“Research”

Today is day #678 on this particular journey. Today I thought I’d share something that you might hear in a meeting, assuming you attend one, that is. “Research” means something totally different in the context of a meeting than it does outside a meeting.

Scientific research is a wonderful thing. Finding out how the world works, curing disease or even just improving the lives of people in general; it’s a good thing. In terms of an alcoholic it takes on a bit of a dark tone. You see, research is being done, in a way. But it’s never going to lead to any kind of positive, life-improving discovery. Much the opposite, really. Research in the context of AA is someone who has returned to the bottle. It’s a scary thing.

So why is it referred to as ‘research’? Well because it’s how we (somewhat) sarcastically describe someone who has gone out into the world with a bottle in hand to find out if they are capable of drinking in moderation. They are going to pick up a bottle, essentially, to see if they can put it back down. The case for an alcoholic not being to drink in moderation has been made and made and made. The case has been proven so many times that there is literally no good that can come from it. This is the scientific equivalent of studying whether humans require water. Or, if the sun is hot. It’s not fruitless per se, but useless, to be sure.

In an odd sense, it isn’t fruitless because it will prove that moderation isn’t an option for us. (Though it is still an absolutely terrible idea!) While we always hope when someone gets clean that they will stay clean forever (one day at a time). But when someone ‘falls off of the wagon’ they go out into the world and provide evidence that our lives devolve pretty quickly into insanity. Their lives become unmanageable. Things don’t become ‘normal’ or allow you to live like everyone else. Things go from bad to worse. Your life turns dark, and quick.

It also serves as a reminder of the story found in the big book:

A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree drinking. He was very nervous in the morning after these bouts and quieted himself with more liquor. He was ambitious to succeed in business, but saw that he would get nowhere if he drank at all. Once he started, he had no control whatever. He made up his mind that until he had been successful in business and had retired, he would not touch another drop. An exceptional man, he remained bone dry for twenty-five years and retired at the age of fifty-five, after a successful and happy business career. Then he fell victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has-that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men. Out came his carpet slippers and a bottle. In two months he was in a hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried to regulate his drinking for a little while, making several trips to the hospital meantime. Then, gathering all his forces, he attempted to stop altogether and found he could not. Every means of solving his problem which money could buy was at his disposal. Every attempt failed. Though a robust man at retirement, he went to pieces quickly and was dead within four years.

This case contains a powerful lesson. most of us have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could thereafter drink normally. But here is a man who at fifty-five years found he was just where he had left off at thirty.
We have this idea that after a long period of abstinence we have ‘learned’ how to manage our drinking. We have this delusion that we can just stop this time, since we have stopped for so long. The problem with alcoholism is that the disease continues to get worse even as we are sober. When you pick up after a period of sobriety, an alcoholic doesn’t begin again, so to speak. We don’t return to being a teenager who has one beer to ‘try’. No. Rather we go back to where we were. If you drank 12 beers each night as a drinking alcoholic, a relapsed alcoholic will quickly find themselves back at that point once again.
‘Researching’ is a pretty bad path to follow for those of us in the program. The meaning might be pretty different from scientific research, but in one way they are quite similar. When it comes to both it’s best to leave it to someone else. As a lay person, it’s not a great idea for me to go into a lab and start trying to do research. I’m only going to mess things up. Much in the same way, a sober alcoholic should steer clear of a liquor hole because we’re very likely to mess things up pretty badly.
In short it’s best to trust that all those people who have gone back to the bottle and never come back into the rooms, but instead went to the morgue and their experiences. It’s sad. It’s awful, but it’s a pretty damned good lesson. It’s a pretty damned good reminder, too. Alcohol is baffling, cunning and powerful, as the saying goes. Oh, and before the alcoholism tells you otherwise: that applies to you, too! 🙂

My name is David and I can not drink today. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go.

Thanks for reading. I wish you another 24.

Sincerely,

A friend of Bill

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