Thursday, 2 July 2015

Unmanageability: the change from past to present, page 60, and the 12 x 12

(1) The change from past to present

Page 59 states: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

It is important to remember that any understanding of unmanageability, as it was actually meant by the authors, must take into consideration this: ~our lives were once manageable but are no longer~.

Therefore, any interpretation which is existential (i.e. the idea that we are not able to control life in general because there are factors that affect us that are beyond our control) simply will not wash.

Many people say that to recognise unmanageability is to recognise one cannot live effectively without God, because a life run on self-will can hardly be a success. This idea is universal to humans, however, not limited to alcoholics, and is certainly not brought on by alcoholism. This cannot be the unmanageability referred to, or else we're implying, before we became alcoholics, we were indeed able to make a 'go of it' based on self-will but have lost that ability due to our alcoholism. That is clearly nonsense. Remember: whatever manageability is, we used to have it but have it no longer.

Before I drank, I was emotionally volatile, and a little bit incompetent (hell, I was sixteen or seventeen, what do you expect!) But I was able to make a decision to turn up somewhere and by and large could indeed turn up. By the time I was powerless over alcohol, I was no longer able to follow through. If the desire to drink popped up inside me, it was ~that desire~ that was now acting as the 'manager' of my life.

No, unmanageability must be understood as the consequence of powerlessness.

(2) The reference to page 60

Page 60 states: That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.

If this is taken together with Step One, as presented on page 59, the juxtaposition reinforces the idea that manageability is an innate ability that has been lost.

The only innate ability that is lost in alcoholics (given that quite a few people come into AA with well-ordered lives and a pretty normal emotional make-up) is the ability to direct the course of one's day without an overwhelming desire to drink mucking things up.

(3) Step One in 'The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions'

The man who wrote the Steps took the opportunity a couple of decades later to clarify and expound on what he originally wrote, in the aforementioned volume.

This is fascinating, because there is no reference to 'restless, irritable, and discontent'; there is no reference to bedevilments; there is no reference to the innate unmanageability of life in the broader sense, applicable to all humanity; there is no reference to how much better life is when one seeks God than when one runs it on self-will.

No, unmanageability is not covered as a separate topic. Step One in the '12 x 12' covers the mental obsession plus the physical craving, and that is it. It draws attention away from the consequences with reference to which many people 'get' their Step One and asks us to look more deeply at the underlying pattern controlling our life:

'The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us: first we were smitten by an insane urge that condemned us to go on drinking, and then by an allergy of the body that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the process.'

The 12 x 12 recognised that taking Step One by examining one's emotions or the chaos of one's life actually acts as a block to many people, and suggests disregarding those features:

'Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. ... Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step? ... By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression.'

It is absolutely patent that unmanageability, as presented here, is the inability to manage one's life because, and only because, one is unable to refrain from destructive drinking.

One might well be making an absolute hash of it because one is selfish and immature, but these features are not universal to alcoholics, and act as further incentives, not the basic reason, for taking the rest of the Steps.

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