Don't drink!

For me the exclamation "Don't drink!" or its equivalent "Don't drug!" is the most important statement in recovery.  This is the painfully simple, often overlooked solution.  I didn't even realize that it was the drinking and taking other drugs that was killing me and that had already taken so much from me.  It was in the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) that I learned that if I didn't drink, I wouldn't get drunk.  A.A. provided me with this insight and the program helped me stay away from drugs and alcohol once I stopped.

Yet it was easy for me to forget "Just don't drink!" which was and is today, the substitute for "Hello" and Goodbye" between my sponsor and me.  My attention had to be brought back again and again to this simple fact.  There is a guy in the Allston, MA Friday night and Sunday morning groups who always focuses attention on just not drinking.  He begins and ends every conversation with "Don't drink!"  He offers it as a solution to any problem.  It almost became a game with me to say "Don't drinnk!" to Tony before he said it to me.

I recall early in my sobriety facing one seeming calamity after another.  My second wife was leaving me.  I had to sell my house to pay my debts, my job wasn't working out, etc.  I'd go to my sponsor, sometimes in tears and say "My wife's leaving..." and he'd say "Don't drink!" and I'd become angry and think, "What an unfeeling S.O.B., he doesn't understand."  Of course he understood, because he had been through it, and he had given me the best advice available.  Because of my inability to understand, and because of my lack of growth, I couldn't understand but as long as I did what he said I didn't have to understand.  Eventually I came to understand.

For me there is an interesting parallel with Zen Buddhism.  Zen has always interested me and even more so now that the program of A.A. has opened up my spiritual growth.  In Zen. students are always asking their Zen master for solutions to very complex life problems and the master always offers answers but they are usually unintelligible to the student.  For example, the student might ask, "What is the true nature of God?" and the master, after a pause, may slap the student in the face.  This is in no way a punishment, nor is it a heartless response.  It is the master's way of answering the question and it is the correct answer for the student if he can understand it.

So often the answer "Don't drink!" was like a slap in the face or being dashed with cold water.  Yet it was always the correct answer.  Don't drink!.
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