How is the alcoholic to account for that insane impulse which prompts him to reach for the first drink that starts him off on another binge? Is it a sane act? Is he obsessed? Is it the result of an urge which is sponsored by irrational thinking? Does it involve thinking at all? Does sanity in an alcoholic implicate his power to accept or reject that first drink? We think it does as we do not believe that he can help himself. We believe and know from experience that a power greater than himself can remove his obsession, straighten out his thinking, and restore him to sane thought and behavior.
Those who disapprove the use of the word sanity in Step Two are usually alcoholics who have been fortunate enough to escape the more serious aspects of alcoholism. They reason that they were perfectly normal between drinking bouts. The alcoholic who did himself no serious damage during his drinking career should find solace in that fact. He should take a broad view of the insanity of alcoholism, however, as most of us were surely deranged over varying periods of time.
He must also remember that in the progressive development of alcoholism the power of reasoning is slowly demoralized. This encourages deception as to our real mental health and fitness; it breeds a superior feeling of false security. Evidence to support this fact is found in the following danger symptoms commonly seen in all alcoholics:
- Acceptance of that first drink as we minimize the knowledge of the physical and mental suffering of the past by saying, “This time it will be different.”
- The continued use of alcohol to escape the realities of life and dependence upon it for energy or courage to accomplish given work.
- The necessity of the drink “the morning after.”
- Our inability to be self-critical of the sanity of our behavior over prolonged years of drinking – our refusal to consider the harm we have done to ourselves and others.
- Childish faith we placed in excuses for our drinking and the alibis we thought we were getting away with.
- The reckless abandon we displayed in drunken driving – the argument that we drive better drunk than sober and our resentment toward those who differed from this opinion.
- The acute physical condition we reach and the continued suffering we endure from uncontrolled drinking.
- The financial risks taken – the shame, sorrow and often poverty that we inflict upon our families.
- The asinine resentments that clogged our minds – our decided loss of responsibility – our retreats to childish levels of hilarity – the erroneous assumption that we can “take it or leave it alone’ – our unnecessary squandering of money.
These are a few of the infinite number of danger symptoms that indict alcohol as poison to alcoholic men and women, and prove that their power of reason is affected, as well as their behavior, when even small doses of this drug are consumed.
There is no point in deceiving ourselves regarding the fate of the alcoholic, the uncontrolled drinker, if he continues to use alcohol. He has just two escapes from drinking. One is insanity. The other is an alcoholic death. The purpose of the AA program as a “way of life” is to avoid both by arresting the disease of alcoholism. As alcoholics, we cannot undo our past behavior. We can, however, use the knowledge of our escape from insanity and alcoholic death as an incentive to contact God for help in keeping us from future drinking.
From The Little Red Book: The Original 1946 Edition, Published August 1946.