I have maintained that I simply cannot consume alcohol, or drugs for that matter, like normal people. Normal folks don’t like feeling tipsy. That’s when I start to feel alive. This is both a mental and physical difference that I cannot change any more than I can change the color of my hair. Sure, I can mask the color of my hair but in the end it’s fake, a mask – and no matter how hard I try, changing the color of my hair is unnatural. Rather, I simply accept that as I age, my hair has grayed. I choose to be happy with how I look and who I am, naturally. No dye, no mask. To Thine Own Self Be True. It just is what it is.
There is a new drug, available in Europe that, supporters say, takes away that euphoric feeling achieved by introducing alcohol to the body by altering the way the alcohol interacts with dopamine receptors in the brain. They call this “the end to abstinence“. While I do imagine this could do a great deal of good for problem drinkers (with minor problems), when looking at ex-drunks like me, an “end of abstinence”, this drug is not, at least not for someone like me. Abstinence, whether you like it or not, whether you believe me or not, is the only answer for a person who went as far down the scale as I did.
A runny nose is a symptom of the common cold, no? So, if I stop the runny nose with a drug, have I not cured the cold? I have not, I’ve alleviated one of the symptoms of that cold. Drinking, in the same way as the runny nose, is a symptom of alcoholism.
The problem is, and always will be, that recovery from alcoholism is hard. Due to this very simple reality, facts will be manipulated to sell something easier than what has been the only free solution for 70 years. They say they can block the way alcohol is treated in the brain, which is great, but what does that do about the fact that most alcoholics are liars, cheaters and thieves? How will that make a fella take control of his life, pay his bills and be a responsible member of society? How will that drug fix the fact that most alcoholics are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes?
It won’t. For the rest, you’re on your own with no way to cope with the fact that alcohol won’t give you the escape you so desperately fell in love with in the first place. Good luck with that. In other words, as explained above, it helps with the symptom without touching the disease. On the other hand, there is a what if… What if that drug could change a person like me into a regular, casual drinker! I know, I could hear you thinking. Here’s the rub, a person like me would refrain from taking the medication to get the escape, to get hammered from time to time. Before long, where am I at? Right back where I started because it was never really about the drink in the first place.
They say Alcoholics Anonymous is ineffective because only 18% make it to one month. Only 3.1% of make it to a year and 2.7% achieve five years. Rather damning, no? Consider first, the best news in those stats… Look at those numbers again. Of those who attain one year, 87% make it to five. Looked at that way, the stats are actually good news and it is specifically because sobering up with AA is hard and there are so many people who are using it as an option to stay out of jail or avoid legal complications rather than get sober. In truth, in my 22 years, I have never met one person who relapsed while thoroughly following the twelve step outlined in the first 164 pages of the book… Not one. What is happening in that first year is that those who are unwilling to go to any length to get sober are weaning themselves out. Those who have to attend to get their papers signed for court come in, do their time and exit once they’re out of trouble, get busted again or stick around to sober up (I’m one of those who planned on drinking once I got out of trouble but sobered up instead).
With that explained, I’ll try to answer the question I posed in the first place; why is there a war in recovery to begin with?
Rather than getting into too much inside pool (which I probably have already done – sorry New York) which I am certainly not authorized to do, I’ll stick to my own personal observation. First, AA, for those who seek fault or don’t know any better for lack of investigation, AA is rather rigid. While this may appear so on the outside, once you’re in you’ll find that there is room for virtually anyone from the staunchest of atheists to the Bible thumpin’est among us – it’s set up to be inclusive, not the opposite. Also, as was almost not the case, AA is set up to be free of charge, for everyone. There are no dues or fees, we’re simply there to help each other. It is well documented that one of the founders wanted to make a fortune off of it. Not surprisingly, recovery has been turned into an industry, complete with lobbyists, political interests and the like, but AA itself has maintained its quiet distance from such controversy. Cries are heard, far and wide, we need professionals to help these people! They do help, they make getting through that first year vastly easier, but they are merely added insurance of success if one truly desires sobering up in the first place. Getting into a treatment facility so one can escape the difficulties of the outside world to get through the DT’s and build a base for sobriety is great (I should know), but doing so is not a necessity for success. This is the base for why there is a negative push against AA as it is. Money. If you’re going to sell a drug or push a $50,000 a month treatment center (complete with acupuncture, massage and any kind of pampering the heart desires), it’s best to discredit the free option as “ineffective”.
And there you have your war. Say what you will about them, the attendees of AA show up for one of two things: To live a life free of the grips of alcoholism or to help others live a life free of alcoholism. We take all comers, without prejudice. We do it freely and we seek only to become decent contributors to society. How that’s a bad thing that must be fought is beyond me.