M(3), 4/4/16: How to Decide if You’re Really an Alcoholic


For my friends with me in the Northeastern corner of the United States… where the heck did Spring go?

Fantastic meeting despite completely dreary weather, I stopped counting after 14 attendees.  Several new to the meeting, one new to sobriety, and one I used to see at meetings in my first year of sobriety.

Today we read Chapter 3 from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, “More About Alcoholism.” This chapter speaks primarily to the person who is still on the fence about whether or not he or she is an alcoholic.  The chapter gives a variety of examples of people who believe they could control their drinking, to no avail.  As one of the attendees this morning remarked, “Chapter 3 is all about the disease of denial.”

I would contend that this chapter applies to anyone considering recovery.  I have yet to meet, either in person or in the blogosphere, a sober person who did not live through some period of denial.  The intensity of denial fluctuates, as does the duration, but at some point before every sober person stopped drinking they wondered whether they actually needed to stop, like, forever.

Any time I read the first half of “The Big Book,” I do so with two mindsets.  First I remember how I read it when I first started attending 12-step meetings.  At the same time, I read it and attempt to apply to what I know about myself today.  As you might expect, the two experiences are startling in their disparity.

Active Addiction Me read this chapter and scoffed at all the extreme examples of alcoholism illustrated.  She would have resisted strongly the notion that I am somehow different from other drinkers, or that I have progressed to the point where I am powerless over alcohol.  In fact, Active Addiction Me wouldn’t really understand the notion of powerlessness at all. She would have chuckled ruefully at the paragraph that lists the dozens of ways alcoholics try to control their drinking (limiting the number of drinks and switching to a drink with a lesser alcohol content in particular, these were perennial favorites).

At the same time Present Day Me reads the chapter and marvels at how closely my story mirrors the tales, at least in spirit, described in this chapter.  There is a story about a man, attempting sobriety, who concluded that adding a shot of whiskey to his milk after a full meal would do no harm.  Thinking that logical sounds preposterous, but I could give a half dozen examples of decisions I made in active addiction that seemed entirely reasonable at the time, but now take my breath away with their absurdity.  Or the illusion that someday, somehow, I would be able to “drink like normal people.”  I spent the last 4 years of my drinking career hell bent on proving this statement to be true.  And I got about as far as anyone else has, I suppose… which means nowhere.

Everyone else enjoyed the chapter as well.  One woman talked about the story of “Fred,” and announced that she is Fred:  completely logical and moderate about almost everything in her life, she loses puzzling control when it comes to alcohol.  For years she assumed she could think her way out of the problem, as she had every other problem in her life.  It wasn’t until she acknowledged her powerlessness, and applied the skills she learned through the 12 steps, that she was able to dissolve the obsession to drink.

Another gentleman added to the list of ways he tried to control his drinking, an exercise I’m sure all of us could do.  He believed he could control the amount he consumed by keeping the swizzle sticks from the drinks he consumed.  You can imagine how that story ends… a gigantic pile of swizzle sticks and no real memory of how he got them!

Another friend spoke of how she read this chapter in early sobriety, and did not enjoy what she read at all.  You see, she was thinking she would just take a break from drinking, and come to a few meetings to see if she could learn to drink like a lady.  Once she read the section of the chapter on conducting experiments on controlled drinking, she realized her plans might have a few holes in it.  She realized she had been trying controlled drinking for quite some time, with no success.

The newcomer to sobriety shared how much this chapter applied to her, and used recent real-life examples to prove it.  She said she knew she was an alcoholic when she observed her pattern of drinking one way with friends and family, but an entirely different way when alone and “safe.”  As with most of us, the pattern has been progressing, and she wants to arrest the behavior before she loses it all, the way some of the tales in the chapter end.

As I say quite a bit in this blog, there is so much more to share, and not enough time to share it!  I encourage anyone reading who still wonders if all this “sobriety stuff” applies to them to give chapter 3 a read!

Today’s Miracle:

Today my son receives the sacrament of Confirmation.  He kept telling me he needed an entire day off to reflect on his last hours of religious childhood, but I decided that he could make do with a half day!



Posted on April 4, 2016, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Congrats to your son 🙂 When I started reading the Big Book (which I’ve read many times), I was so grateful to finally get answers to my questions, even though I didn’t like the answers at the time. I felt so relieved to finally find out I wasn’t the only one trying those “experiments” to control my drinking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. yay – congrats to your boy! What a wonderful landmark in his life!

    It’s quite amazing how when we read the basic text, how we come to it in different ways. I am always startled at how it seems that the book has changed, when in fact it is I who have changed. So different things stand out with every read.

    I think by the time the third chapter comes around, the authors are coming in for the slide at home plate when it comes to demonstrating the solution to the problem they postulate in the first two chapter and forward and doc’s opinion. It’s a great chapter and really hits home the real dilemma we face when first face our “situation” (lol)

    And as for the weather – blech. We had 10 cm of snow last night. I was shovelling (gently) in April. Fool for sure.

    Hope you’re well, Josie!


    Liked by 2 people

    • First, always so great to see your name pop up, Paul. Like visiting with an old friend 🙂 Of course, you’re not as old as me, so I’m basically calling myself old 😉

      I too am continuously amazed by the variety of “takes” we have on reading the Big Book. And how, no matter how many times we’ve read it, we are able to find something different and timely to our current needs. At least that has been my experience, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

      I would have NEVER picked chapter 3 as a favorite until the past Monday. Now, I’m part of the club!

      Yes to the weather. My son had a track meet cancelled yesterday (Saturday, April 9th, well into the season of spring, allegedly) due to snow all day. The good news is (around here at least) it doesn’t stick around.

      I had to stop and calculate cm into inches, which once again proves I am old.


  3. The truth hurts sometimes.
    When I quit drinking I was sure I was just needing a break.mi never, ever considered I was an alcoholic.

    I ended up reading my husbands big book and was constantly amazed at how much of my own story was there. We really are all the same.

    Happy, joyous and free. Those are my gifts of sobriety. They are available to all of us!

    Congrats to your son. Milestones deserve special treatment!


    Liked by 1 person

    • I love hearing stories told this way. I went into sobriety like you, sure it was temporary, but it was quite some time before I started seeing myself in those stories. Of course, I was bound and determined to be terminally unique, so there’s that 😉

      Just read your AMAZING news, I can’t wait to read your book!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Josie!
    I am leading my meeting again this month.
    It assures me I will get my lazy bum up!
    We were on vacation last week, so I didn’t get to comment on your last post.
    Congratulations to your son!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really needed to read this today. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad the post came in handy, KB. Thanks for taking the time to comment!


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