The Actor Running the Show

The Actor Running the ShowYou know what I was thinking? There should be a Survivor where all the people on the island are alcoholics. Instead of immunity idols, there could be hidden bottles of Jack Daniels. High atop cliffs, there could be warm beds and hot food, and the contestants would have to figure out how to get up to them. I would love to see the social aspect of the show turned on its head. You want fire? Want it more than vodka?

“… any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost in collision with something or somebody, even though are motives are good… If only [our] arrangements would stay put, if only people would do as [we] wished, [life] would be great… In trying to make these arrangements, [the alcoholic] may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may me kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish, and dishonest” (Big Book 60-61).

Sometimes, in my journey to understand myself, I read and re-read sections of the Big Book. Though I always find myself relating and identifying, I sometimes simultaneously think, “Well, hold up Bill W. Isn’t everybody like that?” I mean, really, doesn’t everybody want everything to go his/her way all the time? What person out there would have the fatuity to ask for a little extra helping of heartache or failure? I’ll tell you who, no one. And if I could figure out a way to make my life better through some subtle arranging of things, does that make me alcoholic or just smart?

Here is what I’ve decided this week. It’s not the manipulation of things around me for my betterment that make me alcoholic in nature, it is the extent to which I work to manipulate these things and then my subsequent reaction to them that identify me. I really think, by and large, alcoholics are fascinatingly intelligent and cunning people. I listen to people speak in meetings and it almost seems as if we alcoholics are running giant sociological experiments on those around us. Will you do it if I ask? No. How about if I am mean? Coercive? Gracious? What if I cry or throw a tantrum or refuse sex? What if I buy you a drink or a fur or a car?

And then, when I do not get what I want, there is no acceptance. Instead, there is a foot stomp followed by renewed exertion. Somehow, I think if someone failed me, it is not that they fumbled, but that I have somehow failed to properly explain what needed to be done. So, I try again. “He decided to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still [life] does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying,” (Big Book 61).

The longer I stay sober, the more sure I am that Bill was right when he talked about how doomed this idea of collision is. I used to think that people would one day wise up to the fact that I was only trying to help them. Now, I know better. I’ve learned better. I’ve learned that the human experience lies in the fact that people need to experience their truth first hand, and that no amount or lecturing or warning is ever quite the same thing. I’ve learned that no matter how much I think I know about a person, I will never know exactly what is feels like to be them.

But I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll just have to experience it for yourself.

4 thoughts on “The Actor Running the Show

  1. Here it is eleven years sober and I am right here. Just told an acquaintance I was gonna get into this read because I need to and I find it here on Your Blog, Thanks! Been around the Rooms since 89 and I finallly made a Decision to Surrender. I now Trust God with My Whole Life and I stay Plugged In..The longest I had before now was seven years. I Love AA!


  2. Good thoughts. Since my house is flooded and a library destroyed, I’m learning how to calmly see wh


  3. my question is based off of something you even said yourself: how is this any different from the average person? sure, not all people are manipulative. but similarly, many non-alcoholic are. how is this just an “alcoholic thing”?

    my issue with the Big Book (what of it I’ve read, which is only six or so chapters) is that he over-generalizes. I don’t have the Big Book with me at work (where I am now), so I can’t find the exact quote. but there’s something to the effect of “this book works for everyone except for those for whom it doesn’t”. well duh. I hated when they quoted that line in rehab about how well it work, except for those who were too weak or too ill. saying it works “for everyone except” really bothered me.

    I dunno, I’m just kinda ranting. I apologize. but back on that matter, how is the issue you discussed strictly about alcoholics? I don’t think we’re as special as we like to think we are…..


    • I really like your question. I wished more people read my blog, so you could get different perspectives. I sometimes wonder if Bill had known in advance the extent people would scrutinize and study his words if he would have had the courage to write it. I know I wouldn’t have.

      Here’s the deal. I’m gonna write something hugely controversial: There are a lot of parts in the Big Book that don’t make a lot of sense.

      AAs tend not to read the Big Book with a discriminating eye. They just kinda take it for gospel as some do the Bible. So there’s some numbers that don’t align and there are more than a few awkward wordings. You think “How it Works” is bad? “We Agnostics” makes my skin crawl. Agnostics aren’t mad at God. To be angry at him would be to acknowledge he exist, which Agnostics don’t. The chapter should be called, “We the Angry at God.” Furthermore, AA’s primary purpose cannot be to achieve sobriety AND help other alcoholics. That’s two purposes. Sigh.

      Anywho, My thought is that Bill W. gets too much credit for some things and not enough credit for others. At the end of the day, he was a stock broker with four years sobriety and the idea to write a book explaining how he and some others got sober. They didn’t have a lot of science (though the idea that alcoholism is a disease had been around for about 50 or so years and not discovered by Bill or Dr. Silkworth regardless what people think). They didn’t have a lot of support. (Bill had four years, Bob a little less. And about a hundred other people with a year or two). And regardless of all the inconsistencies, I think Bill’s motives were good. So, I cut him some slack here and there.

      But as you said, back to your original question. I am not sure the things Bill discusses or I discuss are only strictly about alcoholics. I also think if you add the percentage of alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, workaholics, exerciseaholics, ragers, shopping addicts, and hoarders, and the whole range of food addiction and overeating out there and add them all together, its like 100% of society that has at least one compulsive disorder. I think everyone could benefit from the twelve steps, addict or no, just as I think most everybody could probably get something out of my words. But I don’t write for the whole world. I’m just addressing one segment of it.

      So, there you go. Thank you for making me think this morning. I hope to hear from you again.


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