You Choo-Choo-Choose Me


green bottles

“You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill.”

RUSH, “Freewill”

Sometimes there is something that sticks in my craw, the way that the thought of a cheeseburger sticks in Jughead’s crowned craw and I just can’t express it properly.  Or I just over think it and it takes on a life of its own, like Frankenstein’s monster, and instead of trying to communicate something with laser like light and focus, I end up splattering the page a la paint-ball shotgun fired by Jackson Pollock on a trampoline. But I will do my best to keep it on target.  I think.

Anyway, “choice” is the word that keeps creeping up on me these days.

The idea that alcoholism is a choice is something that has been a topic of debate since they started debating things like alcoholism and addiction. I will be honest – I have no clue what the prevalent thought is amongst health care and addiction workers, doctors, counsellors, therapists, treatment center staff, legal minds and countless others who work in the field of addiction and in periphery and related areas when it comes to the topic of choice.  What I do know is that I have read countless thoughts on this, and it’s something that brings up a lot of passion and viewpoints on a grand scale.

We thought WE were the word.
We thought WE were the word.

You see, talking about choice in alcoholism is something that can branch out into many arenas – is alcoholism a disease, an illness or choice?  What is choice, really?  Need I start looking into such things like casual determinism, free will, fatalism, or divine foreknowledge? How deep does this well go and to what extent does this bear upon the idea that perhaps, and just perhaps, that alcoholism and addiction in general is considered a non-choice? What of external and genetic influences?  Is DNA a deciding factor, the fatal death knell to an unsuspecting victim?

You can see why I have had a problem hot wiring and gearing up on this HMS Overkill – got too much spilling out from this.  So this is where I jump ship and tumble into a tawny tugboat and keep it simple.  Push off the big ships and focus on what it’s my field of vision.  Because the only thing I can talk about is my experience, and the experience of others who have been generous enough to share theirs with me.  I have also been doing some reading around this, and have been involved in many, erm, passionate discourses in the past on the ideas of choice v.s illness v.s pre-ordained fate.

No offense, stock photo people, but this dude ain't a real alcholic - the cork is still in the bottle.  Jeez.
No offence stock photo people, but this dude ain’t a real alcoholic – the cork is still in the bottle, he has no wine or drool on his shirt and there are no red stains on the rim of the glass. Jeez…get it together.

So, for some, this is how they see things roll out when it comes to the idea that alcoholism, via drinking, is a choice:

I choose to put my shoes and coat on.

I choose to get in my car.

I choose to turn the key and drive to the liquor store.

I choose to go inside said store.

I choose to pick up a bottle.

I choose to pay for it.

I choose to take the bottle home.

I choose to pick a glass and pour a drink.

I choose to drink the drink.

Pretty simple, yes?  No long division involved. Notice the lack of gun to my head there.  Notice the lack of marauding and raging biker dudes forcing me to gulp down the booze.  Notice the incredible amount of God-given free will that I am imposing as I easily decide my own fate and outcome with the ease and grace of a greyhound through the final quarter turn of the track.  See how that works, then?  By choosing to engage in this activity, by my own accord, I am showing who is in control.  I can control the amounts I drink (because I choose the amounts) and if ever I get a wee overboard or run amok, it’s purely my problem.  Nothing that aspirin, a quick apology and a Gatorade can’t fix.

Now, this is a common position.  And I can see where someone observes the action in someone else or themselves, and then the subsequent consequence.  Action – reaction.  I drink – I get drunk.  I get drunk often – I get addicted.  The worm turns, the line gets crossed, the cucumber turns to a pickle and never turns back.  I choose to ignore the warning signs (Divorce! job loss! Hangovers! DUI’s! Emotional Pain! Relationship problems! Etcetera) and I suffer what is due to me.  My cognac comeuppance crashes through and I have no one to blame but me, myself and I.  I am the fly and not the wind shield any more.  Boom splat.

llllljjjj
Me at my finest. This is what happens when you don’t have a bottle opener for a lost weekend. Oh how we suffer for our art.

And of course, along these rational lines of thinking, if I can choose to be a slovenly, urine-soaked drunk, I can then choose to be a cleaned-up, tee-totalling Ward (or June) Cleaver.  The same thought patterns, logic and free will that determined and coloured my “Before” picture certainly can paint an illustrious and sober “After” that would make Mother and Father Dearest proud. Choice goes both ways, in other words.

