Module 3A

#3 WHAT ENDS IT? Does the Process propose a Way to Remove the Problem at its Source?—not simply alleviating symptoms.

3A: Beginning with the Solution

“For as it nears the object of its yearning
Our intellect is overwhelmed so deeply
it can never retrace the path that it followed.”

–Dante, Inferno, Meditative Mind (p. ix).


Without a clear description of the problem and an understanding of its cause, we begin with those people who have solved the problem and look to them for answers. Within the approach of Acquire & Apply we cannot create a forward path to the solution: we must trace our path backwards from the solution to the problem and then make our best guess at what happened. The spontaneous liberation of a small cross-section of addicts from their addiction—without any effort, treatment, or conscious intent—gives us the creative anomaly upon which to build a more general solution for the larger cross-section of addicts. And, as always, this investigation reveals more and more about what it means to be human.

Beginning with the solution means beginning with a human being—not an idea. Beginning with the solution means beginning with the fact of the liberation from addiction—the supreme moment in the history of the individual, the culture, the species where one person defies logic and expectations and reclaims their freedom to choose. Most of us have experienced times of transcendence when thoughts of ourselves just seem to disappear. Everything we say and do arises naturally and smoothly from a pure organic source that lurks just beyond our perceptual radar. We are fully “in the zone,” our sense of identity dissolving into an “eternal now” that stretches out across the vastness of past, present, and future. Paradoxically, at those times of Self-forgetting we seem most truly who we are. Sometimes these moments of freedom pierce through an addiction, and the Addict that seemed to rule our lives disappears without much of a struggle. Those who taste such liberation are soon left wondering what happened, fearful that their moment of grace will fade as quickly as it arrived. So they look for an explanation.


3A Beginning with the Solution 3B Forget Who You Think You Are 3C Remember Who You Really Are
A spiritual experience of sufficient power will temporarily break the mental obsession for the first drink. An end to the physical phenomenon of craving is currently unknown. The Passive Forgetting of Who We Think We Are requires the Knowledge of Seeing Simultaneously and the Power of Forgiveness. The Knowledge that results from Seeing Simultaneously keeps new Momentum from Ambivalent Grasping from arising; the Power that results from Forgiveness extinguishes previous Momentum from Ambivalent Grasping. The Active Remembering of Who We Are requires the Knowledge of Seeing Directly and Power of Repentance The Knowledge that results from Seeing Directly keeps new Momentum from Fragmented Craving from arising; the Power that results from Repentance extinguishes previous Momentum from Fragmented Craving.

III. AA’s KNOWLEDGE OF THE SOLUTION: A spiritual experience will dispel the mental obsession for the first drink.

And this experience provides the defense, that “neither he nor any other human being can provide.”

–(Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 43) As it happened to Bill Wilson in Towns Hospital:

“Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up with an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in my mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and it was a wind not of air but of spirit that was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me was a wonderful feeling of presence, and I thought to myself, “So this is the God of the preachers!” –AA Comes of Age, p. 63

As the story goes, after some reading of Carl Jung & William James, Bill Wilson became convinced that the alcoholic could recover by a spiritual experience that dispels the mental obsession to take the first drink. He had an explanation for what had happened to him in Towns Hospital that he could live with and optimistically assumed that if such a transformation could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. It is upon this bedrock idea that modern Big Book AA and the Twelve Steps rest. Of course, the mental obsession for the first drink is only half of AA’s definition of alcoholism. Nowhere is it stated or implied in AA literature that a spiritual experience can release one from the phenomenon of craving that occurs after taking the first drink. But, again, the Body-Mind-Spirit model insinuates itself: in a clear ranking of Spirit over Mind, one can wonder why the phenomenon of craving is exempt from the power of the spiritual experience while the mental obsession is not. Did the earliest AA members, many of whom spoke quite blatantly about being “Cured by God,” unwittingly concede that their all-powerful Creator was only capable of a half-cure? (And a weakening of the language has occurred over the years as “cured” became “recovered” became “recovering” until the AA rank-and-file has become ruled by their own fear of getting struck down drunk should they miss a meeting.)

Returning to Wilson’s liberation from alcoholism, we see that chooses to interpret his experience in Town’s Hospital as spiritual. Other such spontaneous liberations have occurred that were not interpreted spiritually. A 25 year-old male who had to be institutionalized for daily binge drinking describes his own hospital experience:

I immediately felt a popping in my ears, like that felt during decompression in an airplane. The colors in the room took on a new vibrancy; the details of my surroundings took on a softness, like looking through light gauze. Sounds were more resonant, smells deeper and fuller. The internal struggle melted away and was replaced with a feeling of being loved and protected. The mental obsession for the first drink disappeared immediately and completely, never to return.

