Of Hammers and Nails.
One of my friends (with whom I often clash a bit) over on twitter is Sciliz. A while ago, she commented that as an alcoholic in recovery I had finally found my hammer and now everything was looking rather nailish to me. That was about seven months ago, and I’ve been thinking about it periodically ever since. And I have come to believe that she was exactly right.
I have found my hammer, and yes, a lot of things look like nails to me. Huge swaths of the negativity in my life were centered around the fact that I couldn’t stop drinking. And I couldn’t stop drinking because I’m an alcoholic. And because I felt ill at ease with the world, and needed to address that ill ease with chemical obliteration. When I became sober, and worked the steps of AA, I discovered that I was able to remain sober, yes. But far more important, I was able to address the terrible discomfort I felt in the world in a new way.
And it works for me, as it has worked for millions of sober alcoholics. And as I believe it will work for any alcoholics able to devote themselves to working the program. I cannot say if every alcoholic is capable of that, I don’t know. But for the ones who are capable, the program works. We learn to re-enter society as productive, healthy, happy contributors. People who face life on life’s terms, as we say, and make progress.
But I need to respect that this is my hammer. And these are my nails. I recently had an experience where trying to advise someone who is not an addict or an alcoholic on using program-type tools to address other issues has not worked. And it hasn’t worked in a couple of important ways: first of all, it hasn’t addressed the issue they have; second, my suggestion was not useful in our interaction. My insistence that their problem was a nail, and that they should use my hammer resulted in friction.
Looking at where this comes from in me is crucial to my own development. Many people tell me that AA doesn’t or can’t work. Many scientists tell me that because AA doesn’t “work” for everyone that means it’s just an elaborate placebo. I confess that this makes me somewhat defensive. It’s important to me that the program “works”. Because I use it, and I stay sober, and I’ve watched so many other people recover and become happy and productive through it.
Of course, there’s no science behind AA’s program, and there’s never been any useful science studying it, because we don’t really have the first clue how to measure sobriety or effectiveness for something like AA. The tools we use in science actively prohibit appropriate analysis of AA’s program. It is, in my opinion, currently impossible to study at the level of rigor required by academic science. As such, I can ignore it when scientists draw profound conclusions about AA. They don’t get it, and they don’t need to.
But I want the program to work in the lives of others, because I want them to gain what I’ve gained: relief from addiction, anxiety (Often, not always!), depression, self harm. But the fact is, the program doesn’t work for everyone. And it is far less likely to work for people who are not addicts or alcoholics for things that it was not really designed to address.
And that’s ok. This is my hammer. These are my nails. I can support non-alcoholics through their own trials without needing to guide them along the path I’ve walked. It’s arrogance to presume that that’s the right thing to do. But arrogance is one of my nails. Defensiveness is one of my nails. And I have a hammer for them.