“Many of us felt we had plenty of character.
There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible.
This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it –
this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 34)
In the early 1900s, the world began hearing the mythical story of a low-powered “switch engine” designed to pull light loads for short distances at navigational speeds over relatively-flat ground: “The Little Engine That (Allegedly) Could”. In that story, the incapable engine is said to have ultimately succeeded in tugging a long train of fully-loaded rail cars through a high mountain pass while repeating “I-think-I-can–I-think-I-can–I-think-I-can–” along the way. At the end of the story, the little engine is next heard to say “I-thought-I-could–I-thought-I-could–” while joyfully rolling down the other side of the mountain…and another story teller later changed that particular line to “I-knew -I-could!”
We have a much different story to tell, and it is a truthful one:
“…plenty of character (determination and fortitude, just like that little engine)…tremendous urge…yet found it impossible…no matter how great the necessity or the wish.” (page 34)
Having first given up on ever again drinking with control, leaving alcohol alone altogether made logical sense: “If we don’t take the first drink, we can’t get drunk”, right? However, there was no amount of will power, determination and energy we could muster for getting that job done…
“…the will is amazingly weakened when it comes to combating liquor…”
“…the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail…
“…lost the power of choice…without defense against the first drink.
“…complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting one’s hand on a hot stove.” (pages 7, 24)
Where “the little engine” is said to have pulled a train up over a mountain, our alcoholism seemed to have pulled us down into a pit where we could only have a desire — no ability — to escape…
A tremendous urge (instinctual) to cease forever did not keep us from drinking;
Having an honest desire (logical) to cease forever did not keep us from drinking;
In our natural states, we were “without defense against the first drink.” (page 24)
Can you see our dilemma there? Urge plus desire does not overcome our inability to stop. Our survival instincts produce an urge to stop, then our intellect (possibly aided by emotion) produces a desire to stop, and then we…
“…try leaving liquor alone…(and find) few, to whom this book will appeal, can stay dry…” (page 34)
…and all of that ultimately leaves us at a place described in the title of this page:
A desire to stop, then facing our inability to leave it alone.
A desire to stop facing our inability to leave alcohol alone.