It's a disease

Chapter 7 of the AA Big Book, "Working with Others", tells me the message that I'm to carry to someone who has a compulsivity. The Big Book may talk about alcohol but we can extend this into whatever we need to do to relieve whatever it is that we're trying to get relief from. If there was no payoff for our obsessive-compulsive behaviour, then we wouldn't do it, because the consequences are too horrific. We're not stupid!

So what's behind this need for relief? This is not just about brain chemistry. There are psychological and societal components too, which play a part in how the disease develops and in how we deal with it.

There is a wonderful line in the Big Book that says, "When... crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could neither postpone nor evade...".  What a prophetic statement by a man writing in 1938! I couldn't evade or avoid my self-imposed crisis because I'm programmed to be irritable, restless and discontented and I'm looking for relief. I can't avoid that.

Today, even the most conservative literature says that 70% of us are here because we're programmed to seek relief from a brain that is "white hot". Now that does not, in any way, relieve me of responsibility for my recovery but it absolutely defines our problem:- We are hyperactive.

Dr Silkworth told Bill Wilson to, "Quit preaching! Tell them about the illness". Dr Silkworth spoke about a physical allergy and a mental obsession. He'd concluded that this abnormal reaction to alcohol was an allergy. Now this has not proved to be true. It is more a disease of brain chemistry. It involves an abnormal reaction to alcohol, drugs and other compulsive behaviours.

On page 92, "Working with others", Wilson says, "....speak of alcohol as an illness, a fatal malady". He then suggests stressing the spiritual solution and, on page 94, "...the program of action". Wilson describes a 12 Step prospect who knows a lot about religion. "He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient. To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self-sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action".

So self-sacrifice in Steps 1-3 - the complete sacrifice of myself - is the seminal power to correct my behaviour....(This is completely different from the mental health model)....and unselfish constructive action is the last nine steps - is what we call our "program of action". "Faith without works is dead" - as Bill Wilson repeats frequently. We need self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action. Faith alone is insufficient.

On page 130, Wilson writes, "Those of us who have spent much time in the world of spiritual make-belief have eventually seen the childishness of it". Note that childishness. "This ... has been replaced by a great sense of purpose...". So why am I here? I'm here to learn how to help somebody else. To give away something that I've got, rather than trying to give away something I don't have. "A great sense of purpose". Our primary purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and others. We have the absolute certainty of the power of God in our lives.

So, having dispelled any fears that I am a scientist by explaining what this spiritual solution means to me, I'll now talk about the scientific model.