October 21, 2005
Alcohol has always had a hold on me. Though I gave it up years ago, it still has a grip of sorts on me.
After many years of loving it, abusing it, and then trying to control it, I finally admitted that I couldn't go on drinking; I gave it up completely. Though I haven’t had a drink in years, my life still seems to revolve around it. More important, I believe my experience may help many others who want to quit.
No. I don’t go to A.A. meetings. I tried A.A. several times and was extremely impressed by many of the gripping stories and how these alcoholics were able to turn their lives around. A.A. insists that alcoholics are powerless about their drinking. Just go to meetings, follow the 12 Steps and you’ll be able to quit. But that way was not for me. If I was going to quit, I had to be in charge. A.A. says that alcoholics must rely on a Higher Power — presumably God—to keep them sober. But that was not good enough for me; I had to be in charge. I wanted power, control over my life. Substituting one dependency for another wouldn’t do. I was tired of being powerless over alcohol.
After these false starts with A.A., I remembered the story of Matt Talbot that I had heard years earlier. Matt Talbot was a poor Irishman, a Catholic, who as a teenager had turned to drink. After years of drinking, with the grace of God he was able to quit. He became a sort of patron saint of alcoholics after his death in 1925. In fact, he is up for canonization in the Catholic Church. But I had conveniently forgotten all this during my drinking days.
So I developed a plan, taking the experience of Matt Talbot as my guide. I, too, was a Catholic, and had slowly come to realize I would be able to quit only by having a greater love for something else — and that something else could only be God. Unlike A. A., I wouldn’t depend on God to keep me sober. Rather, I turned the tables; I would give up alcohol for love of God — though I believe that the power to do this, to do anything, comes from God. It sounds a bit pious for me to say that I don’t drink for love of God, but I do it in a totally hidden way, with no outward display. From the very start, I was able to quit completely, with no relapses. I can honestly say that it’s not been one day at a time for me. I’ve had no daily battles to fight — should I drink or should I not? — though every day I do make a gift to God of my sobriety. Yes, to this extent alcohol still has a hold on me.
When I finally quit I was overjoyed. And completely surprised at how easy it was. An all without going to meetings. I was amazed. I couldn’t contain myself, so I wrote a book about it. The do-it-yourself method, which I call the Matt Talbot way to sobriety, is much more complicated than what I have described here.
This I believe: Much good can come of my battle with alcohol other than my own sobriety. Many of the alcoholics who have failed to quit the A.A. way or simply don’t want to go to its meetings or any other meetings, and who are Christian, may also be able to quit the Matt Talbot way.
[Note: Readers of this essay by Philip might be interested in exploring this website (http://thisibelieve.org/about/) not only for articles on addiction but many other
topics. The book he is referring to is, To Slake a Thirst: The Matt Talbot Way to Sobriety (2000).]