Hope and hopelessness are woven through the two Big Book chapters, “There is a Solution” & “More About Alcoholism”.
We are given a glimpse of the hope in step two, recovery through a spiritual transformation, then hit again and again and again with the hopelessness of step one, in particular the mental obsession.
The genius of this structure is that if I am resistant to the idea of recovery through spiritual means, I am continually reminded through the readings of just HOW SCREWED I am without the spiritual transformation. And not just how continued active addiction hurts me; the authors also talk about the negative impacts of addiction on those around the addict: all who interact with the addict suffer from the mood and financial instability plus overall unpredictability of the addict’s life (page 18).
As mentioned, the main focus of the chapters is the mental obsession, the ultimate question: “If hundreds of experiences have shown him that one drink means another debacle with all its attendant suffering and humiliation, why is it he takes that one drink?” (page 22).
It turns out the question is unanswerable. The writers tell us, “And the truth, strange to say, is that he has no more idea why he took that first drink than you have. […] In their hearts they really do not know why they do it. Once this malady has a real hold, they are a baffled lot. There is the obsession that somehow, someday, they will beat the game. But they often suspect they are down for the count.” (page 23)
And so it is for me. The reasons I returned to my addictions again and again and again were always pitiful and laughable when placed in juxtaposition with the pain caused by the behaviors.
Is it really worth being 360 pounds to eat, drink and smoke the way my mind wants me to? Um, hell NO!
Is it worth the peace and serenity of myself AND MY LOVED ONES to get to eat, drink and smoke the literal poison that will kill me early? Again, hell NO!
Is the fleeting pleasure and self satisfaction of doing what I want worth the self hate, shame, guilt and isolation of the morning after? Hell No!!
But my experience and the wisdom of the Big Book both show that my intellectual and even heartfelt desire to NOT engage in my addictions will NOT save me. Because if simple sobriety was enough, the diets would work. I could be like normal folks and eat, drink and smoke in moderation. I could take it or leave it.
But I can’t. I only take, take, take then obsess about when I can take, take, take again and again and again until my entire life revolves around the addiction.
The only answer to my seemingly hopeless state is indeed the spiritual solution. The Big Book lists all the ways the authors tried to “beat the game” and drink normally (page 31).
I myself tried many of the same tactics with my alcoholism. With eating, I tried many fad diets and exercise programs. I tried diet pills. I never tried Weight Watchers because I had severe social anxiety and wasn’t desperate enough to enter into the group recovery paradigm. Then when I was desperate enough to try WW, my addiction had crippled my finances to where I couldn’t afford it. (Which is lucky for me because I came to OA.) I also engaged in many behaviors to attempt to control the physical weight gain of my eating. I would purge through either exercise or vomiting, restrict and, on occasion, laxatives.
None of it ever worked. I would lose weight but never maintain the loss. And the obsession would actually be worse during periods of “control” because I was thinking so damn much about food, diet, exercise and my body. My poor husband suffered much during these periods with me constantly asking him the very dangerous question of “How do I look?”
So I am beaten. I am whipped and alcohol, food and pot are my masters. My mental obsession will doom any attempt at white knuckle sobriety so I have only one decision to make as laid out at bottom of page 25: “Go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could [or] accept spiritual help”.
Just for today, I accept spiritual help. The gift of this Christmas is the full acceptance that I must make this decision every single day. Complacency will doom me. I know the intensity of the memory will fade over time, so I must turn again and again, each day, to the steps and tools of OA in order to find and connect with HP.
Just in this moment, I am abstinent and give myself to the solution of the steps through HP.