One thing about AA that people struggle with is God. Religion is a touchy subject that a lot of people don’t want to get in to. Much like the parts of your body normally covered by pants, religion is something most people want to keep to themselves. When I first quit alcohol, the idea of going in to a room filled with strangers who want to talk about God scared me.
I attended a few meetings to find there are atheist who have found AA very helpful. Some of them simply replace God with a cheeky backronym like Group Of Drunks, and even the Steps themselves refer to the Higher Power as a God as we understood him. If you understand God as a waffle your son tossed up onto the ceiling, then that’s your thing. Whatever keeps you sober is something I’ve heard more than once.
Suppressing your ego to quit alcohol
Ignoring the theological or sacrilegious implications, I think the higher power is all about suppressing your ego. Ego is the mediator between nature and nurture. To distill decades of psychology in to a few words; your ego is your mind, it’s the voice that’s reading you these words in your head.
It’s the voice that has told you at some point “YOU NEED TO QUIT DRINKING”. Unfortunately, it’s also the voice that says “Lets get HAMMERED”. The ego is neither good or bad, but it is what gets people like myself in to trouble with alcohol.
When I was first thinking about quitting alcohol, a lot of thoughts ran through my head. I analyzed different ideas, the pros, cons, and I came to a resoundingly pointless conclusion: I should probably quit, but I cant. When I put my brain it charge, it came up with a nice rebuttal for every argument.
Is Your Ego Running the Show
It wasn’t until I had been without alcohol for a few months, that it clicked. My ego wouldn’t let me quit alcohol. The pros of drinking, compared to the challenge of quitting made it impossible to conceive. I may as well attempt to invent a flying car.
So either I’d A: keep drinking normally and convince myself I didn’t have a problem or B: try to cut back/drink in a way that didn’t ruin my life. Both of these attempts would invariably fail at some point.
This is where Ego Suppression comes in to play: your ego got you into this mess, so you’re going to have to call in the reserves to help you get out. These days, people are more likely to turn modern medicine than faith. AA was founded in the 1930s, a time when God was the cure-all for many people.
Suppressing your ego can be as simple as saying “I’m a sloppy drunk”. It’s not as effective as saying “I am powerless over alcohol”, but it’s a step in the right direction. Admitting your relationship with alcohol in an honest manner is suppressing your ego.
To quit alcohol, you must first quit lying to yourself
In admitting this, you are no longer fooling yourself into thinking that you’re as suave as James Bond after 4 martinis. You are no longer fooling yourself into thinking no one notices if you’d had a few beers at lunch. You are no longer letting your distorted self image of yourself get in the way of the harsh reality.
BOOM! Did I blow your mind?
If you’re still struggling with the ego/higher power thing, maybe my personal experience will help:
When I first started thinking about the higher power, I decided to make the higher power my house plants. My thought was, if I get drunk then I’ll neglect to care for them, and they’ll eventually die. I don’t want them to die, and therefore I wont drink. PROBLEM SOLVED. Right?
Wrong. If my houseplants died for other reasons, I’d have no reason to continue my abstinence and I could go back to drinking. The nice thing about a biblical god is that they never die or go away. Thinking of my houseplants as my higher power was a fallacy, but it eventually opened my eyes to what my higher power REALLY WAS.
It dawned on me that it was about more than just the houseplants, it was also about my relationship with my partner, my finances, my health and my happiness. My life was a metaphorical houseplant, if I kept feeding it booze and letting it spiral out of control it would eventually wither and die. Then I had a weird thought; Someday I’ll die, but everything else will keep on going.
My higher power became the world around me
Once I was able to stop thinking about the world as if I were the centre of the Universe, everything became much easier. I realized that I didn’t need to defeat alcohol. I didn’t have to solve all the problems in the world, I just had to STOP USING ALCOHOL AS A WAY TO DEAL WITH THEM.
Letting my ego control me, letting it convince me that I didn’t have a problem, or that I could fix the problem, or that it wasn’t MY problem, it was THEIR problem was the REAL PROBLEM.
When someone says “That person has their head up their ass”, it has nothing to do with being stupid, or being a bad person. It’s about a person having a certain perspective, and having too much ego to realize that it’s full of shit.
If you’re still struggling, with this concept or with alcohol in general, then I suggest meditation. No need to chant, sit in a yoga pose or align your chakras. Just spend some quiet time with your ego. Think and contemplate silently, let yourself be present.
I can’t explain this much further without getting existential, but you’ll eventually get passed the superficial “What am I doing?” and “How do I know when this is working?” thoughts and move on to bigger, more important discussions. These discussions will likely lead to challenging conclusions, and that’s when you know you’re suppressing your ego.
Confronting these challenges, and getting back to normal. That’s where the real work begins.
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