Today’s post is from How to Help the Alcoholic to Help Himself by Ernest Holmes. This book is in the public domain, and you can access the PDF here (scroll to bottom of that page). Please consider donating to the Science of Mind Archives and Library Foundation.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,
How to Help the Alcoholic to Help Himself
by Ernest Holmes
What are we going to do to help the alcoholic? First of all, we are not going to condemn him because we now know that alcoholism is not a disease in itself, but rather, it is largely the effect of a mental disease. A person is not an alcoholic merely because he takes a drink. It is when the drink takes him that he becomes an alcoholic. This is called compulsive drinking, which means that the person’s will power or ability to choose for himself is broken down.
‘What is the alcoholic really doing? He is attempting to escape the realities of life by running away from them. When this situation arises the drink takes the man, and this is the man we wish to help. We can make a normal, happy, useful person out of him only by giving him back to himself.
Physiological and psychological methods alone have failed to do this. A friend of mine, who is a prominent psychiatrist, told me that at a convention on social betterment which he attended, when the problem of alcoholism carne up, the consensus was that it was being best handled by a group of people who call themselves Alcoholics Anonymous, and I know they really are a wonderful group of people. Since they have been effective in handling one of our major social problems, we should become familiar with their procedure.
First, the one who is so unfortunate as to have the drink take, him, must reach a place where he frankly admits: “I am in the grip of a force which seems to be greater than I am. I am absolutely inadequate to cope with this situation.” This is an honest and open confession, and it takes a sincere person to make it. Pride is put aside and so is prejudice. In recognizing that force he is obsessed by a greater than he is the alcoholic does not condemn himself and he shouldn’t. He condemns the act, and not the person. He starts with this simple, honest proposition: “Here is something in my experience which I am not big enough to handle.”
This is the crisis in his experience. His next step is to say: “There must be a power greater than I am. There must be a presence which holds me close to itself. I must belong to it and be one with it. It can wish only that which is good for me. Why not trust it?” Following the confession comes what might be called the great acceptance: “There is a power greater than I am. I am going to trust it.” He is reaching his hand out and placing it in the hand of God.
And he is right, for there is a power greater than all of us. If there were not we wouldn’t be here. And sooner or later everyone will have to come to the position that Alcoholics Anonymous have come to. We owe a great debt of gratitude to them, not only for the good they are doing to those who so particularly need their help, but for what they are doing for all of us. We all need the same confidence, the same faith and the same trust in this Life that the alcoholic needs.
Another step in this procedure and a very important one, is to learn to trust where we cannot trace, to learn that “for tomorrow and its needs we need not pray, but make us to do thy will, dear God, just for today.” The alcoholic cannot say just what he will be doing tomorrow or a week from tomorrow. That is looking too far ahead. So he says, “Just for today. Just for today I am guided and guarded by a power greater than myself.”
This attitude does not burden us with the needs of tomorrow but gives us confidence in that only moment in which we can live – this very moment we are living now, here, today. God is right where we are today. Of course, He will be there tomorrow and through all the tomorrows that shall ever come, but right now, here, today, is the day of our need.
But Alcoholics Anonymous do more than this. They say, “Let us share with each other. Let us share our pain and sorrow, our joy and triumph. Let us help one another.“ You see, they have hit upon the two fundamental propositions of life – the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. For as the Bible says, he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” And so they encourage each other.
There is no judgment in it, no criticism, no condemnation. It is filled with warmth and color and feeling, with human sympathy and understanding, which reveals a deep sense of working with God, trusting Him, believing in Him and permitting Him to make the gift of life to us. And now, having removed all condemnation, they begin to build confidence and self-assurance on the only solid foundation there can be – the immediate union of God with man and the need that we all have for each other. This is Fatherhood – this is brotherhood.
It is said that at the core of every neurosis there are generally four emotional mental attitudes. There is a feeling of rejection, of not being wanted; a feeling of guilt and self-condemnation because of this; followed by a sense of insecurity and anxiety. This is not only true of alcoholics; it is true about many of us.
In removing personal condemnation the alcoholic comes to feel that God does not condemn him. God loves him, else He would not have created him. He is, as Emerson said, “dear to the heart of the universe.”
Next the feeling of insecurity is removed by believing there is a power greater than I am upon which I may rely. l may trust this power greater than I am. I am being gently guided and guarded and loved by it. Underneath are the everlasting arms.
The wonderful thing is, when condemnation is removed and the sense of security in something greater than I am restores me to self-confidence, I no longer feel insecure. And because I have trust and confidence and again feel secure, I have no anxiety. I am taken care of today, and when tomorrow comes it will only be another today, so I shall be taken care of tomorrow.
These are no high sounding phrases, they have no subtle or double meaning. They are simple, sincere, personal and direct, helping us consciously to enter into a partnership with the Power and the Intelligence which created us and which alone can save us from our own foolishness. This method is simple and easy to follow. It calls for a belief in divine guidance, for a realization of the Divine Presence right where we are, and for a love for each other, withholding judgment. Living together and working together, singing and praying together, it creates a community spirit, a field of faith and confidence which is just as real as the wind in our face.
You and I have much to learn from Alcoholics Anonymous and owe gratitude to that organization which is helping so many to overcome the torture of self-inflicted wounds. There is a lesson here for all of us. We should accept it and realize that here is a principle in the universe that applies to everyone. For don’t you and I, too, have many habits we would like to overcome – a lack of charity, the thought of unkindness and condemnation for others, the feeling that perhaps we are a little better than they? Doesn’t this all have to be swallowed up in the victory of love, the greatest good on earth and the highest gift of heaven?