Many people who come into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous struggle with classifying themselves as alcoholics. Even though there is often a tremendous amount of evidence backing up the idea that they have an issue with alcohol, it can still be difficult for them to wrap their minds around the fact that they are abnormal drinkers.
Part of the reason for this is because alcoholism is an illness that uses denial as a weapon against the person afflicted. It is part of the mental peculiarity that comes along with being an abnormal drinker and as such, it causes many individuals to believe that they will one day be able to regain control of their drinking and return back to a time when it didn’t rule their life. Their illness tells them that their drinking just got a little out of hand because of the circumstances in their life and once everything settles down they will be able to drink normally again. This thought has caused a great many alcoholics to go back out and drink again, leaving them thoroughly confused when their abnormal drinking resurfaces.
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In fact, the idea that the abnormal drinker, or alcoholic, will one day be able to drink with impunity is the great obsession of every alcoholic. This thought feeds the small sliver of hope that maybe the alcoholic isn’t really alcoholic, and with enough will power and enough determination they can manage their drinking and live a normal life.
The issue is that alcoholism is not an illness of the will, but rather it is an obsession of the mind and an allergy of the body that forces the person afflicted to drink against their will. An individual who suffers from alcoholism will never be able to drink like a normal person and so even though it may be their deepest desire to do so, they must leave behind this delusion and accept their alcoholism, and all of its ramifications, if they ever hope to recover.
A Personal Story of an Abnormal Drinker
When I entered into treatment I was sure that I didn’t have an issue with alcohol or drugs. I mean maybe I knew that my cocaine and heroin habit might have gotten a little out of hand, which, by the way, is a typical thought for an abnormal drinker or drug user, but I didn’t really think I needed to get entirely sober, or even stop drinking. Complete abstinence? That just sounded crazy to me at the time. I couldn’t figure out why I had to give up all substances because I wasn’t yet ready to come to terms with the fact that it was, in fact, the drugs and alcohol that had ruined my life.
I am grateful to say though, that today that notion doesn’t sound crazy to me and I understand that as an abnormal drinker I cannot put any mood or mind altering substances into my body. However, I didn’t get to this point overnight. I spent the whole first year of my recovery chasing the great obsession that every abnormal drinker wishes to believe in the beginning, I thought that I could figure out a way to drink like a normal person. I tried every combination, drinking only on weekends, drinking only wine, not drinking at all, but nothing ever worked. I ended up blacking out almost every time I tried to drink, and pretty quickly, I began spending all of my money on cocaine. So I kept picking up white chips and kept feeling worse and worse every time I relapsed. No matter what combination or rules or limitations I tried to give myself, I could not stop once I had started, and I couldn’t control how much I used or drank. I was going crazy on a roller coaster of guilt, shame, and lack of control, I knew that I could always go back to the rooms, but I still had to see if I could master this controlled drinking thing. Turns out, it was controlling me more than I ever controlled it.
Finally, while sitting in an old timers meeting that my friend dragged me to, I heard something that almost made me laugh out loud. The meeting was opened with a prayer, the preamble, and then a reading from the chapter More About Alcoholism from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“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 that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking. This 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.”
At that moment, I realized I am NOT normal, I never will be normal, and this is just something I have to come to terms with. Since making that discovery, I learned that I had taken the First Step. Upon continuing with a sponsor, I learned that not only was I abnormal, which today I have become very grateful for, but that I could live a life that was better than anything I have ever known, so long as I was willing to continue working the Steps, and be willing to believe that a God of my own understanding would be the only solution from the spiritual, emotional, and physical torture that I had been enduring throughout my life.
Today I know that the obsession of every abnormal drinker was once in me, but that it is now only a distant memory. With the help of my sponsor, my God, and the people in the rooms of my fellowship, I know that being abnormal is what sets me apart. Call it cheesy, but today I think that I am abnormal because I choose to accept a higher purpose, I choose to utilize my knowledge and experience from the trials I have been through, to be of service to those who feel as I once felt. Today I am grateful for my abnormal, alcoholic, drug addict mind because I can help people who need it and I can live by a set of spiritual principles. Today I can try to be the best person I can be, and I know that the obsession to drink or drug has truly been lifted.
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