The Battle Against Alcoholism
“Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” Those words can be found on page 59 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and they refer to the moment of truth when an alcoholic decides to quit screwing around and actually work towards sobriety.
Most alcoholics and/or drug addicts will go through a “warming up” period prior to actually committing to a life of sobriety. This period will consist of several unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking or to modify the drinking behavior in order to lessen the damage and allow the alcoholic to live a more normal life.
These attempts at more normal drinking are bound to fail in most instances because the nature of the beast is all-consuming. Normal doesn’t even enter into the equation and never will. Drinking for an alcoholic is balls to the wall, full throttle guzzling till you drop and attempts to modify this behavior are bound to fail.
That is why the Big Book talks about these half measures. An alcoholic must be willing to do the hard work, to commit to change and that commitment must be total. It is a commitment to change not only lifestyle but to change the person as well.
Some out there will debate that statement and that is fine; let them write their own articles about this subject. For this alcoholic life did not improve until I had become willing to stop drinking and change everything about me and my lifestyle. Period! I had had periods of sobriety, the longest of which was ten years, but I was never happy and I was always close to the next drink. Nothing had really changed in my life other than the fact that I had eliminated the symptom of my trouble, namely booze.
Finally in 2006 I gave up the half-measures and took the necessary step in order to find peace of mind and happiness.
All of which leads us to the point of this article: the concept of half measures is not only relevant in alcoholism but also, in my opinion, in normal society today.
More thoughts on alcoholism
- What Is It Like To Be An Alcoholic?
Trying to understand an alcoholic is an impossible task for most non-alcoholics. Maybe this article will help in some way.
I can hear the words of my father as I write this article. “Bill, when you do a job for someone do more than is expected of you. You may not be rewarded for it but it just makes you feel good to do it.”
There was a man who had no idea what “half measures” even meant. He firmly believed, and lived his belief, that if a job was worth doing then it was worth doing to the best of your ability. No excuses were tolerated and he never met an obstacle that couldn’t be scaled or knocked down. The word quit was not in that man’s vocabulary and I can tell you without hesitation that when you grow up around those standards they tend to stick like flypaper to your psyche.
Did I resent it growing up? You better believe I resented it. I just wanted to do a half-assed job and then go play with my friends. So what if I missed a strip of lawn when I was cutting the grass? What’s the big deal? It still looks okay! So what if one of the plates I washed still had some stains on them? We can get it the next time we wash it.
Those kinds of attitude didn’t fly well in our household and looking back I am oh so grateful that I wasn’t allowed to take the easy way out. When it finally came time for me to stop looking for excuses about my alcoholism I only had to think back to those words of my father to realize where I could find the solution. I needed to quit messing around with half measures and start making a complete effort.
How the brain of an addict works
Observations over a Lifetime
Teaching gave me a wonderful observation post from which I could view others regarding this subject. Over the years of my teaching career I saw an increasing number of students who were willing to do just what was required to get by. When confronted with grades that reflected these half measures they were appalled that they had not received rewards that were equal to their inflated sense of self-worth. What’s the big deal Mr. Holland? I did the assignment! So what if I misspelled a few words? So what if my research was a little faulty? So what if my facts didn’t support my conclusion? It’s the best I could do in the time you allowed us and I think my grade should be better.
All of which earned them my standard response: “Do the work and show me you care and I’ll reward you with the grade you deserve.”
This approach to life is not restricted to just students. I am quite certain that all of you reading this can think of times you have witnessed half measures in the workplace or while out and about doing your daily thing. It seems to be an infection that has burrowed itself into the fabric of society in today’s world. High divorce rate, increased school drop-outs, lack of self-discipline and an increasing willingness to give up when the going gets tough. Any philosophy of life that includes half measures is doomed to fail and that is what we are seeing time and time again.
ENABLERS AND SELF-DECEIVERS
I have no patience with excuse-makers and whiners. Those of you out there who have followed me should not be surprised by that statement. I want to lay the burden of blame right on the doorsteps of those who embrace half-measures. They have to look no further than the mirror to find the reason why their life is not working out quite the way they planned it.
Parents who pat their children on the head and praise them for half efforts are enabling them. Employers who allow half efforts are enabling their employees AND hurting themselves. Family members of alcoholics and addicts who cover up for them and make excuses for them are enabling them and prolonging the offensive behavior.
Worse yet, those who make half efforts and then can’t figure out why their life isn’t working out are self-deceivers of the highest order. We all reap what we sow and if we are planting the habit of only doing what is necessary to get by then we will be rewarded with stunted crops in our later years.
BUT THERE IS MORE
In my humble opinion, the worst part of continually doing half measures is that one begins to believe that they are not capable of doing more. They are, in effect, nurturing the belief that they cannot achieve anything that requires hard work and total effort. To put it another way, by setting standards so low based on past achievement, they are basically blurring the lines of reality so that they have no idea what they are capable of doing and that, to me, is incredibly sad. They have accepted mediocre for so long that mediocre becomes the highest standard that they can envision.
Enough Is Enough
I am humbled by some of the people who have blessed my life. People who have overcome incredible obstacles and who continue to fight each and every day for a better life. People who refuse to accept the status quo and whose first reaction when the going gets tough is to work harder. Those are the people who float my boat and I am proud to know them and learn from them.
I think it’s about time we all set higher standards for ourselves. I know I’m going to because I can’t get those damn words of my father out of my head.
Not happy with your life? Change it! Not happy with your job? Work harder or find another job you can be happy with! Not happy with the way you are treated by others? Demand better treatment and make them live to higher standards of behavior!
We as a species are capable of so much more than we have accomplished so far.
Be the best parent that you can be. Be the best student that you can be. Be the best worker and friend and neighbor that you can be. To do less is to cheat yourself and that is, and should be, unacceptable.
Half measures avail us nothing.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."