The only problem with this point of view,  in my humble opinion, is that it doesn’t dig deep enough, doesn’t take into consideration thought patterns, habits, emotional spent capital.  It doesn’t consider underlying causes and conditions, robust and devious mental twists, descending darkness and the insanity that steers the ship.  For this alcoholic, a mere choice to just not drink is not enough.  I needed more than a Hallelujah and an Amen, Brother.  I needed stronger medicine.

If I could go back to the choice of driving to the store and picking up liquor – there isn’t anyone holding a pistol to my temple and demanding I get my poison.  Or is there?  For a social or moderate drinker, choice is easy.  For a take-it-or-leave-it kind of person, going to the magical unicorn wine aisle at the local mega mart is as eventful as sorting through the brussel sprouts in the produce department or picking up Aunt Mabel’s dry cleaning.   For an alcoholic like me, going to the liquor store is often life and death.  I do have a gun to my head…and it’s alcoholism.

Aunt Mabel with the giggles.  So cute when they get old...
Don’t mess with Aunt Mabel when she’s got the giggles.

I know – I can still hear the echoes of the chorus telling me that I am bigger than the alcoholism, that I still have choice.  Or I hear others say that it was my choice until it was no longer a choice.  I can see some validity in that, sure.  But what others don’t see or understand is that I don’t have that off switch, and I can’t see the blinding light ahead, and by the time I realize it’s time to turn down the dimmer switch, the fuse has blow already – too late.  Have you ever heard of an alcoholic stop before they became an alcoholic?  Hard to say for sure, because we would never know.  Someone may have maybe become a hard drinker and that’s it.  And we know there is a big difference between a hard drinker and the alcoholic.  Namely, that the hard drinker, given sufficient reason to stop (court order, threat of firing, husband / wife about to leave them, etc.) will and can stop.  They can do it.  Might not be easy at first, but they do it and it’s no issue.  To the hard drinker, yes, it’s still choice.  We, however…are cut from a different cloth.

Hey – do you like going to the movies?  And do you love eating popcorn there?  There is something about stepping into the lobby and smelling that hot melted butter and hearing the pop-pop-popping of the corn.  There is an entrenched association of watching a movie and the squeaky crackle of tooth on popcorn.  Most of the audience chomps away too.  Isn’t it magical?  Bring up any memories as a child of when Uncle Ted (who is married to Aunt Mabel, just so you know) would bring you in and buy you that tub of popcorn?  There is a deep connection going on there. Now, next time you go to the movies, don’t have popcorn.  Eat nothing.  Feels odd, eh?  Now, take that craving you’re getting and multiply by 100.  Now multiply that by 100 again.  Now, add to that the fact that you now sleep, eat, and work in that theatre.  You can never leave, and the smell, sights and sounds of popcorn swarm the senses at every turn. Got that feeling now?

Dream on, chump.
Dream on, chump.

Welcome to just the tip of the iceberg of alcoholism. That is what’s it’s like, at the best of times.

For me, my entire day was that theatre – just the act of breathing could set me off into craving alcohol.  I was so used to self-medicating, I knew no other way of handling life.  And when I didn’t get the medicine, I thought about it.  A lot.  I would re-prioritize things so that King Alcohol would be first on the dance card.  The King always leads, don’t you know?  So add in all the things that come with being alcoholic – the madness, the insanity in thinking that it will different the next time around, the justification, the rationalizing, the actual physical need, the mental anguish, the anxiety, the depression, the loneliness, the fears, the anger, the resentment, the sheer inability to steer this pathetic excuse of a raft of a person…and that “choice” to go to the liquor store, the “choice” to get the only thing that we think will take away all the noise and debris of our souls, that “choice” to die just a little bit more to just live a little bit more…doesn’t seem so much like a choice any more.  It’s just a matter of trying to survive.

