So, it has been 100 days since that last horrible night. No, not the last night I came home from the bar drunk. I'm talking about the last night I forced myself to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I've only been to three AA meetings, but I found each of them to be almost unendurable.
Don't get me wrong; AA has helped millions of people, and I completely support those who find their recovery through AA. But I don't think that it works equally well for all types of people. I think it works well for those who by nature have a strong sense of belonging to a group, and for those whose outlook on life emphasizes their common humanity with other women and men. I believe that Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't work as well for those who have an unusually strong drive to be different, in whom the Passion for Distinction is over-developed. And, such a one am I.
When I was in counseling to try to end my habit of staying out late at bars and drinking to excess, my counselor told me:
"Paul, you have an addictive personality. Probably the only way that you are going to succeed at this is to find a healthy addiction to replace your unhealthy addiction."And, I believe his advice was spot on. In his book Addiction and Virtue, Kent Dunnington describes addictions as being "totalizing". That is, these addictive behaviors cease to be merely things that we do. They become, in fact, the entire organizing principles for our lives. Whether it is alcohol addiction, tobacco addiction, narcotics addiction, or sugar addiction, the effect is the same. The behavior becomes one that comforts us when sorrowful or in distress. It becomes our way of celebrating in times of joy. It begins to push out other behaviors that compete with it for our time and energy.
If my therapist was correct, I had to find another addiction, another totalizing behavior, an activity capable of taking over and becoming the organizing principle for my entire life. And I found it: bodybuilding.
Bodybuilding is really difficult. Everyone who tries it, with the exception of a few genetic freaks, seems to be a "hard gainer". It is not easy to build lean muscle tissue on the human body, especially beyond the age of fifty. But then, ease and convenience were never requirements, and rarely even considerations, in choosing an addictive behavior to pursue. Better, in fact, that it should be hard ... that will keep me at it for a good long time.
Bodybuilding is the perfect addictive behavior in my battle against alcohol, for several reasons. I always feel weaker in the gym if I have been drinking, and weakness must be banished from the body if one is to have success at bodybuilding. Then, too, there is the time factor. Doing bodybuilding correctly requires not only a great deal of time in the gym, but a great deal of time doing other things: making sure that there is the right kind of food available at all times, ordering supplements, and researching the latest theories of muscular hypertrophy. It all takes time. But one is glad to spend the time, once one has acquired the addiction.
And, so, I don't plan to go back to any more Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Instead, I go to one or two daily meetings of a small and completely informal group at the gym, which I like to call "Anabolics Anonymous". Granted, we don't sit in a circle. And I don't preface my remarks to my friends with the words:
"Hi, I'm Paul, and I'm a meathead."
But you get the idea. It is a brotherhood of addicts. We each know what we are after. It is pretty much the same thing everyone else in the "meeting" is after: muscular size, definition, strength, perfection of proportion, health, longevity, and simple fitness for the daunting tasks fo life.
And, for me, the one additional goal: continuing not to drink alcohol. And, it is working.