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March 28, 2018
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March 28, 2018

We hear so much about emotional sobriety in AA meetings, and I often wonder if the average member really understands where this all fits in. Most normal people go through life by experiencing the good and the bad and they end up with a life that is acceptable to them.

They don’t seem to be plagued by the things the alcoholics struggle with every day of their lives. Most of our problems are caused by our misguided instincts when we let them go far beyond their intended purpose.

When these behaviors/habits are allowed to persist and the consequences of them are masked by alcohol, we never mature emotionally and we spend most of our efforts trying to rationalize these behaviors to the point that we start believing our own lies. These things don’t begin when we start drinking; they start in our formative years long before we ever touch a drop of alcohol.

Our behavior when drinking appears to be more of a problem than the disease of alcoholism that causes it. The more we drink the more irresponsible we become as our disease progresses and the harder it is to explain these behaviors away.

To the outside world it appears that the drinking is the problem and we can’t deny that because drinking is a problem, but it is not the problem. We finally throw in the towel and show up in the AA meetings where we learn that alcoholism stems from deeper rooted emotional problems, and that we can live a somewhat normal life if we are willing to take the steps of the program, in their full implication, without any reservations. We can lead a somewhat normal life, but we can never be normal, if by normal we mean that we can drink like a normal person.

We can never drink normally because the tolerance for alcohol, or any other mind altering drug, is gone and the idea that we will ever regain control has to be smashed. We are like men who have lost their legs, they never grow new ones. It’s hard for the struggling alcoholic to accept this truth but we must if we are to have any chance of being happy. We are scarred on the inside and that scarring never goes away. It can be overcome by practicing the principles of the program in their entirety but it can only be arrested, never cured.

To explain this in simple terms, let’s say that we plant a row of saplings and shortly after they have taken root, one of them is trampled and bent over onto the ground. It may still survive if it receives water and nourishment. If it is not straitened up immediately and if it is allowed to grow crooked, it will still grow into an adult tree but it will never be strait like the other trees around it. We can prune it and trim it and decorate it, and make it look good, but it will always be damaged.

Like that crooked sapling, our sobriety is contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition. We can live a life that is somewhat normal and sometimes a much happier life than we would, had we never became an alcoholic in the first place provided, we accept our condition and all of its ramifications, and are willing to embrace the solutions that are set forth in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

As we cultivate this new approach to life, we grow stronger than ever, and as I see it, sometimes the crookedness of a tree is what gives it its character. I hope I never get complacent about my spiritual development and I hope I never stop growing.

By Rick R.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.