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“We Can’t Think Our Way Sober”


February 2020

From the Daily Reflections, yesterday 2-13-2020

To the intellectually self-sufficient man or woman, many AA’s can say, “Yes, we were like you – far too smart for our own good…  Secretly, we felt we could float above the rest of the folks on our brain power alone.

I won’t lie, I was never so afflicted.  In reality, I was so scared straight, with the exception of having some trouble getting through the fourth and fifth steps (the second or third time, but the BIG fourth, nonetheless), I didn’t care much about my ego, I just wanted the straightest path to getting better.  I accepted that I knew nothing, and that helped me immensely.  As they say, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

In any event, I was lucky enough to attend one of the most rigorous in-patient treatment centers in the State of Michigan.  During my stay, they completely broke me down so they could build me back up.  They told me what was happening, and, for the most part, I let it.  One of the first lessons was, “Your best thinking landed you in this treatment center”.  The point was, if you are afflicted with believing your intelligence means anything in here, you may want to guess again.

Self-knowledge is just about as useful as self-will or willpower in recovery.  I know where my lane is, too, and I don’t bother trying to sneak out of it.  While the uninitiated might think because I’ve managed to put together a couple of decades and change in continuous recovery, that I’ve got “willpower”.  This is mistake.  I have the willpower of a potato.  I make it seem otherwise by living a life of consistency and discipline.  One little slip-up in either, and I could very easily find myself in a gutter – and the fact I’ve been away from it so long would mean I’d crash twice as hard and twice as fast.  Disastrous is a good word.

Looking at intellect as a plus in the recovery equation is just as problematic.  Those who believe they’re of superior intellect, and indeed, often those who actually are, can suffer an over-inflated ego along with that intellect.  This can lead to arrogance which, in turn, causes one to believe they may be above certain aspects of the recovery process by decree.  Those who don’t possess that inflated ego simply accept that which the intelligent individual must suffer till they submit.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is chock full of stories from those who went before and proved the point.  Intellect, used properly in recovery, is a potent gift.  Used to justify skirting recovery’s principles is a fantastic opening salvo to one’s next drunk.


  1. Eliza says:

    I like this.
    It’s the discussion I had with a therapist. He was saying how lotsa people think the self knowledge and thinking are important whereas in reality you (I) just need to stop thinking so much and get on with living. That self knowledge helps – but once you have the awareness it doesn’t help to keep thinking about the mechanics of it all. You just have to live.
    You can’t think your way sober. I never succeeded in doing it. I succeeded in thinking my way into using. That’s where my over thinking gets me. Either convinces me to use. Or it gets me so muddled that I need to escape it.
    Love, light and glitter

    • bgddyjim says:

      And you know what, Eliza? It’s the same way for all of us. You’re absolutely right. Best thing I ever learned in sobriety was how to stop that stinkin’ thinkin’.

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