When considering the following questions, it may be well to consider this:
"There are three types of people: the pious man or woman, who agrees with everything placed before him or her to avoid having a genuine experience with the questions posed; the bigot, who disagrees with everything placed before him or her to avoid having a genuine experience with the questions posed; the man or woman of consideration, who refuses to answer a question point-blank, instead considering the question in order to have a new experience.
Once you have answered a question, you have blocked yourself off from having a new experience with the question. All of the questions that are posed out of the Big Book are therefore questions to consider rather than answer.
The principle operating here is that, when I want a new experience with the Big Book and with the programme and God, whatever got me to this point cannot take me further or I would already have made the progress I need to make. Everything I know to date, which has been my greatest asset, becomes the greatest obstacle to having a new experience, my greatest liability."
A suggested set-aside prayer (based on Emmet Fox):
"God, I hereby renounce all preconceived opinions; please set aside for me my present habits of thought and my present views and prejudices; please jettison anything and everything that can stand in the way of my finding the truth; remove my fear of public opinion and of the disapproval of relatives or friends; help me see that my most cherished beliefs may be mistaken and that my ideas and views of life may be false and in need of recasting. Let me start again at the very beginning and learn life anew."
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Read Chapter Three. Then consider these questions.
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Opening paragraphs—the definition of alcoholism
The key word is and. When you controlled it, did you enjoy it? When you enjoyed it, could you control it?
A friend says that, for him, this translates as "every time I drank I thought I could get away with it—I could get the kick I wanted to get, and the price I would have to pay would not be too high". Is this you?
Note that this is the First Step. There is no mention, at this point, of the words "powerless" and "unmanageable"—there is the concession that we are alcoholics. The Big Book then defines what alcoholics are:
Apply this paragraph first with regard to whether or not you can control whether or not you have the first drink.
Then apply this paragraph with regard to whether or not you can control how much you drink after you have had the first drink.
Can you see that the periods when you thought you were regaining control—over the first drink and after the first drink—were merely pit-stops on the road to destruction?
How did your illness progress?
Given that real alcoholics never regain control (= power, = choice), do you still believe you are choosing not to drink today, i.e. have power and control over whether or not you have the first drink?
If you have power and control and choice over whether or not you have the first drink, can you be a real alcoholic?
Which of these describe you?
What other methods have you tried to control your drinking—before the first drink and after the first drink.
Imagine this: could you do this consistently, forever?
The Man of Thirty
Read the story about the "man of thirty" (32:2–33:1).
- Have you ever successfully stopped drinking for a time and started again?
- Was the physical craving still there?
- If you slipped, do you believe you could come back to AA?
Do you have any such lurking reservation or lurking notion—that you could drink and not trigger the craving?
Jim's Story—the "peculiar mental twist"
This can be described as a distortion in reality. Later on, in Jim's story, a distortion in reality will be described (the whisky-in-the-milk incident).
Do you want to stop altogether?
Is this, therefore, your question?
Note that if you have lost this power of choice, the Big Book is suggesting you cannot stay stopped unless you live life on a spiritual basis. Do you believe this (yet)?
Read Jim's story (35:2–37:2).
- Do you believe that, if you achieved all of the things that Jim had achieved, had all the qualities that Jim enjoyed, and had all of the knowledge that Jim had acquired, all of that would keep you sober?
- Have you been relying on achievements, and qualities, and knowledge to keep you sober?
- What is the one area in which Jim fell short?
- How long did Jim fall short for?
- If things are going well, does that mean you are going to stay sober?
- Compare this to 14:6–15:0—what does "enlarging your spiritual life" mean?
- Are you doing this?
- If not, how long do you have before you drink?
- Does Jim have resentment? Do you need to be free of resentment to stay sober? Does Bill, on page 15, have resentment? Does he stay sober? What is the difference between Bill and Jim?
- Jim drinks after having a "sudden" insane thought. What is the insane thought (the "peculiar mental twist")?
- Is he "sane" before the first insane thought? Is there any sign or warning that the first insane thought is on its way?
- Did Jim think of the consequences?
