An Allergic Reaction

Let me start by saying I love A.A.  I am sober today not because of Rational Emotive Therapy or Moderation Management or any of the hundreds of recovery methods out there. I am sober because of A.A. Maybe they say things exactly right to capture my attention and calm my fears. Maybe A.A. is exactly what it’s supposed to be.

I say what I’m about to say because it is based in fact. I love A.A. so much that I can’t stand “weak spots”. I spent 25 years as a computer programmer. The whole system may be great, but it will still have areas that could be improved, even areas that are prone to error. Bugs. My job was to keep my eyes peeled for these places — look for the negatives — and fix them to make the program  stronger, better.

The concept of “We have an Allergy to alcohol” has bothered me for a number of years. Technically, I don’t believe what we have is anything of the sort.

When I was a little kid, I thought that Cat was the “opposite” of Dog. Some of my friends had cats, others had dogs. I saw dogs chase cats in cartoons, saw them fighting. Black, white, up, down, cat, dog. Made perfect sense to me. It helped me understand the concept.

But a cat isn’t the opposite of a dog, is it? They’re actually more alike that they are different. Part of growing up is putting away beliefs that aren’t true, even if they give us comfort.

Stop and think about what an allergy is. Say you’ve got hay fever, and you hear the pollen count is really high. Does it make you want to run outside and breathe real deep? When your nose starts to clog up, do you go stand under a live oak tree so you can get just a little bit more? You eat some shellfish, feel your face start to swell and your throat start to close and think: “A few more oughta make this GREAT!”.

Or how about: “I went camping and caught a hell of a case of Poison Ivy! Swelled all up, itched like crazy… Felt so good that I took some clippings. I’m growing it in little pots around the house now, so I can rub it on my balls whenever I want!”

Is there any allergy you can think of that makes you want more of it? Of course not! The entire concept is ridiculous. A Doctor came up with this drivel? Are you fucking kidding me? Dr. Silkworth is a moron!

If it stopped right there, there would be no danger in believing this fallacy. It would be as harmless as the cat/dog thing. It just helped us grasp a concept. But what if it caused us to miss the actual concept? Then it wouldn’t be as “harmless”, would it?

The turning point here is the phrase: “…as soon as we put it in our body…”, as though something must me ingested to cause such an deleterious effect. I hear people say all the time: “I don’t do anything mood or mind altering!”. Men, if you don’t think a pretty woman is mood and mind altering, then it’s been way too long since you had one smile at you or seen one naked!

“My life sucks. I hate everything. Nothing’s fun anymore. I think I’m going to kill myself… Oooh, look! Boobies!”

Most people agree that you can’t smoke crack, meth, or pot, or shoot heroin and call yourself sober, but they feel differently about gambling, downloading porn and dozens of other things that affect our mood and mind.

One of the more interesting things I learned working at a treatment center is that Eating Disorders are classified as a Sexual Disorder. I didn’t know that. Apparently near 100% of Anorexics have been molested at some point. They then have an overwhelming and all-encompassing need to be loved, which they equate to having sex. So if you show them any attention — or, oddly enough, reject them — they HAVE to have sex with you. Then you will truly love them, and they will finally feel good about themselves.

Immediately after sex, though — when their world is not suddenly perfect — they realize that that wasn’t what they needed; it’s still not enough. Then comes the remorse and the guilt and the self loathing… So in order to attract another man — the one that WILL make them feel perfectly loved — they withhold food (or binge and purge if bulimic) to be attractive.

Their “addiction arc” is identical to an alcoholic’s: When they use their “substance” — sex — their emotions mimic any other addict: Euphoria before, good during, crash after. They feel better and better, and then they crash hard. And nothing was put into their bodies. Except a penis. And penises don’t count. Never have, never will.

It’s real easy to see how someone could get addicted to heroin, crack, pills… But we often forget that critical, instantaneous event that occurs after we have procurred it and immediately BEFORE we ingest it: Euphoria. THAT is what we are addicted to. That is what keeps us coming back. That is the Mental Obsession.

