 'normal'. Drinking to an alcoholic is like breathing. The program of alcoholics anonymous is a 'design for living' that negates the need to drink. It's proven by millions.
The medical studies of those who are abstinent show they not only can return to productive lives in the community working with family but indeed can surpass the projections of success for their cohort. This isn't true for those who 'control' their drinking. More than half of them return to abusive drinking even after five years of abstienence. They appear to have made significant gains in their overall behaviour in most cases but those who 'control' their drinking after a period of alcoholism don't appear to excell but do better than those who continue to drink abusively. For one the liver and heart appreciate a rest from the physical assault of alcoholism on bodily organs.
The community of sobriety though is not just AA for at least a third of adults don't drink and another third never abuse alcohol. It's only a third that are heavy drinkers and increasingly in sobriety there seems little in common between those heavy drinkers and the lives of the rest of society. That third of society is the bottom third where crime, deceit, drug abuse and all manner of human ills breed. While a significant number of this third are well off, alcoholism being a disease that holds no respect for the rich, these are those rich with family problems, whose children are more likely physically or sexually abused, where adultery is rampant, and where workers and employees are least happy in their work. Michael Jackson was a better example of addiction than Dudley Moore in Arthur.
In recovery, one starts by changing one's drinking behaviour and then it follows that one usually changes ones playground and playmates except for the many that follow the lead and end up themselves in recovery. Families and communities have taken just this route.
One doesn't need to take the garbage truck all the way to the dump. You can get off any time you want. Alcoholism and Addiction are 'fun', then "fun and trouble", then just plain "trouble". It's easiest if you get off before the truck takes a dip into the pit. Religion is said to be for those people who don't want to go to Hell whereas Spirituality is for those who have gone and don't want to return. There's a "low bottom' or a 'high bottom' but bottom just refers to the point where an alcoholic gets off the down elevator and takes the up elevator.
For many it's a point of 'incomprehensible demoeralization". It's that place where the promised 'friend' of booze turns on you and no longer delivers happiness and freedom from pain but increasingly causes depression anxiety and pain. The old party of self centeredness and isolation with a bottle and alcoholic friends is over and the new party with the rest of the world begins.
Sobriety is far more than being dry. Carl Jung talked of a spiritual solution. Bill Wilson called it a 'spiritual awakening'.
Spiritus contra spiritum. The higher power conquers the lower power. The holy spirit is greater than the spirits. We step out of the darkness of alcoholism into the daylight of a spiritual life. That's 'sobriety' in the finest sense of the word.