Not Needing or Wanting, but Doing!

A friend relapsed last week — really sad! He’s burned a lot of bridges over the forty years of his addiction. He doesn’t have many chances left. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, fatal disease and it will kill him.

He doesn’t want to die! So why doesn’t he quit? There is no cure for addiction but it can be kept in remission if — and this is a very big “if” — a person abstains from their chemical of choice. Even the best treatment centers in the world have surprisingly high relapse rates. My friend has been to a good number of these centers over the years.

His ex-wife called it quits years ago. His kids, siblings and parents have made it very clear they “just can’t do this any more.” Friends have moved on and no longer call. It’s all very frustrating. I’m ready to throw in the towel too!

A friend much wiser in AA than me listened when I needed someone to commiserate. Arlo admits having “hit a very low bottom” himself and knows of what he speaks. I needed what he had to share. It’s so shockingly simple. Still many never get-it because they live in the delusion that “the cure” is a matter on not taking your next drink — though necessary that’s just abstinence, not recovery!

Arlo retold a story that is bed-rock wisdom passed from one to another in the life-saving fellowship called Alcoholics Anonymous. He grabbed my attention when he contradicted what I assumed to be common-sense. He said, “Most people think the Twelve Steps are primarily for those who need them — they’re not!”

Recovering my composure a bit and marshaling my intellect, I thought I understood Arlo’s point. That presumption was quickly dashed when he continued, “In fact, most people think the Twelve Steps are for people who want them — they’re not!” That was my best answer. Now I’m confused; what’s he getting at?

Arlo explained with a down-to-earth example I could understand. “Say you want to lose twenty pounds. Say you need to lose twenty pounds. You go out and get your bike tuned up, buy new running shows, even buy a membership at a fitness center. You really want to lose those twenty pounds!”

We can want all we want. Fact is we’ve got to log some actual butt-time on that bike, put some miles on those new shoes and build up some sweat at the gym! As my mother used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!”

Arlo drove home the zinger, “The Twelve Steps are for those relatively few folks who do them, actually live the Steps.” Abstinence is simply the prerequisite to get the chronic, progressive, fatal addiction into remission. Recovery happens when we are intent on actually living the spiritual truths of the Twelve Steps.

Too many of us remain obsessed with the drinking part of alcoholism — the addiction still has us in its grip! That seems to be what happened with my friend. He remained fixated on not drinking. As essential as that is, it’s really not the solution!

Only when attention is turned to our character defects, making amends where needed, actually putting our spirituality into practice, and being of service to others do we get our lives back!

Millions need what the Twelve Steps offer. A high percentage of these — even those who attend Twelve Step meetings — want what they offer. Still relapse is all too common, too often tragic.

Yes, I’ve heard the AA truth about our need to “walk our talk.” I’ve even judged others by whether they practice what they preach. When it comes to any spiritual practice “Just say NO!” is insufficient — futile, self-defeating in fact.

“Just do it!” seems to be the wisdom hardest for most of us to understand and put into practice.  Seems to be the hardest part of any spirituality we profess.

One thought on “Not Needing or Wanting, but Doing!

  1. Thanks, Richard! It is difficult for those of us who love an alcholic to get even health professionals to understand that for many their ‘poison’ is whatever is available. Some months ago my former husband took his own life by taking a week’s worth of RX drugs. Even though his doctor had been told countless times he never took his ‘meds’ in the prescribed amounts, he couldn’t understand his compulsion since he wasn’t drinking!

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