Dear Diary: “The year is 1918. In this very month of November, our World’s first World War has just officially ended. One might say that I should display gleeful exuberance from the ending of such toil and bloodshed, but alas, I cannot frolic whilst I whence in such agony. In relevance to that nasty gunshot wound acquired upon my leg only two years prior, I took to the bottle as a crutch for the pain. That wound has long since healed, but I have only to create another festering rot. It seems I’m to be slowly fading from this world in due to consumption. The night sweats soak my garments while the chills leave me breathless- never mind the cough that has manifested. The bottle fastens quickly to my palm from dawn to dusk no matter how much the Mrs. pleads, and the cream no longer stops the cursed liquid from coming back up. My esophagus burns as I push back the tremens daily, yet I cannot leave the wretched stuff behind. It whispers in my ear with a never ending lingering. It is my poisonous antidote in this cold, lonely world. I fear and strongly believe I am doomed to pass from the healing of my own hand. The doctor within has left me awry”. Sincerely, Some Poor Fellow.
Kind of gripping right? Maybe not. Maybe my shoddy millennial articulation of 20th century phonetics was not enough to deliver you to that moment in time. Nonetheless, this is a figmentive excerpt that could’ve befit itself into any number of personal journals within the last centennial era (given that some things like reference to WWI would have to disappear). However, that was the reality back then. Fortunately as Robert Zimmerman once said, “the times are a-changin”, and changing they are. In 2018, Alcoholics Anonymous alone now fosters more than 3 million people worldwide. That’s not even to mention the number of people that are sober through other methods. My how sobriety has grown over the last 100 years.
Why Sobriety Has Grown
In regards to the year of the journal entry, that was 100 years ago. Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps weren’t even to be born for another 20 years roughly. 1935 was the year that Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. had their infamous meeting that set off the wildfire for sobriety worldwide. Until then, there was just this unknown, unaddressed disease that was taking people to the grave without any clear wherewithal about what was happening to them. Sure alcohol was easily blamed, but nobody quite understood why the drink couldn’t be set down when problems would begin to accumulate.
Nobody understood that there was this obsession of the mind later dubbed as “alcoholism”. I mean, the disease of alcoholism wasn’t even a thing yet. It was and it wasn’t. It existed, sure, but nobody knew how to help the poor fellow in the entry because science wasn’t nearly as advanced yet. Doctors saw it as an incurable form of mental illness predicating the need for asylum. The only thing that could really be treated was the resulting tuberculosis or body shutting down of organ failure from consumption. Other than that, there was just this sickening drive for lunacy and detriment to the body that was unexplainable.
Even today many licensed doctors struggle to address alcoholism as a real disease (even though sobriety has grown over the last 100 years enough to see the last several versions of the DSM accredit it as such). For those with alcoholic thinking that were lucky enough to see sobriety back then, they were just pure miraculous blunder. Sobriety was just an idea; a myth to many.
Sober is the New Drunk
Just like keys on a piano, sobriety is one note while recovery is another. Sobriety is the act of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, whilst recovery is that same act with an extra precautionary or two. Sobriety can be had without recovery, but recovery cannot without sobriety. So even though sobriety has grown over the last 100 years, much of that can be attested to the concept of recovery that Bill W and Dr. Bob helped to gain predominance.
Both of these men had been helpless, hopeless alcoholics just like that poor fellow from above. In the short and sweet version, Bill W got clean with the help of spirituality from some others and met Dr. Bob. He preached that alcoholism (remember, still an unnamed disease) was a spiritual malady of the mind, body, and soul essentially. Dr. Bob bought into it seeing the living, breathing proof in front of his very own eyes. Together the two brought their idea around to hospitals/institutions, and more people began to spread their message. The domino effect gave birth to Alcoholics Anonymous, and the 12 steps were published just a few years later. Thus was the creation of recovery as we know it today.
How Far Sobriety Has Grown
In today’s advanced world, there are millions upon millions of sober individuals circulating the globe. It isn’t really something to be ashamed of as it might have been 100 or even 50 years ago. Because of this, Alcoholics Anonymous can now be found in over 170 countries internationally as well as all the other fellowships that have saved the lives of countless millions(Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Overeating Anonymous). It is a fellowship for men and women that is responsible for the incline in sobriety over the last century as well as the catalyst for identifying a life threatening disease. It’s safe to say sobriety has grown over the last 100 years and will only continue to do so.