Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

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Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby zionzion » Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:34 pm

Hi all,

I was going to post this in the "Big Book" section but it does not get much traffic, and I really would like to know the personal interpretations of a paragraph from today's group. When we reviewed it, we had several interpretations, and it's a great part of the book, one of my favorites!

It is from the "Doctors Opinion" page xxix - xxx

"I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely
a problem of mental control. I have had many men who had, for
example, worked a period of months on some problem or business
deal which was to be settled on a certain date, favorably to them.
They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the
phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other
interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men
were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a
craving beyond their mental control.
There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon
of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather
than continue to fight."


The paragraph we are debating is the second one, highlighted above. How do you interpret that paragraph? What is the "supreme sacrifice" it references? What is this paragraph really saying? I googled a few things and haven't found a good analysis and I so value the opinion of other alcoholics. I hope some folks will take a moment to share their thoughts.

I really like the areas of the book that talk about the "phenomenon of craving" - this is such a powerful concept and so easy to relate to.

Thank you all!
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby Spirit Flower » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:17 pm

The supreme sacrifice is to kill yourself.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby avaneesh912 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 3:47 am

I really like the areas of the book that talk about the "phenomenon of craving" - this is such a powerful concept and so easy to relate to.


Rest of the book, actually dont really talk about this physical craving much. It talks about the mind. And the peculiar mental twist that precedes the 1st drink. Because our founders put the emphasize on conveying that the alcoholic doesn't stand a chance against the first drink.

They have Bills Story where they show knowledge didn't keep him sober, fear didn't keep him sober. He went back to booze.

In the chapter there is a solution they talk about the mind being non-existent.

Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.

Then in chapter again the illustrate the "Peculiar Mental Twist"-The true powerlessness with stories of the car salesman and the accountant story.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby D'oh » Sat Apr 22, 2017 4:42 am

The supreme sacrifice is to kill yourself.


The paragraph is a little toned down from this point, but could be the ultimate fate of it.

There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon
of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather
than continue to fight."


"The supreme sacrifice" in this case is Giving in to the First Drink. Which starts the whole process again. Ending in Jails, Institutions, or Death Double OR The Doors of AA.

This paragraph is close to possibly my First Unrealized Spiritual Experience. Where it states something like
The Alcoholic has the uncanny ability to get Tight at the worst possible time.


Which is another side of the
the phenomenon
of craving
The Craving seems to come "Whenever" Good, Bad, Hot Cold, which is another part of the "Baffling" part of Alcoholism.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby Brock » Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:20 am

Welcome here zionzion.

My own feeling is that 'supreme sacrifice' does usually mean kill yourself, as Spirit pointed out, and the doctor means that here as well. Yes there is some sense in saying it may just mean giving in to the first drink as D'oh suggested, especially when we know it will lead us to a crappy result, but that's maybe just a sacrifice, the word before it 'supreme' to me indicates the ultimate sacrifice, the last one we will ever make.

He also refers on page xxxi to a fellow deciding to do that -
The patient had made his own diagnosis, and deciding his situation hopeless, had hidden in a deserted barn determined to die. He was rescued by a searching party, and, in desperate condition, brought to me.

There are some of us here, who like you, push the areas of the book which relate to this 'phenomenon of craving,' it helps offset the idea of whatever happens backside falling off etc, just don't drink and come back to the meetings. When I get the chance in meetings I hold up the book and ask, why would the writers go to such length to state over and over the powerlessness, to give the stories of the accountant and the car salesman. As avaneesh said, the founders put the emphasis on conveying that the alcoholic can't avoid the first drink, without the help of a power greater than themselves, thanks for the topic reminding us of that.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby Layne » Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:36 am

I read it as surrendering to "death" rather than fighting for "life". For this alcoholic, drinking would be surrendering to the hell of an alcoholic death, sobriety means continuing to fight for life.

Through the twelve steps, It has turned into a life beyond my wildest dreams. I am grateful that I was willing to continue to fight for life and surrendered to AA, rather than surrendering to an alcoholic death.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby ezdzit247 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 5:08 pm

Hi zionzion and welcome.

In literature, the phrase "supreme sacrifice" means sacrificing one's life for a cause, family, friends, etc. IMO what Dr. Silkworth was referring to in the phrase:

There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon
of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather
than continue to fight."


is hopeless alcoholics who commit suicide rather than go on fighting losing battles with their disease. I've known 8 alcoholics in my meeting groups over the years who have either attempted or actually committed suicide.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby avaneesh912 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:36 am

They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the
phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other
interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men
were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a
craving beyond their mental control.
There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon
of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather
than continue to fight.
"

Dr. Silkworth puts too much emphasize on the consequences part. He couldn't figure out why certain kind of people couldn't stop after they ingest 1 or 2 drinks. He labelled it as "phenomenon of craving". Now science has several theory for it.

But what the book focuses on the choice-less-ness of the alcoholic. The alcoholic because of the warped mind has developed this peculiar mental twist when it comes to booze. Thats the key. Many in the fellowship just focus on the craving part and miss the mental part of the disease.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby PaigeB » Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:33 am

Spiritual death... that is what I see as the supreme sacrifice.

My physical death, which is what doctors think about, will not come soon enough for me if I choose to drink the poison. I one time asked a sponsee if she would like some ant poison with her soda - you should have seen her face! But that too is an answer for the sacrifice. In the story the doc is talking about I believe the man had some sobriety and then threw it away just before the deal was to close... ruining it - and maybe several facets of his life besides business too. I am thinking the doc meant that he would continue to drink after the first one... the physical aspect alone can ruin one's life. It is probably the only part that normal people can comprehend.

