In the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, the section entitled “The Doctor’s Opinion,” goes into detail regarding the physical component of craving found in most addicts. This type of craving never appears in a normal drinker. Dr. William D. Silkworth who wrote the Doctor’s Opinion, also believes that once an addict consumes an addictive substance that an allergy is triggered. The allergy manifests itself in a compulsion to consume more and more of the substance. In other words, the addict cannot just stop.
How Craving is Used in Addiction
The addict is now using it to fulfill their bodily craving for the substance. This continues until they run out of the substance or pass out from this heavy usage. The addict has lost the ability to control and enjoy their drinking and/or using. Just ask any addict to step up to a bar and try some controlled drinking. This is not possible as the allergy is triggered and the phenomena of craving have been also triggered (phenomena is defined as an unexplained happening).
The addict after using is probably on to a spree which includes a firm resolution at the end to not use any longer. This is the addict trying to use willpower to stop using. The doctor states that this type of spree using will occur over and over unless the addict can experience an entire psychic change. The addict is not using to escape at this point. They are using to satisfy a craving beyond their mental control.
The message which can help facilitate this change must have depth and weight in order to get the addict’s attention. The doctor states that “frothy emotional appeals never suffice”. In most cases, the addict’s mindset must include a concept of a power greater than themselves if they are to reconstruct their lives.
Overcoming Craving to Overcome Addiction
The First Step in 12 Step Recovery states that “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol/substances and our lives had become unmanageable”. We do not have the ability anymore to just have a couple of drinks with our friends. If we live with someone, we may try to hide our addiction from them. We begin to stash our substance in secretive places, so we are never far from our drug of choice. When questioned about what we are doing we may try and laugh it off. We simply begin lying about our using and drinking to others. However deep inside ourselves, we may fear that we have become addicted.
This may bring about more drinking and using as we try and silence these types of thoughts. We believe our only solution is to drown out the realizations we are facing with more illicit substances. We no longer have the power of choice when it comes to drinking and using. We cannot fight off the cravings once the allergy is triggered by using. We have become powerless when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
At this point, our lives are probably unraveling around us. We may have lost our job or career, lost our spouse and children, become financially broken and morally unstable. We probably engage in behaviors that would be abhorrent to us if we were sober. If we continue on in this manner according to the Big Book, we may end up in jail, a mental institution, or face death itself. The only solution is total abstinence.
The 12 Steps enable us to achieve the kind of total abstinence and sobriety which is necessary for recovery. The concept of a higher power outside of ourselves will usually be necessary to continue on in our sobriety journey. 12 Step meetings enable us to hear from others how they achieved sobriety, and are now living lives free of addictive behaviors. At these meetings, we may also be encouraged to get a sponsor to take us through the 12 Steps. Recovery is possible if we do the necessary work to free ourselves from the lash of addiction. Application of the principle’s found in the 12 Step programs can help us live a happy, joyous, and free sober life.