No one would bat an eye if I crossed the seven seas for a scrap of bread for my starving family.  But there’s a scowl that crosses the face of someone watching a problem drinker head into the booze barn.  That need to venture the high seas is how it feels inside, when you’re an active alcoholic.  There is no choice, there just isIs is what I do to survive, to get through the next few minutes, the next few hours, the next day.  I am dying inside and no once can see it.  They just see a dude in a nice coat paying for nice whisky with a nice credit card driving a nice car.  And yeah, that’s the choice really – live or die.  That’s not much of a choice now is it? To live I must drink.  To not drink is to plunge into an icy crevasse head first with my limbs ties with cord.  Drowning without liquid…how ironic.

innocent_bottle_bottom_side-scaled1000

There’s good news though.  At some point, through the haze of pain and unmanageability, in hitting new depths of hurt and suffering, we are given some sort of grace. Call it what you want – divine intervention, a moment of clarity, pixie dust, mad cow disease – we are given a pause to reflect, and then we see that we no longer want this life.  We don’t want to be the walking dead any more.  We want to rise up out of our own filth and become part of the human race again.  We want to stretch our palms up to capture the heat and the light from above.  We just know in our heart of hearts that we weren’t meant for this kind of existence any more.  We want off the carousel.

When I was in treatment, just a few scant days separated from my last drink, I remember being on my knees, and praying.  I wasn’t much of a praying bloke until then, but I suddenly had found a willingness to do anything I needed to do to stay sober.  I said something like “Please God, I don’t want to drink any more.  I want to live, I want to be sober for good”.  And I heard a voice say “That’s all I want to hear, Paul”.  I thought there was someone behind me, playing a trick.  But I was alone.  And that’s when I knew I had been given grace.  The Creator revealed a little bit of Himself to me, and I have never turned back since.

I can't choose between my three black shirts to wear, and yet I am expected to choose a colour for the mud room? I swear they are just making these things up to watch men's head explode.
I can’t choose between my three black shirts to wear, and yet I am expected to choose a colour for the mud room? I swear they are just making these things up to watch men’s head explode.

You see, when it comes to sobriety and my recovery, I do have some say and choice in it.  I choose to work with others, to reach out, the branch out, to lean out.  I choose to write about it, to talk about it, to read about it, to hear others share about it.  I choose to meet with other like minded folk, to talk to the despairing, to help someone along with the work, to return a phone call.  I choose to do the things that I know will keep me on the beam, as they say.  But I know that my sobriety itself, that the want and need and mental obsession for alcohol itself, was not removed by me.  I call spiritual interference on a Hail Mary pass that my alcoholism was tossing with my life into the Dead End Zone.  I didn’t will or choose or decide that part away.  It came because I was open to it and in doing the work needed to find that space.  High five The Coach.

So here’s the odd thing – alcoholism had a grip on me that I couldn’t shake.  I couldn’t choose my way out of it.  And recovery also has a grip on me that I don’t want to shake.  In some ways I too had no choice in finding the divine within.  It just burst forth when I was ready.  The difference though is that one is borne of fear and anger, the other from love and compassion.  It’s easier to dive into the darkness, in some ways, because that has been my default position.  Keeping in the sunlight of the spirit takes a little more effort, but the benefits are in direct proportion to the pain I suffered in my active alcoholism.

Today, I choose to stay in the light.  Today, I choose love.  Today, I choose to stay in tune with the Universal Harmony about me.

imperfect

37 Comments Add yours

  1. furtheron says:

    I remember two days not that long apart in the spring of 2004.

    The first was a day when after another period where I’d managed to not drink for a few days, I’d believed I was cured again, and started the battle to “drink normally” once again. That was my obsession, I didn’t want to stop drinking although in the year previous I’d managed several blocks of days/weeks where I hadn’t drunk at all. But each time I’d started again and each time… well let me tell you about that day. It was 6 days since I’d started drinking again, I’d started the previous Friday convinced I had it licked this time. Only now rapidly I was again on a binge, for no real conceivable reason other than I had started and now couldn’t stop. I was thrown out of a pub for drinking too much, too quickly. I knew it was right too – but it seemed to be having no effect. I got in my car and drove towards home, inevitably like most days I ended up in my local and regular drinking hole. I sat on my own at a little table and looked at the inch of beer in the bottom of the glass. “I’ll just finish that and go” I said to myself.