Either interpretation of the liberating Surrender Event—psychological or spiritual—sounded reasonable and consistent with my personal history, but from my perspective something just snapped. Admitting the problem, believing that outside help is available, and deciding to seek that outside help never entered into the conscious equation. There was no understanding of anything, no interpretation of anything. There was no real sense of the experience being visited upon me from the outside or of sprouting from within. No Body, no Mind, no Spirit—no-thing. I knew from that moment on that I never had to drink again.”


To press the issue even further, spontaneous liberation from an internal struggle is not the exclusive domain of the alcoholic, as we have all experienced the involuntary, automatic reaction of giving up a psychological fight. It may be as simple as the idiot co-worker whose very existence troubles us. We may obsess about them for days, weeks, months, even longer, but suddenly we just don’t care anymore. We have not consciously let go of our intolerance. We may describe it that way, but we don’t experience it that way. Instead of designing and implementing an action plan to let go of our troubles, something inside stops fighting and the problem no longer exists for us. Instead of being a slave to our annoyance, we are suddenly free. The spontaneous liberation from addiction comes just as suddenly: there is no discernable temporal gap between the moment when the alcoholic cannot live without alcohol and the next moment when the alcoholic knows they never have to drink again—it is experienced as a single act of emancipation.

The difficulty, of course, is that if you ask an addict how he got hooked or how he got unhooked, he probably doesn’t know the answer to either question. But we will not relent in our quest for the truth, and continue to press the newly liberated addict for an explanation: Was it genetics, environment, or stupidity that enslaved you? Did you escape by luck, divine providence, or sheer grit of determination? One feeling common to the hundreds of addicts (from a base of ~1000) that I know who have been spontaneously liberated from their addiction:

“That’s not me anymore.”

—the iconic “personality change” from AA’s Written and Oral Tradition! They have looked past what is appearance in themselves to see what is real. Tough love didn’t work; interventions backfired; treatment wore off. Attempting to willfully overpower their compulsions led nowhere. But an uninvited realization of the transient nature of their identification with their addiction pulled the plug that powered their suffering and the problem was removed. When we probe further, their explanation offers one more detail:

“Something inside of me stopped fighting”

—And neither of these observations sounds particularly unique to addicts, something reinforced by none other than Alcoholics Anonymous:

“After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything.
We have to!”

Alcoholics Anonymous, p 103.

Curiously, in suggesting that “we have stopped fighting anybody or anything,” there is no mention that we need to stop fighting ourselves. The simple idea that addiction results not from a mental obsession or a phenomenon of craving, but from the internal struggle between wanting to drink and not wanting to drink will be the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we will pass to absolute, unconditional freedom. (Module 1C)


Do the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous propose a Way to Remove Addiction at its Source?—not simply alleviating symptoms.

  • We cannot grant the existence of something we call a spiritual experience within being pulled back in to a Body-Mind-Spirit of Self.
  • Without a clear statement of what causes addiction, we can never be sure that any proposed solution is removing addiction at its source.


Towards a More Elevating Solution for Addiction

The solution to any problem of human suffering should be definitive, irreversible, and framed in such a manner that elevates the individual to seek out a means to implement that solution. For the addict, this means offering them something more than just a daily reprieve for their condition, more than just a life based on hyper-vigilance towards a disease process that constantly shadows them. At the very minimum any solution to addiction must be progressive and irreversible. Anything else is a half measure.

Words matter. What encourages you more: a chance to spend the rest of your life recovering from a disease, or a chance to reclaim your freedom to choose? Just as important as helping addicts towards a preliminary understanding of their condition that moves them towards the light, is the knowledge that our final act of freedom comes from moving beyond all Self-limiting labels and descriptions. Ultimately responsibility comes from realizing—without identification that we are our addictions.

EXERCISE 3A: MAKE A DECISION. The next time you make a decision to indulge in a troubling behavior try to notice how your feelings change before you act out. Does the very act of deciding relieve the tension or just increase the excitement? Does the very act of deciding remove the desire or increase it? What happens at the moment of a decision can reveal much about what causes our behavior.


MOVE TO LEVEL B: 3. Propose A Solution

MOVE TO STAGE 4: 4. What Means Will End It?

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