The AA Bedevilments: What is alcoholism?
There are four primary camps who battle to be adorned with the gold around their neck.
You know, to be recognized as the number one factor in the cause of alcoholism and, consequently it’s treatment.
These specific schools are:
- Environmentalists/Social Scientists.
Each camp thinks they have the upper hand.
- “You need God!” declares the religionist.
- “You obviously have repressed trauma and difficulty regulating emotion,” notes the therapist.
- “It’s clearly a chemical imbalance and dysfunction in brain processing,” argues the neuroscientist.
- “If you cannot see this as the result of one’s environmental conditions, then you’re blind,” says the social scientist.
To be frank, it is likely a combination of all of them!
Addiction certainly does a number on the spirit, psyche, body, and relationships.
However, in terms of order, which one is the best starting point?
The Big Book uses the issue of resentment, which obviously is an impairment in relationships, to answer this question (One point for the social scientist camp!)
They then use this specific problem to address a host of others.
For example, “Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”
As you can see, the Big Book covers all four camps. Yet, in terms of which problem to tackle first, they believe the spiritual is #1.
The author’s of the book continuously refer to alcoholism as a form of spiritual or soul sickness.
They go as far as to say the main problem is centered in the mind and expresses itself as severe self-centeredness.
One early A.A. associate, Dr. Henry Tiebout, labeled alcoholism as an “excessive concentration on self.”
But that sounds fairly abstract, is there a better way to explain this?
What does it look like?
What are the telltale signs that one may be suffering from this soul sickness?
The Bedevilments Are The Measuring Stick For Spiritual Health
The Big Book isn’t shy when providing numerous examples of alcoholism – a soul sickness – and it’s effects on the still suffering alcoholic.
In fact, the book is laid out in such a manner as to help the reader identify the problem, the solution, and specifically how to implement this solution in their lives.
The reader likely won’t be motivated to live in the solution the book offers unless they can first find their specific story in the problem.
The main idea is to get the reader to confess, “yes, I feel like that too!,” or “holy crap, I’m not the only one that thinks this way!?.”
And this does not refer to just active alcoholics, it’s referring to the sober state of mind of the dry drunk.
Sure, it’s possible to work the steps superficially, but without rigorous honesty it’s unlikely emotionally sobriety will follow.
In Bill’s Story he comments, “For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.”
Why is this?
Well, look at some of the effects of alcoholism as laid out in the Big Book:
“ Remorse, horror, and hopelessness…a terrible sense of impending calamity… terror and madness…declining moral and bodily health…loneliness and despair…that bitter morass of self-pity…annihilation of all things worthwhile in life…misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity…a hopeless condition of mind and body… hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it…pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization … puzzled and humiliated…strangely insane…futility and unhappiness…selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened…remorse, depression and inferiority…misery, bad repute, and hopelessness.”
Remember, this doesn’t refer to someone who is necessarily drinking, it’s the individual who is no longer treating the spiritual illness with alcohol.
The Four Horseman
On page 151, the Big Book provides what have been dubbed in the fellowship as the Four Horseman:
On page 52, however, the author’s demonstrate precisely what it looks like when our entire belief system and lifestyle is informed by the horsemen.
They are aptly called “The Bedevilments.”
The AA Bedevilments
- We were having trouble with personal relationships
- we couldn’t control our emotional natures
- we were prey to misery and depression
- we couldn’t make a living
- we had a feeling of uselessness
- we were full of fear
- we were unhappy
- we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.
The Bedevilments Are The Result Of Not Living The Spiritual Principles
We tend to think the horseman and the bedevilments describe the alcoholic at the end of their drinking.
However, it actually describes the sober alcoholic who hasn’t started to sincerely practice spiritual principles in their life.
When an individual begins to work the 12-Steps and sincerely follows through, a new belief and lifestyle emerges.
Sobriety begins to look less like a prison and more like radical emotional freedom.
The Promises correspond to each bedevilment and demonstrate precisely what this new lifestyle looks like:
- We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
- We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
- We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
- No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
- That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear.
- We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
- Self-seeking will slip away.
- Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
- Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
- We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
- We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Against all odds, many of us still cling to the horseman and their bedevilments…
What are you waiting for?