    I picked up the glass and drained it. Instead of putting in on the table I carried it to the bar – just to be nice to the barmaid of course. I put it on the bar smiled at the barmaid and said “Another pint of Guinness please”. My head was screaming “Hey you fool!!! You were just going to leave! You want NO MORE. Pay the lady leave it in the tap and leave”. What did I do? Drinkers of you will know what I did. I paid the lady, took the pint returned to the loneliest table on the planet and started to drink it, knowing I just couldn’t do anything else. I hated myself with a vengeance that day.

    A few weeks later – I’ve been on another all day bender. My wife is really angry as I’ve turned up late, ruined her plans and then acted like I was some knight in shining armour just because I’d phoned up about a broken TV. At some point in the raging row we were having I laid on the floor of our spare room, curled up and started crying. I just wanted it all to stop and I knew I had to do something about my drinking, a few days later a walked into a rehab, a few days later they took me to my first AA meeting and I got hope that I could find a solution.

    The difference was minuscule between the day I had to drink again and the day I decided not to I can’t explain it but that last day something just snapped and I finally accepted defeat and surrendered to it all. Today I chose not do drink since I’ve figured out I’m way better off without it and once I do start it that element of choice is completely taken away from me.

    Love that song lyric too – one of my favourite bands of all time and that’s off one of their best ever albums too. 🙂

    1. This is wonderful, Graham. Thank you for sharing these stories…they illuminate so much for someone who doesn’t understand alcoholism and how it functions within us. That compulsions and self-talk about “I’ll just have one” or “one more won’t kill me” and then we run into yet another jackpot. We’ve heard countless stories from others who went out to get a pack of smokes or liter of milk and on the way popped into the local and then went missing for a few days. Not uncommon. And mad, when you see it from the outside. but that’s how we functioned. Through sheer insanity.

      I am really glad you came out through the other side. I know that we are in the minority here, us typing away at keyboards under a roof with so many things that others would kill for – namely, our sobriety.

      Thank you for being a part of my recovery, Graham.

      Blessings,
      Paul

      P.S and yes, that was one of their finest albums, I have to admit. The 80’s / early 90’s were very kind to Geddy, Alex and Neil…and us fans!

  2. sherryd32148 says:

    This is a powerful and beautiful depiction of what life’s like when you’re caught in whatever it is. Because it is what it is and what it is sucks.

    And you caputured all of that and more. I love your conversation and interpretation of the Big Dude too.

    Thanks,
    Sherry

    1. Yes Sherry – the ol’ it is what it is at work here. I actually don’t often get into the “why”‘s of this thing we call alcoholism. I usually avoid the conversations of what and why. I have it and that’s all I can gather. I do like to visit the idea of choice because there is a lot of misunderstanding and opinions (hey, someone may say that my view is a misunderstanding…lol).

      It does suck, but it has brought me to this place here, typing a response to a wonderful sober friend. I have two boys waiting to play with me. A wife who loves and understands me. A job I really enjoy, a house, a car (which I can’t drive for a while..ha ha). I am at peace. I have contentment for the first time ever. So if my alcoholism brought me here, then I am happy about that.

      Thanks for the comments, Sherry – you are very kind and generous.

      Blessings,
      Paul

  3. jrj1701 says:

    Indeed a very good post!!! The ongoing debate about choice is one that even the normals have when it comes to addiction, among other things. I tend to look at it from a spiritual point of view, God gave us free will, yet through the abuse of free will there are unfortunate consequences and those consequences are not always immediate or happen to the ones who committed the act. It is only through the grace of God that we are able to begin the journey back to Him and that journey is a struggle, yet worth every minute of it if I persevere and help others to see the Light. I will be given all that is needful to accomplish my trek back to where I belong, as long as I continue to seek and help others to see the Light, and I always find it neat when I meet a fellow sojourner with the fire of desire to serve the Good instead of serving himself, and that is what I see in you. Keep up the good fight and don’t cut the enemy any slack.

    1. Yeah, I think you are right about the normies. I think that is partly what I was going for here.I am very much in agreement with your POV there – that we have free will and it’s our discretion to use it (or abuse it). It’s how I see “evil” in the world and the question of “where was God?” in all this. I heard Anne Lamott talk about this the other day, and how God is in the healing. God is in the people who help those who have been hurt, harmed, caught up in tsnuamis and murder rampages, bombs and war, etc. And I really caught that. And so when it comes to addiction, I feel that yeah, we have made some choices along the line which brought us to a dark and ugly place, but the compulsion was there in some form too, which drove us when we didn’t want to drive. But Grace! Wow – does that come into play or what?

