One Symptom in Common

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Good morning, Derek Stone here with bigbookwizard.net and we’ve got a great big book study for you today. Before we jump into a review of last week, just a quick disclaimer, I’m a life coach interventionist, speaker and man in recovery. I do not claim membership in affiliation with or representation of any organization, facility or group, 12-step or otherwise. All references to Alcoholics Anonymous are made in regard to the book which shares that title. These online meetings, big book studies and recovery videos are for educational purposes only and are not presented nor to be construed as professional advice and or an adequate replacement for other recovery efforts which may prove necessary, including medical detox, professional treatment, rehab, IOP counseling, therapy, medication, meeting attendance sponsorship and/or 12-step work.

Okay, quick review of last week, we studied the doctor’s opinion and we said that alcoholism is not entirely a problem of mental control, meaning that when you see an alcoholic who is drinking, they’re not always doing so in order to escape reality. Sometimes they are drinking because they’ve already drank earlier that day and the alcohol that is in their system is causing a phenomenon of craving and they’re drinking to satisfy that craving which is beyond their mental control. And a lot of people use this word craving, and if you’ve been tuning in for the first 8 weeks of this, you know that this is… we are not using the word craving to refer to something going on in the mind. The mind really only wants to take 1 or 2 drinks to take the edge off usually, it’s just a matter of relaxing, we’re not attempting to drink for oblivion until much, much later in the late stages of alcoholism and addiction. But in the early stages we’re really just drinking to relax and we want to have 1 or 2, that’s all the mind wants to do is 1 or 2. And once those 1 or 2 are in the system, that’s when the phenomenon of craving gets triggered and now every drink I take after that is an attempt to satisfy a physical craving. The way you gorge yourself you’re hungry to satisfy a craving for food, it’s happening that the bodily level, it’s not going on up here.

Drinking to satisfy this craving often creates situations which pile up on an alcoholic causing them to feel so hopeless that suicide appears as the only option. This is what the doctor means when he says, “Sometimes, there are situations which rise out of the phenomenon of craving that cause alcoholics to make the supreme sacrifice rather than continue to fight.” And I’ve known many of these in the 19 years that I’ve been sober, I’ve known many people who have committed suicide as a result of seeing no other alternative to their pain, and that’s why I’ve included this number and this website here. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, this is the place to look, they will certainly be able to point you in the right direction. Do not shrug that off as a cry for help or just mild whatever, take that seriously because it does happen.

Okay, I’m getting choked up there, we’re going to be in the doctor’s opinion, we’re going to be in the in the chapter that says a classification of alcoholics, not the chapter, but the chapter of a doctor’s opinion, we’re looking for that paragraph that says the classification of alcoholics. It should be the second indented paragraph on the page. In my book, it’s XXVIII, but I doubt that’s what it’s going to be in a 4th edition. While you’re finding that page, I’d like to give a quick shout out to my supporters on Patreon. If you see your name on the on this list, then you are in fact very near and dear to my heart. I couldn’t be doing these videos without the support of my Patreon members.

Okay, “The classification of alcoholics seems to be most difficult and in much detail is outside the scope of this book.” So the doctor is telling us right away that we’re not going to list every possible type of alcoholic that you could ever hope to run into, we’re just going to list a couple of them because it’s outside the scope of the book to really classify alcoholics. That’s not what it’s… that’s not what’s important. So he’s going to list a couple of… he’s letting us know, “Hey, in the next couple of paragraphs, I’m going to list a few examples, they’re broad examples, we’re not classifying alcoholics here.” And the reason for that is not important and we’re going to see why in a couple of paragraphs. So when you’re when you’re reading this and you’re looking at these different classifications of alcoholics, it’s not really that important to identify like which one of these are you. I mean, that’s sort of a futile exercise because the type that you are might not be on this list. This isn’t an exhaustive list. And so to try to peg yourself into one of these types, “Well, maybe I’m a combination of a couple and maybe that’s a 3rd type,” and, you know, don’t worry about that. If you can identify great, but these aren’t the qualifiers, these are just the external like what it looks like on the outside. And we’re going to hear why he’s even listing these in a couple of paragraphs. So as we’re reading these, just bear that in mind.

