I can talk drinking stories, and I can talk jails and hospitals, but I’m not an alcoholic because of just one thing. My problem really isn’t alcohol. It is sometimes it looks like it, smells like it, and people think it is. I want to just shout, “If my problem is alcohol, why did you come in my bedroom at 2:00 in the morning when I was completely sober and watch me lying in bed in the darkness sick, desperate, and afraid, wondering what the hell’s wrong with me?” I’ve gotten sober a lot. I wish my problem were alcohol. Thank God I stayed here and I had a sponsor who insisted that I take the action. I’m glad that I stayed here long enough to discover the most important single thing I’ve ever discovered. The little jigsaw puzzle in my life that I’ve finally discovered what the hell was wrong with me. I discovered something. It sounds strange. I discovered this in Alcoholics Anonymous. I discovered that if I’m an alcoholic, my problem is not alcohol. How could that be? I’ve been around here long time. I have but I’m convinced that is the message of this book, and of what we do here at these meetings. I’m sure I’m the only one in this group or one of the very few who has met Bill Wilson and had an hour and talk to him.
Bill said that’s what he felt too. How can that be? Of course the problem is alcohol! I can disprove that in 10 seconds. If the problem for the alcoholic was alcohol, then detoxes would turn out one hundred percent winners and they don’t. Everyone coming out of a hospital for excessive drinking would never drink again. Everyone coming out of jail for something they did due to drinking would be absolutely fine. Well, we know that is not the case, so I can tell you in one sentence what the difference is. The difference is, an alcohol problem is overcome by stopping drinking, simple as that, just do not drink. By contrast, this incredibly strange and emotionally destructive illness characterized by the ensuing insanity caused by an obsession; this fatal thing is called alcoholism. You will discover sooner or later if you haven’t discovered it that it is way more than stopping drinking. But someone with alcoholism, simply stopping has no significant effect on their life. I learned to gradually that just stopping drinking makes it so painful that I eventually can’t stand the curse of alcoholism. There are millions and millions of people who have all the emotions you and I do, the inner turmoil. We’re not alcoholics because of our emotions and feelings. There are plenty of people who live in reality, but emotional obsessions and neuroses and do not drink to the extent we do.
Feeling certain ways does not make you an alcoholic. So there must be at least one other factor present. Alcohol must have an unusual effect on your body that it doesn’t have on about ninety four or five percent of people who drink alcohol. See, alcoholics handle alcohol better than social drinkers under almost any conditions and test. If you’ve ever been to a party with alcoholics, you could all drink the same and there may not even be any difference. So what is it that alcohol does to alcoholics that it doesn’t do to 94 percent of people? Alcohol changes the alcoholic’s perception of reality. It’s hard to realize, and it really doesn’t do that for most people. That’s why they don’t drink to the extent alcoholics do.