      Anyway, thank you for the big chewy food for thought. Love it. You’re a warrior, kind sir 🙂

      Paul

  4. byebyebeer says:

    So many seeming choices, such as we could have chosen to ignore our alcoholism or drinking problem or whatever label helped us stop drinking. That never felt like a choice to me and I’m thankful for it. Not that it was always easy, but sober feels like the obvious choice and definitely born of love and compassion. Also, now I want popcorn! Great post, Paul.

    1. I am with you on this, K. While my ego says I chose to be sober, I know that it was something beyond that. A great nudging. A smack in the face. A kick to the teeth. But I know that my ego had to get *just* that deflated before I could say “yes” to recovery. You’re right – it wasn’t easy and sometimes comes to haunt now and then, but sobriety was the right way to go. It was staring us straight in the face, yes?

      Thanks for being a wonderful part of my recovery )

      Paul

  5. MoonshineHigh says:

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I *chose* to get myself in this situation and it’s interesting because every doctor I have seen has told me how common it is for those with mental health issues to also turn to drugs or alcohol. It’s very interesting how so many of us self-medicate and I totally agree with you, in the end I didn’t feel like I had a choice. That was when I realised how scary it had become.

    1. It’s funny, you mentioning mental health issues, as someone else mentions it later here too. It’s something I never thought of, but then again, many of the people I know have dual diagnoses – either bipolar, schizophrenic, depressed, etc. I don’t have first hand knowledge or experience, so I will take your word for it, absolutely. I don’t know what other avenues those with mental health issues go, but I know addictive behaviours / self-medicating is a strong pull.

      Thanks for the wonderful insight and comments 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

      1. MoonshineHigh says:

        Thanks Paul 🙂 I never knew dual-diagnosis was actually a thing until I got involved in addiction. It’s interesting because I consider my addiction to be drug-related yet I was initially prescribed the same medication to deal with my depression and anxiety! It’s a weird place to be but thank goodness there are places willing to set boundaries between a diagnosis and addiction.

  6. I had an experience with my Creator talking to me too and all the arguments in my head about the nature of alcoholism disappeared. All I knew was that I couldn’t drink anymore. Anytime I wonder if it was ever really that bad, I remember the voice and it sets me straight. Beautiful post Paul.

  7. Just beautiful, Paul, wow.

    1. Thank you, Sharon. That means a lot to me.

      Hope you have a wonderful day 🙂

      Paul

  8. gfnj says:

    Yes. The benefits are indeed in direct proportion to the pain we suffered. Something greater than me also helped me change one day but it took choices to maintain the sobriety….and bloggers. Was I in the right place at the right time or was it grace? Or did grace make the right time and place for me? I don’t think about it too much cause there’s still much more lost time to make up.

    1. You are right about the choices to maintain sobriety. That is something that I do daily. And as for thinking about it too much – I agree. I do write about it to just put it out there, but it’s not something I dwell on. Grace did happen for me, but what it cosmic luck, or the unwarranted gift that it is? I don’t know…but it happened and I will take it 🙂

      Thanks for the comments!

      Paul

  9. furtheron says:

    I remember two days not that long apart in the spring of 2004.

    The first was a day when after another period where I’d managed to not drink for a few days, I’d believed I was cured again, and started the battle to “drink normally” once again. That was my obsession, I didn’t want to stop drinking although in the year previous I’d managed several blocks of days/weeks where I hadn’t drunk at all. But each time I’d started again and each time… well let me tell you about that day. It was 6 days since I’d started drinking again, I’d started the previous Friday convinced I had it licked this time. Only now rapidly I was again on a binge, for no real conceivable reason other than I had started and now couldn’t stop. I was thrown out of a pub for drinking too much, too quickly. I knew it was right too – but it seemed to be having no effect. I got in my car and drove towards home, inevitably like most days I ended up in my local and regular drinking hole. I sat on my own at a little table and looked at the inch of beer in the bottom of the glass. “I’ll just finish that and go” I said to myself.