Okay, so he says, “There are of course the psychopaths who are emotionally unstable. We are all familiar with this type. They are always going on the wagon for keeps, they are over remorseful and make many resolutions but never a decision.” And I’ve written an article on my blog called ‘The 3 frogs fallacy’, I’ll include a link in the description below to that article that talks really in-depth about the difference between a resolution and a decision and how we really don’t use the word decision today the way that it was intended or the way that it was actually being used when this was written; and so that’s an interesting thing to look at. I think we all know or maybe have been the type of alcoholic or know the type of alcoholic or addict who is very, very over the top with their guilt and their shame and over remorseful. I mean, it is possible to be over remorseful for the things we do when we’re drinking. And if you’re watching this thinking, “Oh my god, no, it’s not, I’ve hurt my family so bad, I’m just such a lowly piece of pond scum. There’s no way that I could ever make it up to them, I’m just so…” I got news for you, that’s over remorseful, right? We are sorry for what we’ve done, we can and do offer amends, and we make up for that stuff when we clean it up and we move forward. And so you might want to consider that maybe you’re this if you’re feeling over remorseful about things.

Okay, “There is the type of man who is unwilling to admit that he cannot take a drink.” So this is someone who’s not even really contemplated that they’re an alcoholic yet or real alcoholic yet.
“He plans various ways of drinking he changes his brand or his environment.” So this is a guy that’s clinging to the delusion that maybe he can still evoke some form of control, he hasn’t even really worked step 1 yet. He’s still an alcoholic, but he hasn’t really worked step 1 and internalized that powerlessness. “There is the type who always believes that after being entirely free from alcohol for a period of time, he can take a drink without danger.” This might be an example of your binge drinker, they’ll go a week or 2 and think, “Well, see, I’ve proven that I can go without drinking so it’s safe,” and then they take a drink on a Friday and miss work on Tuesday. “There is the manic-depressive type who is perhaps least understood by his friends and about whom a whole chapter could be written.”

Notice the doctor doesn’t even give a description of this type, right, he just throws a word out there, manic-depressive, that… I mean, a whole chapter could be written about that to diagnose and delve into. And he doesn’t even bother with that because the classification is not important. What category of alcoholic you fit into is not important, and the reason for this is right here in this next paragraph. Oh, I’m sorry, false alarm, the paragraph after this paragraph. He goes, “Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect alcohol has on them. They are often able, intelligent, friendly people.” Now everybody, everybody, everybody that I know wants to put themself in this category. But, again, we’ve already talked about if you’re over remorseful, if you’re making lots of sweet promises you make a lot of resolutions that you’re going to quit entirely, if you’re irritable and grumpy 30 days after your last drink, you’re probably not this type, right? This type is normal, friendly, intelligent, able in every respect, except for when they’re drinking. And so oftentimes… oftentimes, I’ll be talking to family members who will express a sentiment to me like, “I don’t know they’re so nice except for when they’re drinking. They’re such a nice person, I don’t know, this alcohol just turns them into someone different.” Well, as someone who’s worked professionally in the recovery arena for over a decade, I can tell you that literally all I do is work with alcoholics who aren’t drinking. I can tell you unequivocally almost across the board, they are not nice! There is nothing nice about an alcoholic who’s not drinking. Every once in a while you get one who fits into this category and they’re friendly and jovial, and usually we find that’s some sort of a mask hiding a bunch of pain underneath. But, yeah, every once in a while, we do find a type like this, but everybody wants to say they’re in this category and, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, if you’re just grumpy pants after about 30 days with not… without drinking, you probably aren’t in this category, right? You’re probably not very friendly to people if you’re getting all grumpy and disgruntled after a week or two without a drink.

Okay, this is… this is the next paragraph that I wanted to really touch on. And this paragraph says, “All these, and many others, have one symptom in common. They cannot start drinking without the developing… without developing the phenomenon of craving.” So this sentence is sort of twofold here, you know, what… it’s talking about, “Okay, if you’re a real alcoholic and you’re in one of the stages leading up to alcoholism, like full-blown alcoholism, it doesn’t matter at what point in your life you take the first drink you’ve ever drank in your whole life, you can’t do that without at some point ensuring that you’re going to develop the phenomenon of craving.” Some people don’t drink alcoholically from the day of their first drink. Some people, you know, are drinking in a really controlled moderate man for quite some time before they find that they’ve developed this phenomenon of craving. And, again, this phenomenon of craving simply means, “Once, I take a drink, I cannot guarantee how many more drinks I’m going to take.” Believe it or not, there are drinkers who can do that. I know, if you’re a real alcoholic watching this, it may come to you as a surprise that there are people who can take a drink and promise that they’re not going to take more than 2 and actually stick to that promise every single time. If you have difficulty doing that, it may be the result of this thing we call a phenomenon of craving. “Once alcohols in my system, the body takes over and I cannot control how much more I drink.”

