“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a person in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” (Pg 568, 4th edition, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, by Herbert Spencer)
This quotation baffled me for years after I became sober. Just what does it mean? Well, we are going to use the 12-step program here as our example. A lot of people come and go in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They say the program doesn’t work. Or they hear that someone’s cousin went to AA and now is drinking more than ever. Or my friend went and stopped drinking for 90 days and then started drinking again. So, for the person who is gathering information about going to AA, their mind is snapped shut against the program without investigating it for themselves. They are making their decisions on hear-say evidence.
All of the above may be true. But why is it true? Usually, the people who are not successful in achieving sobriety are ones that fail to take the steps and apply them in their lives. They miss the part about total psychic changes that others are sharing about. They surmise that these claims are just too outlandish to be true. The mind snaps shut again and they sit there in meetings feeling contempt for the things that are being shared by sober members. To hear someone, share that they are grateful to be an alcoholic is just too much to bear for the observer. Grateful for what? That your life imploded? These people must be looney tunes! No wonder they drank.
There are lots of excuses for continuing to drink. You may be comparing yourself to others and think that you’re not that bad, yet. Or you only have a couple drinks per night. Never mind that you are using a 16-ounce glass for your couple of drinks. When drinking I had this glass that would hold a whole bottle of wine. So, you see I only had one glass of wine! We are very creative in our rationalizations that enable us to continue to drink. I may decide that I am a nervous type of person and alcohol calms me down. Usually, it would calm me down so effectively that I became a black out drinker. Still, I didn’t have a problem. Alcohol was my solution not my problem. Near the end of my drinking, I would go to bookstores and read up on alcoholism. I didn’t dare buy a book on the subject as this would mean I had a problem. And if I admitted that I had a problem with alcohol I would have to do something about it.
Finally, I became so beat down by my drinking that I became willing to go to detox. In this detox unit I attended my first AA meeting. When I raised my hand that I was an alcoholic I felt the weight of the world leave me. I had finally become willing and teachable and able to absorb the AA program. I no longer had contempt for the program. I knew this was my last chance and only hope for living a life without alcohol or drugs. And the program has served me well. Yes, today I am grateful to be an alcoholic. I finally have found peace and serenity in my life, and I have no negative feelings of contempt for the program. You might say that I investigated the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous thoroughly and, have been transformed into the person that my Higher Power intended me to be.