    I picked up the glass and drained it. Instead of putting in on the table I carried it to the bar – just to be nice to the barmaid of course. I put it on the bar smiled at the barmaid and said “Another pint of Guinness please”. My head was screaming “Hey you fool!!! You were just going to leave! You want NO MORE. Pay the lady leave it in the tap and leave”. What did I do? Drinkers of you will know what I did. I paid the lady, took the pint returned to the loneliest table on the planet and started to drink it, knowing I just couldn’t do anything else. I hated myself with a vengeance that day.

    A few weeks later – I’ve been on another all day bender. My wife is really angry as I’ve turned up late, ruined her plans and then acted like I was some knight in shining armour just because I’d phoned up about a broken TV. At some point in the raging row we were having I laid on the floor of our spare room, curled up and started crying. I just wanted it all to stop and I knew I had to do something about my drinking, a few days later a walked into a rehab, a few days later they took me to my first AA meeting and I got hope that I could find a solution.

    The difference was minute and I can’t explain it but that last day something just snapped and I finally accepted defeat and surrendered to it all. Today I chose not do drink since I’ve figured out I’m way better off without it and once I do start it that element of choice is completely taken away from me.

  10. donaldopato says:

    Perfectly elegant and thoughtful. I still wonder how much choice I have in maintaining a sober life. I know I have a lot of choice, but the choice of sobriety has to overcome many obstacles. Thanks also for reading my scribbles on Sobriety Checkpoint! Take care DC

    1. Thanks DC! I enjoy your blog – thank you for being out here and sharing of yourself. The recovery community just got stronger 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  11. I love your moment of Grace. Wow! I had several of those come to Jesus moments when I was going through withdrawal. I would make myself clear my own erratic thoughts, I’d make the electrical impulses go flat. Then I’d listen. And the first thing I always heard was, “I love you.” It took me awhile to love myself enough to quit though.

    As far as choice, disease, addiction…and all those arguments. Does it matter?

    1. Hi Kary May! I love that story of “I love you”. I have had similar, and isn’t it just mind blowing?? But I am almost used to such miracles now. What a fab thing to see.

      And yeah, like I mentioned earlier above, I don’t engage much (anymore) into what it is – illness, behavioural mode, chemical imbalance, emotional entanglement, etc. I just take it for what it is. I have always said that trying to figure out WHY I have this alcoholism is trying to figure out how a car wreck happened by finding out what radio station was on when it happened. Immaterial and pointless. I spent many years in therapy trying to figure stuff out, and while very helpful, never got the meat and potatoes of my alcoholism. Everyone has some opinion on it, and that’s groovy. I just focus on where I am with it, and I am very much like you now – does it matter?

      Thanks for the great comments 🙂

      Love and light,
      Paul

  12. Amy says:

    Being an alcoholic was a “choice”, I just never knew that right answer! An eighth glass of wine? Um……Yes!

    Thank God for those moments of grace: “Hey, you can erase that yes. You can say no. That’s OK.” and “It’s OK to not drown your life. Fill in circle B, for ‘No’.”

    I’ve been pondering alcoholism as not only a disease, but a mental illness. I wonder why we don’t talk about it more in these terms? Because as we all know, the drinking takes away the drinking, but there are a host of other things going on in our brains that make us think the way we do.

    1. jrj1701 says:

      An interesting idea, yet I believe that the stigma of mental illness frightens folks and so they don’t want to be considered mentally ill. A physiological disease ain’t as scary as a mental illness, and notice how most treatment centers don’t want to deal with the duel-diagnosed. If the alcoholic stays away from booze then everything seems fine, but if it is a mentally ill person then you need to watch out because those kind are dangerous, or that is how I perceive the reaction to mental illness is today.It is not as bad as it once was, but the stigma is still there.

    2. I never saw it as a mental illness, but you give me much food for thought here, Amy. Hmmm….I guess some may refer to is as a predisposition? or does that now include DNA? And if so, does that matter? Again, my mind swells up trying to think of all these angles, and I start pondering more and more. And what you say may be valid. perhaps they have investigated this avenue already or are continuing to do so. Fact remains that they have indeed found that our bodies are a bit different (we process alcohol differently in the liver, the idea of cortisol being a factor in our obsession / cravings) and I know that they have studied the alcoholic brain more often than they have put weird stuff in lab mice. I am not a student of these studies, but I know that they have done a lot of work on it. Psychological write ups have been published as well, and would be a good starting point to check them out.

