I recently finished an assigned reading for one of my drug rehabilitation classes. The book is titled “101 Common Cliches of Alcoholics Anonymous; the Sayings the Newcomers Hate and the Old-timers Love” by Bob Tolin. The first thing about the author that drew, and kept, my attention is the fact that he too is a recovering alcoholic. Bob’s drinking career, as he noted, lasted seventeen years. It ended after a stint in an a residential drug and alcohol treatment center.
This inspirational book, from a credible source, took me on an enlightening ride that allowed me to see which steps I need to take in order to get sober. I will not cover all one hundred and one of the cliches, rather, I will discuss the ones that have helped me thus far and others I plan on implementing.
His first noted cliche is “A problem shared is a problem cut in half.” To the non-alcoholic this may seem like a simple, easy chore. However, us alcoholics are prone to keeping information bottled up, and that is one of the reasons why we bury our issues under gallons upon gallons of alcohol. Many have heard of the first day introduction in Alcoholic Anonymous: “Hello my name is Michael and I’m an alcoholic.” The author goes on to explain the many reasons why sharing our issues at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting is essential to the overall success of abstaining from alcohol.
Although this next cliche is humorous on the surface, it gave me a harsh reality check: “Changing addictions is like switching seats on the Titanic.” Bob describes how members of his Alcoholic Anonymous group tried smoking pot or using heroin as a substitute. The substances we choose to poison our bodies are not the problem. Our addictive personality is, ultimately, what can and will hinder us from living a normal and, most importantly, healthy, long life. Complete abstinence from addictive drugs or alcohol is the only plausible solution.
Another great cliche is, “If I could drink like a normal person, I’d drink every day.” A normal person and an alcoholic are on opposite ends of the spectrum. If an alcoholic could drink like a normal person then that person would not be an alcoholic. Many functioning alcoholics get away with this cliche, at least to themselves. Being able to drink as much as you want and still get up in the morning, or afternoon, does not mean you are in control of your addiction. It means you are in denial.
I was a functioning alcoholic. What was brought to my attention in my rehabilitation program and Alcoholic Anonymous was: what if my son had an emergency in the middle of the night and I had to drive him to the hospital. I would not be able to, safely at least. As a functioning alcoholic we would tuck our family and responsibilities away whether at school, work, in bed at night or at some function and then drink. This excuse has led many to drive under the influence. An alcoholic needs to strive to be normal and practice total abstinence.
During the acceptance phase of rehabilitation, this cliche is vital to your mental state moving forward: “This is a disease, not a disgrace.” Alcoholics have an irregular reaction to alcohol that makes it infeasible to control our drinking. The memories of our drunk behavior can cast the disgrace cloud that showers us with moral guilt. The shame of our problem cannot be used as a reason not to seek recovery. No matter the negative stigma society thrusts upon us, we must see our alcoholism as a disease we can cure, and with work, we will cure it.
This book has opened up my eyes to the angles of recovery that will certainly shape the way I move forward from today. The practical advise within this book can help any and all in my estimation. Honestly, I thought 101 cliches were too much, but, it is actually broad enough to cover all the crevices of Alcoholics Anonymous and rehabilitation process.