Last night, for the first time in I don’t know how many months…I had the urge to have a drink. Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s all the craziness going on around here with the kitchen reconstruction…but the bottom line is, I wanted one. And NO, I DIDN’T HAVE ONE. It’s how I got to the point where the urge passed and I didn’t partake of old nasty habits that’s the story behind this post. It’s also given me pause on ever trusting Alcoholics Anonymous again.
I attended my kids Christmas Concert at their school last night, and as always the band didn’t sound like Tommy Dorsey; the chorus wasn’t the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I had the usual annoying kid that should have been kept on a leash by his inattentive parental units constantly moving in and out of the aisle and stepping on my new sneakers. It was a nice evening though, filled with very cute kids doing their darnedest to put on a show and happy parents and neighbors. Four years ago, this annual event was the scene of one of my more memorable benders (not memorable for me as I was in a blackout at the time, but unfortunately a memorable evening for my wife) after having been at a few Corporate parties and lunches earlier in the day. Let’s just say I wasn’t at my finest. There I was completely sober last evening, enjoying myself when somewhere in between the “Blitzen Boogie” and “Carol of The Bells”, I wanted a nice stiff scotch. I kind of thought my way through the urge (just like you’re supposed to do), and it passed until I had it later on again in the evening. This was NOT a very good thing at all.
You have to understand that there is absolutely no alcohol in my house at all, not even the God-awful cooking wine with more salt in it than the Mediterranean. It was 1 AM, the local liquor stores had all closed and since I never drank and drove even during my darkest days, I wasn’t about to start now. What I did need to do was talk to a fellow alcoholic who might be able to offer some perspective on things, talk me down off the ledge and clam me down, and make sure I didn’t have second thoughts of picking up a cocktail. It’s been about 6 months since I was at an AA meeting (I have some philosophical differences with AA, which I will go into later on in this post), and I have a list of names of fellow alcoholics from my time in AA that I could have called; I chose not to for one simple reason: I didn’t know if they were still sober or not. It doesn’t matter how much time you have (and a few of those guys have many years of sobriety), you could still fall off the wagon. So I did the next logical thing: I called the AA Hotline; at least I knew that the person on the other end of the conversation would DEFINITELY be sober. What I didn’t know was that they would be of absolutely no help at all.
After calling, identifying myself by my first name and the fact I was an alcoholic; I also let them know I was sober, I had no alcohol in the house, and exactly what I was looking for : someone to talk to. I also made the mistake of telling them that I hadn’t been to a meeting in a long time and that I had some philosophical differences with AA, but I REALLY needed to speak to someone. You know that old joke about the guy who’s ready to kill himself, he decides to try life for just a few more minutes, and he calls Suicide Prevention and hears “Suicide Hotline…please hold”? Well, this was kind of like that. After a minute or two of small talk, this was followed by a minute or so of a muffled conversation (she was talking to someone else and had her hand over the microphone) in the background. The charming young lady took my name and number and said that someone would call me shortly.
I’m still waiting.
One of the so-called hallmarks of Alcoholics Anonymous is “always there with a helping hand”; what they don’t tell you is that occasionally the hand slaps you in the face. The organization is supposed to be non-denominational, yet meetings close with the Lord’s Prayer. I’m sorry, but if I’m an atheist or a Jew I’d have a problem with that (I don’t think you have too many Islamic Alcoholics in the world, but you never know). I’m a Deist, which basically means I believe the Universe is sentient or is God itself; or if there is a God or Supreme Being, they pretty much created everything and left it alone. In other words, God is pretty much an absent parent. She doesn’t give a damn what you do in your life and really has much better things to do than listen to your whining about how miserable everything is in your life and for her to intercede. I was brought up a Catholic, so the prayer itself doesn’t bother me (and they use the King James Version of the prayer, no less…so if you’re a hard-core Catholic, that might antagonize you anyway), it’s the philosophy espoused by Alcoholics Anonymous that I had a hard time reconciling. Their entire belief is that the only thing that can save your sorry drunken ass is God. That’s right, that which cannot be proved and has many different ways of looking at it will save you and keep you from picking up that next drink.. You are supposed to completely submit and turn yourself over to God…a Christian God, if you look at the two prayers that they use: The Lord’s Prayer and The Serenity Prayer which was written by Saint Francis of Assisi. Pretty non-denominational, huh?
Now I’m not going to deny that AA has helped millions of alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety, and that they haven’t done good things for people…surely they have. It just wasn’t working for me any more. Deists use reason to understand The Universe, and most Deists don’t pray. We acknowledge great men and women who have come before us and have given us worthy philosophies of life to live by, but not a savior. Outside of Unitarian Universalists, Deists aren’t organized…we’re rogues who seek to understand the Universe through logic and reason rather than doctrine and theology. AA had become doctrine and theology for me…so I left; just as I had left the Roman Catholic Church thirty odd years ago for the same reasons (only at that time, I was agnostic bordering on atheist; my views evolved over the course of the years and through some very personal experiences). What I expected last night was to hear from a fellow alcoholic use logic and reason with me to help me to work through my urge and perhaps understand what caused it. What I received instead was deafening silence; you see, I made the mistake of TELLING the person on the phone that I had a little problem with the God thing. This was never an issue in any meeting I went to previously, but they must have issued a new edict because I can only conclude that I was now considered “outcast unclean” and that’s why I didn’t get a call back. I can only conclude that my earlier suspicions were indeed correct: that AA believes it is the ONLY way and there is no way it will help you unless you see it THEIR WAY.
Oh yeah…the reason I didn’t drink was because I was writing a very long post on a web site I belong to. By the time I got done with the post, the urge had passed and I could move on to other things. It looks like writing works best for me (as I always thought it would when the time came) to get over the hump. If you need a cop really fast, check the local Dunkin’ Donuts. If you need a paramedic, call 911. If you need an alcoholic, you can go to a bar for a really ripe one if you so desire. I needed a sober one, and the only one I found was the one I could trust implicitly…myself.
“First the man takes a drink; then the drink takes a drink; then the drink takes the man.” – Japanese Proverb