To the Chronic Relapser: The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous promises us that “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”(A.A. p.64) Imagine three layers. The first layer is our bodily reaction to alcohol/drugs when we ingest it — the physical craving. Under that is the second layer: the insanity of the mind just before the first drink/use — the mental obsession. Under that is the third layer: the inward condition that triggers the second layer, which in turn triggers the first — the “spiritual malady.” Symptoms of this “third layer” as described in the Big Book include:
a. being restless, irritable, and discontented (A.A. p. xxvi)
b. having trouble with personal relationships (A.A. p. 52)
c. not being able to control our emotional natures(A.A. p. 52)
d. being a prey to (or suffering from) misery and depression (A.A. p. 52)
e. not being able to make a living (or a happy and successful life) (A.A. p. 52)
f. having feelings of uselessness (A.A. p. 52)
g. being full of fear (A.A. p. 52)
h. unhappiness (A.A. p. 52)
i. inability to be of real help to other people (A.A. p. 52)
j. being like “the actor who wants to run the whole show” (A.A. p. 60-61)
k. being “driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity” (A.A. p. 62)
l. self-will run riot (A.A. p. 62)
m. leading a double life (A.A. p. 73)
n. living like a tornado running through the lives of others (A.A. p. 82)
o. exhibiting selfish and inconsiderate habits
These name just a few of the symptoms of the “spiritual malady” that’s described throughout our text. But still in all, these are just symptoms of the “spiritual malady.” What is the driving force of these symptoms? On A.A. 62 the text explains that selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” This SELFISHNESS, self-centeredness or ego drives us to respond to life situations with the above “symptoms” as well as disorders and addictions other than alcoholism.
If this selfishness—self-centeredness continues to manifest in an alcoholic’s life — even in someone who is not drinking/using and continues to attend meetings – and the ego is not smashed and re-smashed by continuous application of all twelve steps, the sober (or “just not drinking/using”) alcoholic/addict is sure to drink/use again eventually… Or even worse, continue to live miserably being “undrunk” (better known as a “dry drunk”). This is why we see people with 10 years in 12 step groups wind up in mental institutions — and they haven’t even drank or used!
If you are suffering from symptoms of the spiritual malady, use these clarifying questions to ascertain where the problem lies.
• Has it been a while since you’ve taken another alcoholic through the Steps? How long?
• Has it been a while since you have gone through the steps? How long?
• Have you ever taken all of AA’s Twelve Steps?
• Have you done more than one 4th Step inventory? Have you omitted anything?
• Have you completed all your 9th Step amends wherever possible? What remains to be done?
• Is there something wrong in your life that you will not face and make right? What is it?
• Is there a habit or indulgence you will not give up? What is it?
• Is there a person you will not forgive? Who is it?
• Is there a wrong relationship in your life you will not give up? What or Who is it?
• Is there a restitution you will not make?
• Is there something God has already told you to do that you will not obey? What is it?
• Are you working with the disciplines and practices of steps Ten and Eleven (self-examination, meditation and prayer)… consistently… EVERY DAY?
If the alcoholic/addict fails to perfect and enlarge their spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, they could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If they did not work, they would surely drink/use again, and if they drank/used, they would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.” (A.A. p. 14-15).