If the Moment of Relapse Were a Rose….

Eight names for the Wishful Moment of Relapse:

The original “Joe and Charlie” tapes posited that Bill W. hated to use the same words for the same thing more than once.  How many spirited AA discussions of the difference between “shortcomings” and ‘defects of character” would never have happened without this stylistic preference?  “Moral inventory?” “Exact nature of our wrongs?”  Are these not four ways of saying the same thing, different pointers to the same object? And he appears to have been no less averse to repetition when  discussing the most critical moment in the life of an alcoholic, deciding to take that first drink.

Chapter two refers to (1) “that old threadbare idea.”  What idea?  That somehow, some way, he will “control and enjoy his drinking.”  This is also referred to as (2) “the great obsession.”  Chapter three brings us three relapses and an analogy.  The first relapse, twenty-five years after quitting for the sake of financial ambition, reports  (3) “that peculiar mental twist,” of that doomed man who thinks he will now be able to control and enjoy his drinking. The second relapse example, abetted by milk in the whiskey and  food in the stomach, is evaluated as (4) “plain insanity.”  Just for good measure, this thinking is further labeled as a (5) “curious mental phenomenon.” Before moving on the jaywalker analogy, the original authors concede that there is another way to make the decision to pick up that first drink, christening this as the “deliberate” relapse – what I have been calling the “expletive” relapse.  They distinguish it from the aforementioned (by five other names!) (6!) “casual” relapse. Then we get to the jaywalker, whose similarity to the alcoholic repeatedly picking up the first drink leads to the observation that the alcoholic is (7) “strangely insane” in this repeated decision/action. The third relapse illustration falls on a man who had been Twelve-Stepped by Bill and Bob, specifically warned about this alcoholic thinking at the moment of picking up the first drink.  Utterly confident he will do no such thing, now that he knows, this man’s decision to do it yet again earns the title of  (8) “strange mental blank spots.”  That gives us, at least, eight different ways of referring to the same thoughts at the same moment, leading to the same fateful action.

But there is an exception that proves Bill W’s no-repeat rule.  On page 92, the Twelve Step instructions are clear and specific:  Be sure and talk to the newcomer about “the peculiar  mental twist” before the first drink.  The instruction is repeated twice; the phrase, only once.   Must have killed Bill to do even that much!


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