Chapter 3—simple

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Say this prayer (or something that expresses the same idea, if you don't believe in God—perhaps resolve to be open-minded):

'God, I hereby renounce all preconceived opinions; please set aside for me my present habits of thought and my present views and prejudices; please jettison anything and everything that can stand in the way of my finding the truth; remove my fear of public opinion and of the disapproval of relatives or friends; help me see that my most cherished beliefs may be mistaken and that my ideas and views of life may be false and in need of recasting. Let me start again at the very beginning and learn life anew.'

Opening paragraphs—the definition of alcoholism

'The idea that somehow, someday he would control and enjoy his drinking is the greatest obsession of every abnormal drinker.' (30:1)

When you controlled it, did you enjoy it? When you enjoyed it, could you control it?

'We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals—usually brief—were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.' (30:3)

Have you thought you were getting better, only to get worse again?

'Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanatoriums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums—we could increase the list infinitum.' (31:2)

Is this you?

'We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get full knowledge of your condition.' (31:3)

Could you do this, consistently?

The Man of Thirty

Read the story about the 'man of thirty' (32:2–33:1).
Have you stopped for a while but started again?
Was the physical craving still there when you started again?
If you slipped today, do you believe you could come back to AA?

Jim's Story—the 'peculiar mental twist'

Read Jim's story (35:2–37:2).
Jim was doing OK on the outside but drank anyway. Do you believe you'll stay sober because you're doing OK on the outside?
Bill, on pages 14/15 enlarges his spiritual life by work and self-sacrifice for others, whilst Jim, on pages 35 and 36, make some progress but does not enlarge his spiritual life.
Are you making every effort to life inside the three sides of the AA triangle—recovery, fellowship, and service?
Jim's insane thought—that the milk with the whiskey will keep him safe from a binge—comes suddenly, with no warning.
Has your mind ever given you a crazy excuse for drinking? Has that ever happened suddenly?

The Parallel-Thinker—'the curious mental phenomenon'

'But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitable ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink.' (37:2)

Have you ever argued in your head about whether or not to drink?

Can you consistently win those arguments?

The Jaywalker

Read the jaywalker story (37:3–38:3).
Do you have a history of drinking for thrills or kicks, despite the consequences?

Fred's Story—the 'strange mental blank spot'

Read Fred's story (39:2–43:1).

Fred thought he'd stay sober now he knew he was an alcoholic.
When did you realise you were in trouble with your drinking? Did that knowledge stop you and keep you stopped?
Fred imagined he'd have two nice cocktails with dinner, and he does exactly that. But his mind does not tell him what will happen after that.
What he thinks is true but incomplete—this is the strange mental blank spot.
Have you ever experienced this?

Wrap-up questions

'then asked me if I thought myself alcoholic and if I were really licked this time. I had to concede both propositions.' (42:1)

'there is no doubt in my mind that you were 100% hopeless, apart from divine help.' (43:2)

'The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defence against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defence. His defence much come from a Higher Power.' (43:3)

Are you alcoholic?

Are you defeated?

Do you need a Higher Power?

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