Does the WHY matter?

Old 05-21-2013, 01:09 PM
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Does the WHY matter?

Hi everyone. 10 months sober here, sponsor, 4-6 meetings a week, step work is cooking and I am involved heavily in service work. I also see a therapist. She is a recovering alcoholic herself, knows my sponsor pretty well and is a no nonsense, call it as she sees it kind of person. Both her and my sponsor are the two core people in my life that have made this journey possible.

That brings me to my question. I was speaking with my sponsor and he said that the why didn't matter. To him it makes no difference why we drink the way do, only that we do. He believes that drinking is much like a car. How much we understand combustible engines has nearly no effect on how we operate the vehicle. He believes that wanting to know why is egotistical and we have to "Stomp" that ego before we can move on. He believes that once we as alcoholics come to understand that we are in fact alcoholics, we move forward with AA principles and the steps and that is that. My therapist on the other hand believes very much that the why is the root of our problem and understanding that reason (or more likely reasons) can help us immensely in over coming our addiction. She also believes strongly in AA and the steps but thinks each are tools that work better when combined.

So here I come in. I think that much like any other behavior that I would like to change, understanding why I do said behavior in the first place is very important. When I drank, I didn't always have a problem but when I had a problem I always drank. My behavior was to use the effects of alcohol to make me feel better. Why? What was I escaping? What was I afraid of and where did all of these things come from? Can I find where it started?

I think those are important questions and I do myself a disservice if I don't ask them. At worst I won't find the answers and nothing is lost. At best I find out why, dig into my upbringing and past honestly and fearlessly with a professional and discover ways to let it go and find freedom. Wouldn't that freedom be a great addition to the AA path I am already following?

If I thought that I had anger issues, would I simply start breathing exercises and stress management techniques or would I combine those with therapy to understand why? Doesn't modern psychology say that we must first understand the problem before we can have any hope in finding peace?

My question is: What do you think? Does the why not matter? Does digging into family of origin issues help? In your experience is there a place for therapy alongside your AA work or does the Big Book cover it all?
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:23 PM
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I agree that the why doesn't matter to a point. I had to find the causes and conditions in order to start healing and to see what I needed to be on the look out for. Some might call causes and conditions the why.
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Harden1313 View Post
My question is: What do you think?
Your sponsor is wise.

I think a little bit of introspective can lead to wisdom. But too much mental self fondling is counterproductive.

I lean to "The why doesn't matter." The "why" kept me drinking...I don't need to be thinking about it. I no longer drink. Therefore, I am past why.
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:27 PM
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IMO the why matters, but some people can never find the "why." If you are self medicating..why are you doing that? To overlook that is a way to relapse more easily. To over analyze things isn't good either. Just my opinion though
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:34 PM
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I think that pretty well any knowledge of "why" falls under Step 4 and any searching for God is under Step 11 .....

There is nothing of knowledge that I have found that didn't fall into one of the Steps.

We had a great 12th Step table this morning. 5 of us at the table and total sobriety was about 130 yrs.

I don't know why you would think that AA and the 12 Steps limits you in any way......

All the best.

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Old 05-21-2013, 02:06 PM
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I'm with your sponsor on this. The why is irrelevant in most cases. There is nothing wrong with looking at ourselves outside of AA - I am a proponent of therapy - I had worked with one for 10 years while I drank and while all the self-knowledge in the world was good, it didn't stop me from drinking. Karl Jung knew this too.

It's like going through a fatal 5 car pileup and trying to figure out what radio station was on before the crash. Who cares? Irrelevant. Things will come up in the inventory, absolutely. I found that the important stuff came up there. But in terms of digging into family history etc...what will that serve other than a good genealogical hunt? Whether or not my great-grandfather was or wasn't an alcoholic won't shed any light on what I am doing now.

You sound very enthusiastic, which is awesome...just don't get stuck in the why's when you can just motor along in the step work and live in the now
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Old 05-21-2013, 03:03 PM
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I think the why is important. Understanding is important.

That being said, it’s important for me to recognize that understandings only give me a limited measure of control. If I attempt to gain so much “understanding” as to completely “control” my alcoholism, one day I will drink.

I try to use insights and understandings about my nature to assist a power greater than myself to remove basic character flaws (or at least the actions that flow from them). I believe I have been requested to be involved in this process.

The bottom line for me is that God does not hold man’s intellect in contempt.
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:17 PM
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I think that willful ignorance concerning any aspect of my being is problematic.
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:33 PM
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Hi Harden. I do think the why matters somewhat. Especially for some of us that started drinking & doping very young due to trauma & that sort of thing. But...for me personally, I needed to suspend the why questions for awhile & just get to the doing of living sober, one day at a time. Then as I became solidly sober I had lots of flashes back and introspection a that have helped me to see what I had been doing (originally), before the booze actually became a physical and mental necessity to get through the day . Hard to explain I guess but I'm sure you can see what I mean.

