“….Because I’m an Alcoholic, Honey, That’s What We Do!”

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 2, 2017 1:10:56 PM / by John MacDougall


I work at The Retreat as the Spiritual Care Coordinator. What I do is schedule the Fifth Step volunteers for the men, and I do one hour consults with both men and women about spirituality and recovery, which can be about almost anything having to do with the Twelve Steps, a Higher Power, and recovery from alcoholism or addiction.

I visited recently with a pleasant, cooperative woman who was surprised to relapse just a month after leaving The Retreat. She went to a sober house, got along well with the other women, enjoyed her new life in recovery, and went to her hometown to pick up her dog.

She picked up her dog and began the long drive back to the Twin Cities by stopping by the liquor store for a bottle to drink on the highway. Then the sober house asked her to leave, because she wasn’t sober. She then came back to The Retreat, and was very unhappy about her relapse.

She couldn’t identify anything she had done wrong, that would lead her to drink. As we talked, it became clear that it wasn’t what she had done wrong, it what she hadn’t done that was right. She had simply been enjoying her new sober life, without doing anything to stay sober. No A.A. meetings, no steps, no prayer and meditation, nothing to stay sober.

What she didn’t understand was, that for us alcoholics, drinking is forever natural. All we have to do to drink again is “nothing”. We are wired to return to drinking.

I am convinced that every morning when I wake up, I wake up pre-programmed to drink and take drugs. Alcoholism and addiction is a brain disease that lives in my mid-brain, a part that has no memory. Because my mid-brain has no memory, it cannot learn to be sober. Every night, while I sleep, my mid-brain resets itself to “alcoholic”. So, when I wake up in the morning, I need to take the first three steps of A.A. to reset myself back for sobriety. If I just drift, I drift naturally towards my next drink.

Many years ago, when I worked as a Clinical Director at Hazelden, I was observing a new graduate student interviewing a tired out, middle aged women who was being admitted after a relapse in her alcoholism. The graduate student was taking a detailed history of the woman’s usage: frequency, types, amounts, and consequences of her alcohol and drug usage. As the student diligently wrote down two pages of information, she looked up at the woman and asked “Why do you drink so much?” The woman answered, “Because I’m an alcoholic, honey, that’s what we do!”

I laughed out loud because I understood her and I identified with her at once. Of course! That’s the whole truth of the matter. We drink because we are alcoholics. It’s natural. It is who we are and it is what we do, and it is what we will keep doing until we die unless our disease is arrested. Just because we have stopped drinking today doesn’t mean we will stay sober. As our “Big Book” says: “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities.” (p.85)

Once we accept that our alcoholism is real, and that it is permanent, then our book guides us in what to do. Take all Twelve Steps in rotation, and keep answering this question: “What does God want me to do, right here, right now.”

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Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, AA meetings, Sober Housing, 12 steps of aa, AA Big Book

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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