A.A. has different danger points than other endeavors. Like most things in A.A., it is counter-intuitive. For instance, if you get a job laying brick — and you don’t know how to do it very well — your ass is on the line. The boss may give you a day, a week, or a month to get your act together, and if you haven’t; you’re gone. And once you get it — have that “AHA!” moment and it becomes clear to you — you’ve moved from the “Hot Seat” to the “Throne”. Everything about your presence changes: You’re more relaxed, happier on the job (no stress), even cockier. You’ve been on the job 3 months and you’ll be telling that old guy next to you — who’s been laying brick longer than you’ve been alive — “What’s the matter Old Man? Can’t keep up this morning?”. Boss Man walks by and you make a point of catching his eye — just like you hid from him a month ago — just so he knows you’re on the job and kicking ass! Your job is now secure.
In A.A. it’s the opposite. If someone comes in distraught and in pain we say she has “the gift of desperation“. There’s a chance she might make it. A couple of months later — when she’s feeling great, flirting, laughing — that’s when she’s entering the danger zone. She’s forgotten that there’s a loaded gun pointing at her head. An A.A. meeting is not a party or a social hour, but just because an A.A. meeting is not a life and death struggle doesn’t mean it’s not teaching you to deal with one. It would be like laughing all the way through boot camp, happy with how many new friends you’ve made. Good thing, too. You’ll need at least 6 of them to carry your coffin, ’cause you ain’t gonna make it 2 weeks on the battlefield.
They say desperation comes when our quality of life falls faster than our standards do.
- January: If I was ever late to work because of my drinking, I’d definitely quit. My job’s too important!
- February: I couldn’t get up ’cause I didn’t get back from the bar until 3! It wasn’t the alcohol! I was just tired. But if I ever lost a job because of my drinking… THAT would be the end of it.
- March: My boss is a jerk! … WAS a jerk… He doesn’t know how good I am. I was gonna quit anyway! If I ever lost my girlfriend from drinking… Then I’d know I had a problem!
- April: …
- May: …
- June: … Not everything in the dumpster is spoiled, you know. Some of it is just as good as what people are paying good money for. Wish I had some beer money, though. If I ever stole to get drunk…
- If I ever sold my body…
Non-alcoholics change their lives to meet their goals and standards. Too often, alcoholics change their goals and standards to meet their lives.
At any point in the downward spiral reason can return. There doesn’t have to be a “Bottom“, so to speak, just a “moment of truth” where you realize that you’ve lost control of your life. Alcohol is making decisions for you. Shame, guilt, remorse, and self-loathing set in. This sounds like a bad thing, but I can think of nothing better! Those who come in to get the judge, the wife, or the boss off their back succeed in 6 months or a year, then go back to their old ways.
Those who come in because they hate the person they have become, succeed in becoming a new person in the same amount of time, and never have to go back to drinking.
I came into A.A. so disgusted with what I had become that I wanted to kill myself.
So I did.
Step by step.
One day at a time.
That man is now dead.
Is it a coincidence what Gift of desperation spells?
“The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did — then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen — Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who read this page will understand!
“Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, “I don’t miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time.” As ex-problem drinkers, we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.”