Now, every alcoholic, regardless of which category they fit into, whether it’s been listed in the previous paragraphs or not, every single one of them is going to have this one symptom in common, that they cannot, not only at any point in their life start drinking without eventually leading to this phenomenon of craving, but on any given evening when they’re stone-cold sober, they can’t put the first drink of the evening into their system, they cannot… so it’s not talking about necessarily start drinking ever in life, they’re talking about, “Any point in time when I get this rollercoaster going, I cannot put alcohol in my system safely. And by safely, I don’t mean nothing dangerous will happen,, I just mean I won’t be able to control the amount I take into my system.” This is the biggest thing for people to struggle with because we often talk about, “Can you control your drinking?” You know, from a societal standpoint, people talk about that question, “Can you control your drinking?” they talk about that question in terms of, “Can you control yourself while you’re inebriated?” Well, that’s not the question, right, there is such a thing as a functional alcoholic. I’ve known people that have built million-dollar businesses during a blackout, okay? So this isn’t about, “Can I be functional and control myself while I’m under the influence?” this is, “Is the amount of alcohol in your system currently that you wanted in your system when you started drinking today? When you first started putting alcohol in your system when you were stone-cold sober, is the amount that’s currently in your system right now the amount that you set out to put in your system?”

See a nonalcoholic can choose to get drunk tonight, they can choose to have a couple, they can choose to get tipsy, they can choose to get a little buzz going. A real alcoholic decides all of those things and just ends up at oblivion anyway despite the decision they made or the intention they set at the beginning of the night, you know? So that’s sort of what we’re looking at here. And so the example… and I’m going to steal this example. If you’re familiar with a couple of cats named Joe and Charlie, they do a bunch of circuits peeking around the big book, and they describe this really beautifully. So I’m just going to steal their example, but I’m giving them credit, okay? So they use this example that if you take 100 alcoholics and put them into a room and you give them all a drink, you’re going to see externally, you’re going to see a lot of different reactions taking place. What it mean by that is you’re going to see people getting really, really happy and friendly and jovial, they’re going to be reminiscing about the good old days, they’re going to be telling jokes, they’re going to be laughing, they’re going to be cutting up, right, those are your happy drunks. You’re going to see some people getting argumentative, maybe they get political and they debate each other, you’re going to see people getting even more aggressive than that and getting competitive with like games of pool or darts or cards or dominoes. You’re going to see people even getting more aggressive than that and fighting with one another physically. You’re going to see people getting romantic and maybe, you know, making out with one another or getting frisky with one another. You’re going to see people in the corner crying, feeling depressed, you’re going to see people telling you everything that’s wrong with their life or everything that’s wrong with the world. We’re going to see all kinds of different external reactions, right, that’s the classification of alcoholics.

We could get into happy drunk, sad drunk, nostalgic drunk, angry drunk, violent drunk, blackout drunk, repetitive drunk. Like, we can get into all those different types of what looks like externally when I drank. And that’s why the doctor only spends 3, 4 paragraphs on this because we could spend all day on this, we could spend a whole chapter on this, we spent a whole book on this if we wanted to, but the whole conversation is pointless because all of them have 1 symptom in common despite how different they look externally. And that 1 symptom is, in about 15 or 20 minutes, maybe 25, each and every one of these 100 alcoholics in the room is going to start looking around for that second round of drinks, “Where’s the next drink? I need the next drink,” that is the qualifier, that’s what we’re looking at. “Can I start drinking without developing a physical phenomenon of craving? I’m drinking to satisfy a craving beyond my control, which means that, yeah, maybe when I started out at 6:00 PM, I took a couple of drinks to take the edge off from work. I’m not trying to escape in terms of oblivion, I got stuff to do later tonight, but I wanted to take a couple of drinks just to unwind,” that explains those 2. What explains drink number 9 and drink number 12 and drink number 15 and drink number 21? What explains those? “The only thing that explains those is the first one that I took because it triggered a phenomenon of craving in my body that is beyond my mental control, that is beyond the fact that what I want to do, what I need to do, what I promised I’d do and what I said I would do is take just 2 after work and be home in time for dinner. And despite that that’s my intention, I cannot prevent the rest of the drinks from following.” That is what every real alcoholic is going to have in common; it’s what they’re all going to have in common. And that is what the doctor is saying here. That’s why we don’t go a lot into the classifications of what type of drunk you were, you know, our stories, when we tell our stories, it’s not really important what all that stuff looks like, what our drinking looked like. What’s really important is this aspect of my drinking, “Am I drinking at times when I’d rather not be, when I shouldn’t be, when I’ve promised I wouldn’t be simply because I took a drink and that drink took more drinks?” If we can answer yes to that, you’re well on path to working the first step.