      I may have to do this sooner than later, Amy.

      Thanks for this – awesome comments!

      Paul

  13. I thank God for you Paul. Beautifully written and a post I will refer to in the future when I feel a pull to “choose.”

    1. Thank you…you just made my day. 🙂

      Blessings and hugs,
      Paul

  14. Al K Hall says:

    Awesome post, as per usual, brother!

    First, my own 2 cents on the issue. i believe that there are two kinds of alcoholics, those that are physically addicted to some chemical in the booze and those that are compulsive about everything they do (i’m this kind, as the tools in AA have helped me curb my drinking, porn surfing, over eating, chain smoking…).

    Of course, i agree with you that it is a choice. Especially the first drink. After that, however, my reasoning skills were compromised and i was no longer able to chose rationally. Which is why AA worked so well for me, as it helped me stay away from that first drink.

    At the same time, for me, the debate about alcoholism and is it a disease or not is not really my business. i’ll leave that to better minds than mine to war over it. What i do know is that i feel better when i don’t drink, and that i’ve been given the opportunity to feel good like that all the time. That’s good enough for me!

    Thanks for the thoughts, Paul.

    1. Great thoughts on your side, Al. I think the compulsion thing in regards to *other* stuff is a great add on to the discussion. Most of us (if not all) usually find ourselves jammed up in something else after the booze is down the sink. You mentioned a good chunk of them. Gambling, sex, food, smokes, work, the gym…even stealing (I can’t tell you how many people I have heard in the rooms talk about getting into stealing as a way of getting “high”). For me it’s sugar (I had my first sugar relapse dream last night…ha ha).

      It’s the “-ism” of my alcoholism that acts out in this regard, and I need the steps to make those corrections. But as you mentioned, once I put alcohol in my system, something else takes over. Man takes drink, drink takes drink, drink takes man.

      Thanks for this, Al – awesome.

      Paul

      P.S I got your email – thanks!

  15. Hi Paul,

    I need to ask this, and it’s probably so off base, but I need to ask it anyway: by any chance is the title of the post a reference to an episode of The Simpson’s? Because, if so, well done, it was one of my favorites, and I can still hear Ralph Wiggum saying it!!

    Okay, I could give my opinion, but I would be totally and completely repeating the wisdom of Al, I am with him 100%… some of us get physically addicted to one substance, others have addictive personalities, and I am firmly in the second camp. And I also agree that the disease debate is none of my business (thank you Al, that was well said). That kind of debate makes my head hurt, and, at the end of the day, what is resolved in the discussion? I still can’t drink, so who really cares why I can’t?

    I know I say this over and over, but I love reading your posts, Paul. You are such a great combination of wisdom and humor, and I feel my mind expand every time I read one!

    1. You get a lollipop for that one, Josie! Yes it is. I hope the Simpsons lawyers don’t get me for that one.

      I don’t often get into the “why”‘s of alcoholism. it is what it is. And I think that is why I was trying to avoid the whole “disease or moral failing” type of thing. It doesn’t really serve me at this point, but I do read up on it now and then. A few things have come to light since Bill W and Dr. Bob were around, but frankly, not much has changed. As you know, in the AA model, alcoholism is also a spiritual malady. So the idea of choice in alcoholism seems to go against that idea. nonetheless, my head does spin too when I get wrapped up in the whole thing too. But part of me likes to examine certain things, and choice is one of them. Perhaps it’s the reading I have been doing lately. Perhaps it’s something that needled at me. And I think it’s a bit of both.

      The one thing I have always questioned, and you and Al bring this up and have heard it countless times, is the idea of an addictive personality. Does it exist? Or is it the -ism manifested in other ways? You know what I mean? For many of us, we transfer our alcoholism to something else – work, sex, sugar, food, the gym, etc. So am I an addictive personality, or I am just shifting that compulsion to something else?

      Again, I should probably drop it and just pray and rake the leaves in the back and play with the kids.

      Sigh.

