Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mr. Hyde Doesn't Die

Grapevine April 1968

The boozer in us is still there, but put to sleep by AA. This member woke up his Mr. Hyde with a single beer.

WE ALCOHOLICS are, I think, double-personality people--one person sober and an entirely different one loaded. This thought is very much on my mind because I resurrected this second personality in myself when I recently strayed off the AA reservation.

This time, for perhaps the first time, I could separate the two personalities. In pre-AA days the two were so frequently blended and intermingled that I accepted both as making up the person, the whole me. As a consequence I despised myself, though I did realize vaguely that the things I hated most came out only while I was drinking. Now I know better.

The alcoholic personality, this Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jekyll, is not me at all. It is a diseased product of a temporarily deranged ego and embodies all the unattractive thoughts, ideas, and character defects I have at the bottom of my mind. It is a ludicrous animal that crawls up out of the slime and, at least for a time, becomes AL W. We are all mixtures of good and evil, but this second personality of mine is more evil than good when in full alcoholic bloom. From the thoughts that went through my head recently (that I can remember) and from the actions which other people kindly filled in for me later, I realize that this "thing" was actually capable of almost anything.

The contention that one doesn't do anything while intoxicated or hypnotized that is against one's sober or conscious moral standards was proved wrong in my case--it was blown out of the water. I proved that I did do things I would never do sober. I never drive by a prison or a jail without experiencing a wave of gratitude that I'm not incarcerated in it. For among the criminals in any prison are a number of alcoholics (like you and me) whose Mr. Hyde personality trapped them. Mr. Hyde always leaves the tab for the real me to pick up, and the size of the bill progresses with the progression of this disease.

In my early days of overindulgence, alcohol merely changed some aspects of the sober me, aspects I wanted changed. But at one point, and I remember it well, I went completely over the line into acute alcoholism. And this second self, my Mr. Hyde, became an entity unto itself, with practically no resemblance whatever to the real person. It was dependent on me in only one area, in that I had to drink to bring it to life and into expression. No problem. I was addicted to alcohol. I lived for it. For the whole first part of my life I honestly felt that I couldn't live without it. So my Mr. Hyde had a very active life of his own, and with every breath he took, my self-respect as Dr. Jekyll went down another notch. The insane part of it was that I knew what was happening all the time. The more I hated Mr. Hyde for what he represented and what he did to me, the more often I brought him to life. I'm no scientist and I'm not trying to be scientific about all this. It's just that, with a little insight dropped in my lap the hard way, I can (at least to my satisfaction) piece together the repeated falls and final resurrection of an Alcoholic Named AL.

In the first three months of my exposure to this program, I buried this entirely phony second self. It sickened from malnutrition and died--I thought. A long time later, I found Mark Twain was right: The report of its death was greatly exaggerated. With one drink of beer, I literally reached down into the bottom of my mind, where all the garbage is, and stirred to life this decaying corpse. This is one of the reasons why there is no cure for this disease we share: The "drinker" never dies until we do. I guarantee, however, that AA will put it to sleep, and that is all we should ask. It's all I wanted to know once, and I believe--more than ever now--it's all I need to know from here on out.

My recent relapse, I understand now, was a direct result of questioning and wishfully disagreeing with part of a program my better self knew was created by alcoholics with divine guidance. They devised AA and offered help to fellow alcoholics who were sick of the complete dependence that is addiction--sick of unbelievable physical and mental pain, sick of causing pain to others, sick of being so much less than they really are. The real difference between a drunk and an alcoholic is not, as the comedians like to quip, that the latter has to go to all those damn meetings. It is hope and the inward knowing that our Mr. Hydes are not the people we were meant to be.

If there is any one motive common to all humanity, it is the search for happiness. It is this state of being that we all hoped to find at the bottom of the glass. Not finding it (except occasionally when the disease was young), we keep going from glass to glass until we are finally two people.

I was permitted a second look at my alcoholic personality. I saw it reflected in bar mirrors and it looked fine--old Al, swinging again at last! It was only the next day that I saw it in perspective, at least up to the point where memory blessedly stopped.

I was given a second look at what the disease had wrought. That look destroyed for all time the reservation I guess I had retained all along: that sometime, under controlled conditions, alcohol plus me could equal fun once more. The realization that rocks me even now is the literally God-forsaken chance I took on dying before my time, for that second look!

There was only one place I wanted to go as I waited in a jail cell for the court to convene. I wanted to go where the real action was--action on a very different plane, action not only seen but experienced, the human being in gentle and positive communion with the absolute Power. I wanted to go where I had first found God and at the same time found myself. Like a small child who has stumbled over his own stupidity and hurt himself very badly, I wanted to go to the only place I knew where even this lapse would be understood. Not excused, but understood.

I wanted to go back to AA. And I did!

A. J. W.
Blue Springs, Missouri

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