Okay, so he goes on to say, “This phenomenon, as we’ve suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity.” So, again, allergies were kind of a new thing when this book was being written, they weren’t quite sure about all the stuff that we know about allergies today in terms of being able to do a skin test for them, the body producing histamines for substances to which you’re allergic and being able to test for those. We can definitively test you for an allergy, but the way they’re using it here and what they knew about it at this point was essentially, when you introduce a substance into a person’s system, they react to it in a way that is averse and not in keeping with the majority of people who ingest that substance. And that is certainly true of this phenomenon of craving. Not everybody who puts alcohol in their system triggers a phenomenon of craving, it’s limited to this alcoholic class. In fact, the numbers, the last study that I heard pegs it at about 10 to 15% of everyone who drinks alcohol falls into this category. That means 85 to 90% of everyone who drinks alcohol doesn’t. It doesn’t affect most people in this way, it’s a poison. The natural physical response to putting alcohol in your system is for your body to start sending your brain messages not to have anymore. And so when a person puts alcohol in their system and they don’t want more than that first drink and their body starts sending signals to the brain to ingest more, that’s abnormal and that’s a physical reaction taking place. And so that abnormal physical reaction is what the doctor is looking at to say, “These people are a distinct entity, this might even be an allergy. Who knows?” that’s what’s… that’s what’s causing him to say this. So it’s, still even though medically might not be 100% accurate, it’s still a great analogy for understanding what’s taking place when an alcoholic drinks.

He goes on to make this statement, “It (the phenomenon of craving)… it has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated,” this is still true today. Later on in the book, I believe it’s on page 31, you know, they talked about, “There is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.” It was true in ‘39 when this book was first published and it’s still true today. We still don’t have a pill to make a real alcoholic drink like a normal person. I mean, I’m just thinking about that. If there was a pill that could make me drink like a normal person, I’d want to take 2 just to see what it does. Also, if I could drink like a normal person, I’d drink all the time. And then I’m going to leave you with this last sentence, and we’re going to actually redo this paragraph next week, we’re going to start with this paragraph because it ties into what we’re going to be talking about moving forward. But he ends it, “With the only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.” Now keep in mind, that’s in reference to the phenomenon of craving problem, that’s the only solution we can come up with for that. We can’t really do anything to make it manageable other than not triggering it in the first place.

So that’s a good place to stop I think. I just want to give a couple of brief announcements. We have a… the contest for the big book study, I’m giving away one of these a month. Last night, as a matter of fact, I met with the winner of last month’s contest, he happens to live here in Austin so I was able to just… I threw out an invitation said, “You want to meet for coffee? I can give you the book in person.” And it’s Ira Harris… Harrelson, I think I’m pronouncing that right, Ira Harrelson. I’m so glad he got a copy of this book, he loves it. You know, this thing, I’ve got details on it here. If you want to join that contest it’s bigbookwizard.net/enter, and you’ll be able to get that there. It’s for US residents only. If you want a recovery resource to see how you’re doing on recovery, I’ve got this robust recovery checklist. It’s about 12 items that you can examine to look at, “Where am I at in recovery?” A lot of people have found that useful, it’s bigbookwizard.net/checklist. If you want to support me on Patreon, I don’t know if I have one here, one of these… you can get one of these bookmarks I created as a way of saying thank you for support me on Patreon. They’ve got the 9 step promises on the front and all the promises on the back, you can do that. And last but not least, if you or someone you know needs help, reach out to me, bigbookwizard.net/help. We can find you a professional that you can work with nearby, we can get you whatever kind of help you need, whether that’s a detox, treatment, counseling, coaching whatever you’re looking for. And if you want to just, you know, talk with me a little bit more in depth, ask me questions, reach out to me on social media; there’s all my information. And if you’d like reminders to be able to attend this webinar or this big book study live, then you can sign up for those reminders at bigbookwizard.net/join. So that’s about it for this week, I really appreciate you tuning in. And if no one’s told you today that they love you, let me be the first. And with that, I’ll say be well.

 

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