      Thanks for the wonderful comments, Josie. Glad you’re here 🙂

      Love and light,
      Paul

  16. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    This matter of choice is very true. My son has not understood as he is very disciplined with his sports, & says “Why don’t you just not drink?” and concludes it’s because I’m weak. And I have conceded I am. Yet I thought myself strong to get through so much hell, so why can’t I have control over this? Doesn’t make sense to me.

    Enjoyed this write up though. I like the ending, as that says it all.

    1. Aw Noeleen…it’s nothing to do with weak. As you mentioned, you have had such incredible strength to go through what you did, so lack of character (so to speak, I can’t think of another way of conveying that idea at the moment) isn’t what this is about. This isn’t about moral failing, or anything like that. Behavioural model? I don’t know. But for alcoholics (not including you in this) we are strong in all other regards in our lives – we can moderate all other things, mostly, and don’t have willpower issues in other areas. But for some reason, with alcohol, we are strangely at odds with it.

      I think I wrote this partly from the point of your view that your son and others have about us. I think it would be like asking your son to just not play video games (or whatever it is that he does without thinking) – you know what you mean. Anyway, don’t feel that you’re weak in this. I know we do, but it’s wasted time and energy.

      Hope you’re well – so glad to see you here 🙂

      Paul

      1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

        Thank you, Paul. I really appreciate that.

        I come to your pages because I like the way you write as I relate deeply. I always get something out of coming here.

  17. I just want to say how much I admire and envy your ability to wade into such deep waters. Choice. C’mon. Who picks that as a topic? Who would even dare to navigate such treacherous seas? Why, our adroit and intrepid Captain Paul. How you do it, in that little tug of yours is a joy to witness. Smokestacks spewing colored smoke representing all the flags of the world. I would be crashing the craft on the rocks of some jagged outcropping. Behold-

    “Choice. Does the alcoholic have one? Good question. Let’s move on to something easier. What is choice? I went to a relationship seminar an ex-girlfriend strong-armedly suggested. I really didn’t have any choice. I had been blowing it bad with her by then. Anyway, the speaker said that one can only make a true choice between two things of equal desirability. (or I’m thinking, undesirability- like going to this seminar or not and hearing about it forever) He argued that if there is the slightest preference for one option over the other, regardless how small the margin, you have acted on a predetermined compulsion. Do you realize what that means people? If he’s right?
    That choosy mothers DON’T choose Jiff.
    In fact, their choosiness has made them powerless over Jiff.
    Well, if knowing that won’t keep you sober, I’ve run out of ideas.
    You know what else? She didn’t go with me to that relationship seminar, because she said she’d already been to it. Well, I find out from the guy running it, Mike Naumer, that she did go to it, but got into an argument with him over victim-hood and stormed out the first day. Seriously. I know she was militantly pro-victim-hood, so it makes sense. But then to have the nerve to guilt-trip me into the seminar, after she bailed-out of the same one, well that makes me feel victimized. If I wasn’t such a choosy mother, none of this would have happened. But I had no choice about being one at the time.
    Let’s try another one. What is time?”

    See what I mean? All over the place. No point worth wasting any synapse space on. I can’t even crawl to the next sentence without contradicting myself. Such sloppy thinking means there’s only one job left for me. Demagogue.
    Either that or failed blogger.
    They’re pretty much equal. And I can’t decide.
    You’re an amazing writer, Paul. I continue to stand in awe.
    M.

    1. You had me reeling there, Marius. Not so much from the self-deprecating stuff, but how poignant you were even in your half-jest. I have to say that I too struggled with what you were trying to illustrate. I still think I splashed the soup on the tie and the diner beside me. Didn’t keep it all in the spoon. It’s very typical alcoholic thinking of me to try and tackle stuff past me, but that’s ok. It’s in the trying that I get clarity. But I found that I spent more time reining it in than actually writing. But we write and write and write and do the hand wringing and spiritual finagling and mental gymnastics and try to wrestle these armadillos down that seem to want to run rampant in the brain.

      And so it is.

      Failed blogger, me think not, young stoutman. If there is a dish ever to run away with the spoon and jump over the moon, it is you, kind sir. Shine away!

      And thanks for the wicked words here.

      Paul

  18. No one would ever make an informed, free decision to be an addict. Every step of the way seems innocent or inescapable at the time. I have a hard time listening to people who tell me all about experiences they have never had and who are not listening to those who have. Good post.

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