Here is an account of an epiphany I had while at AA.
| I'm 42 years old and I am an alcoholic. Over the years I've started and stopped drinking, sought and declined help many times. Recently I had an epiphany about my alcohol use. I felt like I was doing it wrong, like I was being an alcoholic wrong because I didn't wait till I hit rock bottom to seek help and I don't get cravings for alcohol. Or so I thought.
Many years ago, after losing a job due to alcohol, I had attended an AA meeting. In that meeting I heard one of the long time members say, "It's not a drinking disease, its a thinking disease". I nodded and agreed but didn't really understand what he was talking about.
I have a model of addiction to compare my drinking problem to. I used to be a smoker and when I quit smoking I had severe physical withdrawal symptoms. When I quit I had racing palpitating heart, adrenaline anxiety feeling in my chest, I got shaky, and I had feelings of unreality. Basically I felt like I had taken one too many Benadryls. This didn't happen to me when I quit drinking. I didn't get any physical withdrawal symptoms. And when asked why I started drinking again I would simply say "I had decided to drink." I didn't have the words to describe why I had gone back to the bottle.
Last week I was in an alcohol recovery meeting at the local medical center. We watched a video on addiction and the video said that the monolog that goes on in your head to get you to drink is considered a craving. This was part of the epiphany. I finally could say that I had cravings for alcohol. I did suffer from the mental monologue that tries any lie, rationalization or trick to get me to take a drink.
I would have that constant mental badgering going on telling me to take a drink. This voice would say "You can't resist, you might as well drink now to end the suffering" or "You're going to drink eventually so you better do it now so you don't miss work, do the responsible thing, have a drink"
This is what they mean when they say its a "thinking disease". For all these years I had thought I was just deciding to drink. I would walk around all day with this little voice in my head helping me pick this, decline that, go here, don't go there. It was a constant companion guiding me through my day, but something happened and this voice turned on me and was suddenly telling me to do what wasn't in my best interest, it was telling, no, insisting, that I take a drink.
I am elated because now I can clearly point at my disease and I know what to do when my own mental voice turns on me. I can pray to God. I can call my sponsor and say I'm having mental games. I can go for a walk to think it through and give myself a chance to have the light side win the argument in my head. Or I can start journaling to set down these rationalizations so that I can analyze them and dismiss them for what they are: wrong.
This perfectly coincides with the mindfulness training that the local medical center does as part of the sobriety course. They teach us to sit quietly and focus on our breathing. Accept any thoughts that intrude but come back to focusing on our breathing. This simple exercise gives you a chance to see your own thoughts one step removed. It gives you a chance to have a thought and at the same time see yourself having the thought. This helps with identifying when your mind is exhibiting the 'thinking disease'. It gives you a chance to examine your own thoughts and do something besides follow through with whats suggested.
One thing AA and alcoholism teaches is humility. The ever present threat of relapse is there. I don't wanna say I have alcoholism beat cause I don't. What I do have is a great tool for me to be able to reject the voice in my head that tells me to have a drink. I'm sober today and thankful.