What Problem?

alcoholic1 It was sometime in the early 1980’s when Joey had a little alcohol-related run-in with the law and, in his attempt to escape with the minimum possible punishment, he voluntarily consented to some personal counseling. Over a few weeks’ time, Joey met regularly with a professional therapist, answering a variety of questions about his childhood, his current situation, and his drinking habits. Joey was mostly truthful, as he recalls it, but maybe not completely honest. After several of these soul-baring sessions, the good doctor pronounced his diagnosis: Joey had a pattern of heavy drinking but was probably not an alcoholic. Whew! That was close!

And so began a pattern of attempts by Joey at drinking self-control that would last nearly a decade. In the volume, Alcoholics Anonymous, the authors wrote: “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.” (p. 30)

Joey’s story validates the accuracy of that concept. Throughout the 1980’s, he tried relentlessly to prove to himself, and to those around him, that he could handle alcohol and that he did not have a problem. Some of the control methods Joey tried included: counting the number of drinks he had every day, drinking only beer, having no more than one shot of whiskey a night, drinking rum instead of whiskey, drinking wine instead of hard liquor, drinking only on the weekends, not drinking on the weekends, drinking only at home, drinking only at parties, never drinking alone, keeping only limited amounts of alcohol in the house, and more. For a couple years, Joey even managed not to drink at all!

Sometimes Joey’s attempts were successful, but only for brief periods of time. Eventually, he always ended up drunk again; doing something embarrassing, getting into trouble at home or at work, sometimes with the law, feeling remorse and frustration. Some people are fortunate enough to be blackout drinkers, but Joey rarely was. He typically woke up remembering every distressing nuance of the night before. His atrocious actions, the horrific insults he hurled at those around him, his insane arguments and perpetual know-it-all philosophy almost always came back to him in full force the morning after, motivating Joey to even greater attempts toward self-control. Little did he know, at the time, that his efforts at micro-managing his drinking were, in themselves, evidence of the futility of his condition.

The authors of Alcoholics Anonymous go on to say: “We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals – usually brief – were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.” (p. 30)

Just as these men wrote, Joey continued to get worse over time. By 1990, he was virtually without a friend; alone, drunk, depressed, and confused. It was a horrifying and painful reality in which to find himself. Joey had lost everything that mattered to him and he was dead inside. Yet he still continued his vain attempts at controlled drinking for another year before the pain finally drove him to action.

Lord willing, Joey will soon celebrate the 25th anniversary of his freedom from addiction.

Can you identify with Joey’s story? Almost no one likes to think of himself or herself as being unable to control his behavior, but addiction is a progressive and deadly disease and is, perhaps, the only disease where one of the primary symptoms is the absolute belief you do not have it. But there is hope. If Joey can recover – so can you!

The authors of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote: “What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God.” Indeed, I am confident beyond doubt that you will find, if you seek God, that He is more than able to deliver you from addiction and the incomprehensible pain and despair that accompany it. But you are likely to also need the help of your fellow man. In most cities, there are recovery meetings available through your local church. So if you are in a church, check with them.

Other resources are also available. Here are links to some of them. I encourage you to take the bold step, like Joey did, of reaching out to one or more of these. I am confident you will find the help you need:

Celebrate Recovery
Teen & Adult Challenge
Calvary Addiction Recovery Center
Alcoholics Anonymous

And for those who may love someone suffering from addiction: Al Anon is almost certainly available in your area.

May God bless you and keep you. As always, if we may be of further service, please do not hesitate to drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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