The Misery of Abstinence.
Many alcoholics attempt to control their drinking. In fact, it’s essentially a diagnostic symptom. If you find yourself needing to exert effort not to drink, or to diminish your consumption, you probably ought to take that as an enormous red flag regarding your alcohol consumption. Normal people, by and large, don’t need to think about how much they drink; nor do they struggle and fail to drink less. Normal people get drunk, sure. But they do so in safe, planned environments. They prepare ahead of time for their drinking. It’s generally a rare event. If they decide they want to drink less, it’s more likely to be about expense or calories than consequences of inebriation.
But when we alcoholics try to moderate our drinking, we fail. Maybe not every single day – there were days I had only one or two drinks, even near the end. But over any duration of time, we fail. We simply cannot control, once we have had any alcohol, how much we have. It is unpredictable when we’ll get drunk (until it progresses to essentially every time we drink). The consequences of getting drunk, like being unable to perform at work, or driving drunk, or neglecting our loved ones, will not prevent us from drinking more.
This period of trying, on our own, to stop or to moderate our drinking is invariably fraught with misery. Very early sobriety, the first few days or weeks, is always painful and difficult. Trying to do it alone, without help, without acknowledging it to people who can help us, is excruciating. Literally. Early sobriety is painful. Cravings hurt. At least, pain is the closest word I have to the sensation. Couple that with isolation – even among friends – and depression and anxiety and shame, and it’s insurmountable.
AA works because of the connections made from one alcoholic to another. And it does work. Through the telephone, and in person, we connect to support each other. To admonish each other. And to do the things we need to do to live better lives. So many people try to moderate on their own, and end up miserable, or in jail, or dead. We cannot defeat alcoholism on our own. In fact, we cannot defeat alcoholism at all. Together, as a group, one alcoholic helping another, we can accept our alcoholism and surrender. And when we surrender, we can trade drinking for freedom.