Congratulations on your sobriety. It is such a good thing isn't it?
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:35 PM
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There just is no yes or no answer to this question.
If the reason someone drinks is obvious,or there is a really good psychiatrist to get to the bottom of it. I think the why does matter if the reason can be found fairly easily.

But in my case it just really doen't matter,because the only reason I ever found was that I am an alcoholic. I tried to stop drinking many times over my 30 year drinking career. I quit 4 years ago,and I really don't know why I stayed stopped this time,while I failed sooo many times before. But in all honesty,I think deep down I really didn't want to quit.
So while I would like to know "why" I am afraid MY only explanation will always simply be that I'm an alcoholic.

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Old 05-21-2013, 06:36 PM
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I agree with 2grandaughters. The why will come out if you work the rest of the steps. If it's important to you to search for reasons while doing the rest of the steps I don't see any harm in it. We gotta do what feels right for us. Don't think there are any absolutes here.

Some people feel they'll be fixed by making right with themselves in the past - others feel the past is done and we need to learn how to live now. I lean towards the latter, using the steps to clean up what needs cleaning.
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Old 05-21-2013, 08:19 PM
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i used to think, while repeatedly trying to quit and not making it, that i needed to understand the why of it before i could quit.
because i thought if i didn't know the underlying things/reasons why i kept drinking, then i could never have a sobriety that wasn't dependent on resolving those very things that made know what i'm saying.

then it hit me that i was using the search for the ever-unknown why as an excuse to keep drinking.
later, i saw that it came down to being a drunk, and that in a very real way i drank because i am an alcoholic.
which sounded like no "reason" i could do anything with.
fact is, seeing that "irrational, non-sensical reason" was what got me to quit.

couple of other thoughts: reason for is NOT the same as cause of.

and the one time i went to therapy for a few sessions, i rather tiredly asked the therapist right at the outset if she thought it was necessary to find the reasons, causes or why of the behaviour i wanted to stop suffering with, and she said no, in fact you can change behaviour without needing to know the reasons why you developed it.
trust that it was a "solution" of sorts to whatever was going on in the past, and yes, you can change your responses without the understanding. it will work just as well and save lots of money and time.

chances are, you can't do anything about whatever "started" it anyway.
for me, though, i've come to the place where i can just say and do believe the "shrug; i'm an alcoholic". that is the cause.
what causes alcoholism....i don't know and no-one else does, exactly, either. or even what it is, exactly.

i don't have the burning need to understand it anymore.
what i had to do was see it and accept it and go from there.
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Old 05-21-2013, 08:57 PM
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I think that the why is important, but I didn't need any introspection to figure it out. I addressed the why before the drinking.
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:00 PM
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the BB explains why.
i dod it because im an alcoholic. that simple.
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:03 PM
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To me, it seems that asking "why" indicates there was some logical reason behind my decision to drink. That x + y = z, where z = booze.... I'm not sure this was the case, for me. It didn't add up, and that's why I stopped.
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:07 PM
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..bodily and mentally different from his fellows.

We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking.

in the grip of a progressive illness

we feel we had gone on drinking many years beyond the point where we could quit on our will power

There are many situations which arise out of the phenomenon of craving which cause men to make the supreme sacrifice rather than continue to fight
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Old 05-21-2013, 09:13 PM
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Quit drinking first and commit yourself to sobriety for good, and then start picking lint out of your belly button. Or not. If you think you need to do some other stuff to set your life right, by all means pursue that. But you won't be able to do that until the alcohol bit is cleared away and straightened out.

In some ways, setting your life right is what living your life can be. Exercise, mastery, friends, love and hope, spiritual growth and pursuit of knowledge, all of these things can be setting your life right, and growing in your sense of self while you do it.

But you can't drink until this is achieved, and that's because you can't achieve anything while drunk, and because these things cannot be completed, only sought.

So quit drinking already and get on with it. Time's a wasting already. Onward!
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by freshstart57 View Post
So quit drinking already and get on with it. Time's a wasting already. Onward!
The OP says s/he's been sober for 10 months...

Harden -- It sounds like your therapist is recommending you figure out "why" meaning what problems you're trying to solve with drinking? Then yes, I think that's very necessary. It sounds like you and your sponsor may have different philosophies. Maybe it would be better to go with someone who's more open to the approaches you want to take?
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Old 05-22-2013, 07:45 AM
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Harden - I'm curious, what step are you working on?

I ask because I feel like I got the answer to why as I worked the steps. Specifically the 4th and 5th steps and still continually as I work on the steps with others.
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Old 05-22-2013, 08:00 AM
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It could be that, for a lot of people, if they become sober but don't know the WHY, then they'll continue to be unhappy because they haven't resolved their "issues."
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