But I DO THINK that the Doc hits the nail on the head with the physical phenomenon of craving. In ALL my years of drinking I had not considered that after I take in any alcohol whatever my body had a reaction that amounted to a craving for MORE. When I got my start in AA it was the news I needed to keep trudging. I have a chronic illness that needs daily treatment.

But what I would miss the most is the capacity to Love & be Loved. THAT is what cried out to me from my soul that day my son came for lunch and I was already too drunk to feel love coming or or going out. I was in an alcoholic bubble. I didn't know how to tell you (or me for that matter) that I was spiritually dead, but that is what I was. Blind for so long and finally dead inside. When I reached up from the bottom you folks tossed me a ladder and said, "Come on back! The Sun is shining!" And long before I actually completed the 12 Steps I had some awakenings inside myself and I KNEW I wanted what you had. The Sunlight of the Spirit. THAT is the fire that gets extinguished immediately with the "first fatal drink". And I think it would be more painful than death itself.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby D'oh » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:38 pm

Dr. Silkworth puts too much emphasize on the consequences part. He couldn't figure out why certain kind of people couldn't stop after they ingest 1 or 2 drinks. He labelled it as "phenomenon of craving".


Did He? or is this just a Non alcoholics thinking? Really, if one is Honest (which rarely happens) most Alcoholics know what will happen with the first drink. The reason many explain a kind of easing back into it experiment. "Well that time I had 2 and nothing happened, I don't know what happened this time." It was just testing waters with 2, knowing somewhat we are building on an excuse.

How can anyone "Not thinking that way" explain it any other way than a "Phenomenon of Craving?" Much like the "Jay Walking" way of explaining it to us that have the drink problem. Consequences of Jay Walking would also Suck.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby avaneesh912 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 1:47 pm

most Alcoholics know what will happen with the first drink.


But we still drink. Why would they put this paragraph on page 23:

These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.


And again on 25:

The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us.

And also going way back in the book To the employees, it suggest they suggest reading chapter 2 and chapter 3 and not the doctors opinion.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby Brock » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:21 pm

Dr. Silkworth puts too much emphasize on the consequences part. He couldn't figure out why certain kind of people couldn't stop after they ingest 1 or 2 drinks. He labelled it as "phenomenon of craving".

Did He? or is this just a Non alcoholics thinking?

I agree with what D'oh said here, non alcoholic thinking, especially from doctors, very rarely will include any idea that God could do something they can't. Even when Carl Jung had Roland Hazard for a whole year under treatment, then he left, got drunk right away, and came back, and this is traveling many miles overseas. Only then did he speak about the Oxford group as a possible answer, I have read that he said it at first in a sort of quiet way, almost like don't tell anybody I said this, if the other Psychiatrists find out they will laugh me out of town.

But when Silkworth got to know Bill and see some other success with his 'God plan,' he did come to believe, and in parts of what he wrote, we see that he clearly agrees that a power greater than man must be utilized, to control that part of the compulsion which in fact centers in the mind, here are some of the things he says with a little emphasis -

In the course of his third treatment he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery…. We doctors have realized for a long time that some form of moral psychology was of urgent importance to alcoholics, but its application presented difficulties beyond our conception... we are perhaps not well equipped to apply the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic knowledge... They believe in themselves, and still more in the Power which pulls chronic alcoholics back from the gates of death…. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives... On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol... I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby avaneesh912 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:02 pm

then he left, got drunk right away


Again, I dont disagree on the phenomenon of craving part. Its important. But Roland was with Carl for whole year. Story goes, relapse was un-thinkable. Absolutely no booze in his body. Then he got drunk. Purely because of the mental twist.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby ezdzit247 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 6:30 pm

But I DO THINK that the Doc hits the nail on the head with the physical phenomenon of craving.


I agree. I think the good doctor was right on with his theory that there was something else going on with alcoholics besides a problem of mental control. His observations that alcoholic patients were relapsing and drinking again "to overcome a craving beyond their mental control." were correct. It's only taken about 80 years, but I'm sure Dr. Silkworth would be gratified to know that recent medical research into the effects of dopamine on an alcoholic's brain validates his theory about the "physical phenomenon of craving" .

There is a good article entitled "Here's What Happens To Alcoholics’s Brains When They Quit Drinking". Very enlightening. Google has the link.
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Re: Can I get help interpreting a paragraph?

Postby avaneesh912 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 4:01 am

This is just after Jim the car salesman story:

We have sometimes reflected more than Jim did upon the consequences. But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.

The highlighted portion is what goes through the head of every alcoholic that picks up after being bone dry. Eventually they say the insane idea won out. For Jim it was mixing whiskey in milk and taking it on a full stomach won out. For Fred its the the same "Just a couple" syndrome.

The extreme sacrifice Fred makes is, he is suppose to be with his wife (his wife was suppose to pick him up at the airstrip, instead a Cab driver picks him up and drives him around for a week. The craving that took over after just a couple of drinks idea. He couldn't get back to his partners. Again like "Man of Thirty" (he thinks he can safely drink after a long period of abstinence.

It all starts with an insane idea. Thats why we have that paragraph in ITALICS on page 24. We (without power) are without a defense against the first drink.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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