Alcoholics especially should be able to see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking. We have drunk to drown feelings of fear, frustration, and depression. We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk again to make more passions possible. We have drunk for vainglory–that we might more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power. This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon. Instincts on rampage balk at investigation. The minute we make a serious attempt to probe them, we are liable to suffer severe reactions.
Thinking for the past month or so about instincts on rampage when I feel an excess of negative emotion. Alcohol did briefly and for a blessed second relieve me of negative feelings. It was that numb spot that I was always aiming for, and because I’m an alcoholic, I was never able to achieve it. By the time I was there, I had drank too much and it was about to kick in an throw me over into confusion and sickness and wooziness and despair.
It happens quickly for me these days when I feel something negative to identify it as a character defect, no really an instinct, but I can see how they are the same. I can take joy in the cat who is sitting right here having been coaxed off of my shoulder and into the cat bed. I can immediately feel the fear of her care and well-being in my hands, that I won’t succeed in caring for her, and that even if I do, the pain of separation will be ours one day when one of us doesn’t come home any longer.
Now investigating and probing, as the paragraph suggests. Life is a series of separations and failures. Still, the cat was an orphan at a shelter and in distress. I was someone who would take joy and comfort in a cat in the years to come. Here we are, both of us lucky, and blessed by the other.
It chokes me up. My instinct to shield myself from the coming worry and heartsickness are feelings I have to investigate and probe and, ultimately, ask to have them removed. Although today I have decided not to drink over them (and really, only because drinking over them did not work), they lessen the quality of my life and they lessen my usefulness. And the cat wonders what’s wrong.
This fourth step hard, deep look at what’s wrong in me can’t go on at length. It’s purpose is to free me from myself, from my self-centeredness, so I can’t stay here for long thinking about how bad I am, or how good. Unaided by alcohol my instincts still try to overwhelm me and take over and protect themselves and run my life. Even though, for a long time now, I’ve known the answer is to turn away, and even though it’s become semi-automatic to do so, I am still learning. Now there’s a reason to keep going to meetings after 35 years of sobriety.