Free to Commit

The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous was the “Four Hour Work Week” of its day.  It was meant as a practical guide to show you how to do something.  Unlike the “Four Hour Work Week,” which deals with outsourcing, the “Big Book” (whose real title is simply “Alcoholics Anonymous”), was meant to show people how to stop drinking themselves to death and live happy lives.
It was also addressed to those who were affected by alcoholics.  There are chapters entitled To Wives, To Employers and The Family Afterwards, each addressed to their respective constituents.  The first of these chapters, To Wives, is a seemingly anachronistic text.  The suggestion that women are the only gender affected by alcoholism is the first tip off that this was written in a different era.  Perhaps it was decided To Domestic Partner lacked zing.
The chapter’s text is filled with oft-derided suggestions to the the wife like,  “Cheerfully see him through more sprees,” as if this were something anyone could do cheerfully.  Yet the most interesting aspect of the chapter is the idea of marriage as a commitment kept.  There are a few mentions of leaving the alcoholic husband, and when there are they are always followed by asterisks, reminding the wife that the husband is sick and deserves her devotion and stick-to-itiveness.  All situations brought up in the chapter—verbal and physical abuse, adultery, incarceration, abandonment—are framed by a doggedness in keeping a commitment.  It’s not that a commitment to someone or something couldn’t include choosing to leave, but it’s a suggestion that we are going to do everything in our power to make something work.  Continue reading “Free to Commit”