The Deliberate vs Random Obsession
"Dr. William D. Silkworth, once the leading physician treating alcohol addiction at the old Charles B. Towns hospital in Manhattan, wrote to Alcoholics Anonymous that the alcoholic suffers from an “allergy” to alcohol. That is, we acquire an allergy by drinking too much and crossing over some threshold. But we are not talking about your typical allergy. Instead of breaking out into hives or going into anaphylactic shock, instead of some physical repulsion or rejection of the toxic substance, we break out into ease and comfort. We break out into more. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), this abnormal physical response to drugs and alcohol, once acquired, is permanent.
While that may sound hopeless, it is not, because all any addict or alcoholic needs to do is to restore willpower, supplemented by a life of spiritual growth, and he or she can then choose never to drink or use again. Thus, the real defeat is what happens to addicts mentally. When the thought to drink or use drugs crosses our minds, we go temporarily insane, obsessing about it until the alcohol or drug hits our bloodstream. The obsession itself is actually the point of relapse, as nothing human can bring most of us back once the thought has entered and the choice has been made. The notion of just calling our sponsor for help when we’re teetering on the edge outside of a bar is but an empty platitude, as we have already begun drinking.
We have essentially broken a part of our minds that is responsible for thinking rationally and reasonably when it comes to mood-altering substances, as if a chip has gone missing. Our internal conversations become distorted as we begin to think that our problem isn’t so bad, that we can handle it this time and use moderately, that we’re not going to hurt anybody… so why not? Our memory of events also becomes distorted as we downplay the falling down nightmare we were the last time we went out. Perhaps we don’t have any internal conversation at all as we experience total memory loss, having no awareness of our problem or the consequences of what we’ve done in the past – the car accidents, the arrests, the lying, the abuse, the heartache. A mind that will suddenly draw a blank like that is a mind that has surely gone insane.
This is what happens to addicts and alcoholics, and the Big Book refers to it as the “mental obsession”, but we must also distinguish between the ‘deliberate obsession’ and the ‘random obsession’. The deliberate obsession is when we concoct some reason why we are justified to go out and drink or use drugs, why we have the right to ply ourselves endlessly. We see ourselves as victims, that because our lives are so tough, our jobs so awful, our town so boring, our parents so horrible, and because nobody understands how we feel, we are justified and therefore excused to drink or use. We are convinced that our pain is somehow different from the rest of the human race and that if others had our struggles or felt the way we did, they would surely be drinking and using drugs too.
While all that may seem ridiculous, the real mystery and crux of our problem lies in the random obsession. The random obsession is when thoughts to use or drink come for no reason at all. They are not deliberate or driven by some negative event, thought or emotion. Even worse, sometimes there is no preceding thought whatsoever. We will simply walk into someone’s bathroom and see some pills when suddenly our arm reflexively reaches out to grab them. This randomly occurring obsession is the very lunacy that defines an addict or an alcoholic, and it is what many non-addicts cannot understand.
Moreover, until the addict has been restored to sanity, there is no hope for long-term sobriety. The addict is essentially walking around subject to go insane and relapse at any point in time and for no apparent reason. People who study addiction, as well as our loved ones, will often try to dig in and find all sorts of reasons why we drink or use, but you have to remember that addicts love drugs and alcoholics love alcohol, and at some point, it simply becomes a reflex.
To be sure, this is a very sad and hopeless state of affairs. Simply achieving sobriety, attending groups, having a little therapy or taking a substitution drug is rarely, if ever, powerful enough to fix this insanity. Hopeless types eventually find that they cannot remove this obsession without spiritual help. Let’s face it, it’s hard to go from insane to sane on our own, and sometimes we must call on something much Greater, something beyond the scope of human faculty and man-made remedies. Sometimes the solution is not of this world, as worldly tools are often incapable of removing this unique, deceptive and pathological form of insanity.
So how then do we re-insert power back into our being? Well, that’s precisely what the Steps were made to do – give us our power back. By giving ourselves wholeheartedly to this process, something begins to crack open, as if entering a new dimension, and we are suddenly given access to God or Power. Once that happens and the telephone line is set up, so to speak, we can tap into this source anytime we want, and once that happens, anything is possible. For now, however, let us first dig into some other things we are susceptible to losing power over, such as depression." - Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 1