As alcoholics, we grapple with a range of issues at different points in our sobriety. For many of us, there are many things we need to come to terms with early on in our recovery journeys. We have to accept that we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives have become unmanageable. We have to embrace significant change, knowing that growth can be just as painful as it is beautiful. Above all else, we have to accept the fact that we cannot drink safely — this means not at all, not even one.
This can be a difficult idea to come to terms with, especially considering the fact that:
- As alcoholics, we are programmed to drink, and
- We constantly watch other people drink with impunity.
Why not us? Why can’t we enjoy and control our drinking like everyone else? What’s the problem with having one drink and saving alcohol consumption for special occasions? Well, if you are anything like other alcoholics, you have attempted to control your drinking in the past with little to no success. Maybe you have switched from hard liquor to beer or wine, maybe you have promised to cut yourself off at two drinks. Maybe you have sworn to only drink on the weekends or on major holidays. How well have these restrictions worked out for you? If you are completely honest with yourself, you might find that despite repeated attempts to have just one, you have been unable to limit your intake once the first sip hits your lips.
At 12 Step New York we are available to help you through your recovery journey in any way we can. Contact us today to learn more.
The Disease Model of Alcoholism
It is very rare for an alcoholic to immediately understand substance dependence as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. In most instances, we come to terms with the idea of “never again” slowly, over the period of months — or even years. Accepting the Disease Model of Alcoholism can be extremely difficult. Why? Because it suggests that if we want to maintain a high quality of life, we must also maintain total abstinence, and being that we are alcoholic, we really like to drink. Even if alcohol has completely destroyed our lives and driven us straight to the brink of insanity or death, many of us will scoff at the idea of giving up alcohol completely, thinking to ourselves, “Surely the day will come when I can control and enjoy my drinking.”
The American Society Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as, “A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations.”
Free Will vs God’s Will
For alcoholics, the subject of free will versus God’s will often becomes one of internal debate. This is especially true early on in the recovery process, while we are still grappling with the idea of “turning it over.” What does this mean? Why is it necessary? The National Library of Medicine published an article titled, Free Will and the Brain Disease Model of Addiction: The Not So Seductive Allure of Neuroscience and Its Modest Impact on the Attribution of Free Will to People with an Addiction. The article states, “Free will has been the object of debate in the context of addiction given that addiction could compromise an individual’s ability to choose freely between alternative courses of action. Proponents of the brain-disease model of addiction have argued that a neuroscience perspective on addiction reduces the attribution of free will because it relocates the cause of the disorder to the brain rather than to the person, thereby diminishing the blame attributed to the person with an addiction.”
How does the idea of free will and God’s will tie into the concept of “just one drink?” At a certain point in our recovery journeys, we regain control of our drinking in the sense that we can decide whether or not we pick up the first drink. While we are active in alcoholism we lose all semblance of control and we are rendered entirely powerless over alcohol. We can no longer decide whether or not to drink — drinking alcohol becomes as reflexive as breathing, as necessary to our “survival” as sleep, food, and hydration. However, when we begin our recovery journeys, we regain control over our drinking in one sense. We regain the power to decide whether or not we pick up the first drink.
The First Drink (No Such Thing as “Just One”)
Once we take a drink of alcohol, no matter how many years of sobriety we have, we lose control over the second, third, fourth, and fifth drinks. The mental obsession is kicked into high gear and we are off to the races. It is important to acknowledge that the idea of having “just one drink” is one we need to let go of. For true alcoholics, it will never be just one drink. As soon as we pick up the first drink we have no control over what will happen next. But we do have control over that very first drink. How do we ensure that we don’t pick up? There are several important steps to take.
- It is important to continue developing a spiritual connection. Find a spiritual practice that works for you and throw yourself into it. Work at it on a daily basis.
- Stay engaged with your 12 Step program. This means daily or near-daily meeting attendance, regular work with a sponsor, taking on sponsees once you are through the steps, and continuing with your daily stepwork-related practices (nightly inventory, prayer, meditation, etc.)
- Seek outside help whenever necessary. This might look like finding a licensed therapist to meet with once a week, or seeking psychiatric care if you struggle from a mental health concern like anxiety or depression.
Contact Us Today to Learn More
At 12 Step New York we understand just how difficult it can be to reach out for help and actively pursue a life in recovery. Change of any kind can be scary, and making the transition from active alcoholism to total abstinence is likely the most significant change you will ever make. Fortunately, you do not have to navigate the process on your own. At 12 Step New York we are available to help guide you along every step of the way. The initial stage of the recovery process involves determining which treatment option is the most appropriate for your unique case. If you have been struggling with a mild or moderate alcohol use disorder and no underlying issues, engagement in a 12 Step program might be an effective treatment option. However, if you have been struggling with a mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder and any co-occurring issues, entering into a more intensive, multi-staged treatment program might be an ideal option. Regardless of the care you need, we will help connect you with a treatment program in New York or surrounding areas that caters to all of your personal clinical requirements. Contact us today to learn more and to begin your personal journey of alcohol addiction recovery.