When a gambler walks up to place a bet — or even before, as he thinks about going to the track/casino/parlor —  he has a rush of endorphins. His optimism is through the roof, and all’s right with the world. His money problems will soon be solved! He feels that ease and comfort that comes at once from taking control of his financial issues. When the first bet doesn’t deliver the keys to the Promised Land, he’s nearly as sure that the second one will. And the third… Until finally he is left in a state of pitiful, and incomprehensible, demoralization.

The Mental Obsession shows itself in many “addictions”. The 12-step approach has been used on hundreds of different afflictions — with good results — yet very few of them have a physical component. Gambling, sex, emotions anonymous… Chinese Mike — damn his inscrutable ass! — used to say: “It’s not the first drink that is the insanity…. it is the thought that proceeds it. It is thinking about the drink!”

The power of the mind is incredible. Imagine coming home exhausted from work, where everything went wrong. Even had a flat tire on the way home. You see that your house needs cleaning, but you just don’t have the energy. There’s a knock on the door, you open it, and there’s Ed McMahon with a great big check in his hand. 30 seconds later you’re jumping up and down, squeeling like a kid.  Where did that energy come from?  Why couldn’t you work it up to do the dishes?

Endorphins are many times more potent than heroin per milligram. The name actually means “endogenous — or self produced — morphine”. That’s right. Our bodies produce “Smack” and give it to us as a reward for thinking certain thoughts. The problem though,  is that while the endorphins are produced in the pituitary gland, the portion of our brain that controls it’s release is “version 1.0 software”. It has so many goddam bugs in it, we’re lucky it doesn’t control our breathing! We wouldn’t live a day!

So when I think about buying that car or going out with that girl or placing that bet my body gives me a jolt of “feel good” designed to make me want it more, and achieve my goal. Here’s the kicker: Buying that car won’t make me feel that good, fucking Heroin makes me feel that good! I’ve just been tricked into thinking it’s going to be a whole lot better than it is. When I buy it and the feeling isn’t there any more, I’m disappointed. I look for something else. Something that will give me that feeling forever.

And it ain’t happenin’.

When I was in High School I went over to see my friend Bobby Gifford. He was freaking out, trying to get dressed. Got his shirt buttoned wrong, trying to put 2 shoes on the same foot… He was a mess! I asked him: “What’s going on, man? Where you going in such a hurry?”

“Man! Didn’t you hear? The heroin is so pure that 7 niggers just died in D.C.!”

“Oh, shit! Did you take some? You want me to take you to the hospital?”

“No, man! I’m going to get me some before it’s all GONE!”

I saw instantly that he didn’t think that was a “pretty good” idea. He didn’t think that was a “great” idea. He thought that was the “BEST” damn idea he’d ever had! You can’t talk someone out of something they think is the smartest idea they’ve ever had, so I just left.

Looking back, he was high already. His mind had given him the fuel to overcome any obstacle to achieving his goal. And it completely destroyed Rational Thought.

So I am on the constant lookout for untrue messages that my mind sends me. They will often be disguised as really good ideas.

“We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.”

The Doctor’s Opinion

“All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.”

The Doctor’s Opinion

“Why does he behave like this? 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? Why can’t he stay on the water wagon? What has become of the common sense and will power that he still sometimes displays with respect to other matters?”

There is a solution

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.

The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.”

There is a solution

This entry was posted in 12x12, Big Book, Feelings and Emotions, Ridiculous A.A. Advice. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Allergic Reaction

  1. Andrea says:

    I had forgotten about Chinese Mike ! Always on the go with a smile on his face.

    • AsJimSeesIt says:

      He’s no different now! About 2 years ago he was mowing a yard, ran over a wire, it whipped around and severed his femoral artery. Before he could ride the tractor 50 yards back to the house, he bled out. They found him unconcious several hours later. Took 5 units of blood (we only have 6). A week later he’s laughing and telling the story about it, and back to mowing yards!

      He’s definitely one of my A.A. heroes.

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