- If you are "sane" today, how do you know whether or not you will "suddenly" succumb to the "sudden" insane thought, like Jim?
- Have you ever had an experience like Jim's?
- What were the insane thoughts/the peculiar mental twists that persuaded you to drink?
- Do you have, under all circumstances and at all times, a sufficient mental defence against such thoughts?
The Parallel-Thinker—"the curious mental phenomenon"
- Have you ever had two sets of thoughts in your mind at once—a sane set and an insane set?
- What is your experience of this?
- What happens if the insane set out of thoughts wins, even for a moment?
- Can you fight this, consistently, under all circumstances, at all times?
Read the jaywalker story (37:3–38:3).
- What is the "thrill"?
- What are the consequences?
- Should the "thrill" outweigh the consequences?
- Does knowing that the consequences outweigh the thrill stop you?
- Can you see the insanity of this?
- Is this you?
Fred's Story—the "strange mental blank spot"
Do you believe this?
Do you see, now, that whether or not you are an actual or a potential alcoholic is irrelevant—even a potential alcoholic cannot stop based on self-knowledge?
Read Fred's story (39:2–43:1).
- Fred has standing, money, property, a happy marriage, successful children, an attractive personality, and friends and is, on apparently stable and well-balanced. Yet he is an alcoholic and continually relapsing. Do you still believe your alcoholism can be blamed on your lack of standing, your lack of money, your financial insecurity, your broken relationships, your broken personality, your loneliness, or your emotional instability?
- If Fred does not even have the problems you have and is still drinking, are you still under the delusion that, to stay sober, you only need to solve such problems or need to solve such problems at all?
- Fred's "fault" is failure to admit he is an alcoholic and failure to accept a spiritual remedy for his problem. Do you still believe a non-spiritual remedy could work for you?
- He has all of the knowledge about alcoholism of the people that wrote the Big Book. Yet he continues drinking. In the light of the fact that Fred has such knowledge and continues drinking, do you still believe that reading and understanding the Big Book will solve your problem?
- He was positive that humiliating experience plus knowledge would keep him sober—do you still believe that, if you remember where you came from, if you remember what drink "did to you", if you remember your last drink/your last drunk, if you keep the memory evergreen, all of that, plus the knowledge of all of the people around you in AA, will keep you sober?
- Fred believed that he could exercise his will power to keep himself sober. Do you still believe you have the power, at all times, "to get to bed tonight without a drink", "to not drink no matter what"? Do you believe you can, at all times, follow the instruction "don't take the first drink"?
- Fred believed that he could stay sober by "keeping on guard". Do you still believe that this will work to keep you sober, at all times?
- Fred has a period when he has no trouble refusing drinks. Yet he relapses. Do you believe that, because, for the time being, you have no trouble refusing drinks, this will automatically remain the case?
- In the period immediately before Fred relapses (41:0), does he have anything to "drink on"? Do you still believe you "drink on" emotion or circumstance?
- 41:1 "the thought came to mind": can you control what thoughts come into your head?
- 41:1 "it would be nice to have a couple of cocktails with dinner": is this thought, in itself, true or false—sane or insane? How many cocktails does he actually have with dinner? Did he follow through with what he said he was going to do? Were these cocktails indeed "nice", as far as we can tell from the story? Again—is what his mind is telling him—in itself—true or false?
- 41:1 "that was all. Nothing more". This is the strange mental blank spot—have you ever experienced the failure of any thought of consequences to show up on the tails of the drinking thought?
- 41:2 "I had made no fight whatever against the first drink." Do you believe that fighting will be effective to prevent you from drinking?
- 41:3 "This time I had not thought of the consequences". Do you believe that thinking of the consequences will be effective to prevent you from drinking?
- 41:3 "they prophesied that if I had an alcoholic mind, the time and place would come—I would drink again... what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots." Do you have an alcoholic mind?
- 42:0 "I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow." Are you defeated?
Are you alcoholic?
Are you licked?
Are you 100% hopeless, apart from divine help?
Must your defence come from a Higher Power?