Monday, 09 April 2012

Hitting Bottom while Still On-Top

by GYE (See all authors)

One of the prerequisites to working the the 12-Steps, actually - the very first of the 12-Steps themselves, is admitting powerlessness. In AA there is a consensus that a person can only work the steps properly if they have "hit bottom". As the originator of the 12 steps himself, in his essays entitled, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, writes in discussing the First Step (replace Alcohol with Lust):

Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.'s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.'s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn't care for this prospect- unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.

Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A., and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. We stand ready to do anything which will lift the merciless obsession from us.

However, there has been some serious discussion and debate recently on our forum (in this fascinating thread that has grown to already 6 pages long!) as to what exactly constitutes "Hitting bottom"? Does this mean that a person must stand to lose everything, their marriage, their job and their honor, and literally be suicidal, or is any person who is sincere in their desire to stop lusting and understands that they can't do it alone - a candidate for the 12-Steps Groups?

Today, our 12-Step expert "Boruch" posted on the forum what I think is the clearest answer to this question so far. He writes:

I just discovered our very issue discussed in beautiful clarity and detail in the essay 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (that we quoted above):

In A.A.'s pioneering time, none but the most desperate cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even these "last-gaspers" often had difficulty in realizing how hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably got well. That is why the first edition of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous," published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.

It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the following years this changed. Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. As this trend grew, they were joined by young people who were scarcely more than potential alcoholics. They were spared that last ten or fifteen years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through. Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step?

It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them. By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression. To the doubters we could say, "Perhaps you're not an alcoholic after all. Why don't you try some more controlled drinking, bearing in mind meanwhile what we have told you about alcoholism?" This attitude brought immediate and practical results. It was then discovered that when one alcoholic had planted in the mind of another the true nature of his malady, that person could never be the same again. Following every spree, he would say to himself, "Maybe those A.A.'s were right . . ." After a few such experiences, often years before the onset of extreme difficulties, he would return to us convinced. He had hit bottom as truly as any of us.

Well, that should settle this argument once and for all. It is clear that anyone who sincerely wants to stop lusting and understands that they can't do it alone is a perfect candidate for the 12-Step SA groups. Because as soon as they have acknowledged in a deep way that they cannot succeed our their own, they have hit bottom just as truly as any of us. And let us encourage them to get on board now, while they are still on top! As Boruch so beautifully ended off:

Let the calling of the GuardUrEyes Forums be to raise the rock-bottom so that it is within reach of not only all the addicts here, but as the originator of the 12 steps himself wrote, even "young people who were scarcely more than potential 'holics."

Maybe this should be our new Motto :-) - Helping people hit bottom while they're still on top!