These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.. – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 23
AA can’t get you sober. That’s a medical issue for which we have no resources.
AA can help you stay sober under the right circumstances.
The most insane thing I can do is to start drinking, and I must be sober to do it. In other words, every AA that has gone back out did it while sober. This may seem obvious, but there is a crucial fact emerging from that: AA is here to protect the minds of sober alcoholics from themselves.
As Bill found out all too well, the tremendous self-knowledge he had acquired from his time with Dr. Silkworth was useless because this self-knowledge was operating from within an insane mind.
We are all familiar with the stock definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, yada yada. But that’s really a definition of neurosis, a mild and very common form of unhealthy thinking. A psychotic, on the other hand, is reacting perfectly rationally to the distorted reality in which he finds himself. And most people suffering from psychoses are quite convinced of their own sanity. So which side of that wall do you think the alcoholic stands? That’s why we’ll find words like “delusion” in chapters to come.
I love to recount an episode in my own life. (Many of you have heard it, probably too much. Apologies.) I was in treatment back in 1981 at a place called Sacred Heart run by a recovered alcoholic priest in downtown Detroit. The center was mainly for low-bottom drunks. I did not, by the way, think I belonged there, but how I ended up in that place is a story in itself.
We received rudimentary medical workups by nurses who probably did it for nothing. As my blood was being drawn for liver enzyme tests, I mentioned that I would be interested in the results since I was worried about the condition of my liver. Her reply was simple and profound: “Your problem ain’t your liver, honey. It’s your thinker you need to worry about.” That is exactly what that quote from the Big Book is saying.
I remember the “Forty Questions” pamphlets which I think the National Council of Alcoholism put out. I though I was doing pretty good because I only answered “yes” to half of them, until I found out that two or three “yes” responses were enough for a positive diagnosis. But some years later I heard a speaker make the following observation. If you substitute the word “think” for “drink” it is also a good barometer. Have you ever lost a job because of thinking? Does thinking interfere with your relationships? Has anyone ever told you that you should stop thinking, or that your thinking had become a problem?
Eventually we will be told that we can use our God-given minds because sanity will have returned, but a lot of work will have been done by the time we reach that happy point.