How Bad Do You Want It?


AA [read “sobriety”] is not for people who need it—it’s for people who want it.

Someone shared this in the meeting last night and it surprised me. Alcoholic’s Anonymous isn’t for people who need it? Are you sure?

The more i thought about it, though, the more i realized that was true.

i live in a big city and, on the bus ride home last night, i passed no fewer than 3 people passed out on cardboard over heating grates. They needed sobriety desperately. The odds they would reach out for help, however, were pitifully slim.

Personally, i needed sobriety in a bad way for many years, yet didn’t want it. AA would’ve been wasted on me. If i had attended a meeting with that mind set in stone, nothing would have been able to get through. i needed AA for decades, but only got it when i wanted it badly enough.

Sobriety: It’s not for people who need it, it’s for people who want it.


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on September 21, 2012, in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Thanks a lot for the post. I think AA is for anyone who has a drinking problem. Even if they don’t want it initially, being exposed to it makes the introduction that may allow an individual to continue that relationship in the future. I did not want to get sober when I first came to a 12 step fellowship but I needed it. Eventually, I jumped into the program and I have been sober for the last 8 years. I am eternally grateful for the life that I have today. I got help from a place called New Life House. Check out their site if you are looking for help.

    • Yes, it’s true that even some initial contact can plant a seed that may take root later on. Sometimes the difficulty is getting the people into the room in the first place, though. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him not drink ;-).

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      PS i removed the link from your comment as i don’t want this blog to be seen as a platform for promoting specific programs requiring payment.

  2. Hi there. I see the same thing in my big city and it is depressing as Hell. I’m off to think about this one. Thanks, Al.

  3. It is difficult to help someone who does not want help.

    “There’s none so blind as those that don’t want to see.”


  4. AL,

    My dad always said, “Honey, your mom is not an alcoholic. She is a Drunk. Alcoholics want to quit; Drunks don’t ”

    Yup. Need VS. Want

    Wish she had Wanted it. Glad you do!

    XO Jen

  5. What great comments so far — enjoyed them all. This one made me smile: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him *not* drink “ and this one made me very thoughtful: “There’s none so blind as those that don’t want to see.” and Jen’s dad’s distinction between drunks and alcoholics is astute in identifying the need vs. want.

    I was thinking, too, that in some ways it has to be harder for someone who is a recovering alcoholic to see those people drunk on the street, full of need of sobriety, because that’s where the recovering person used to be, if not literally on the street, then at least fully in need of sobriety. It’s got to be harder to not want to shout to them, “HEY! Guess what? Sobriety is not so horrible! You can want to be sober!!” It has to be bittersweet and frustrating. A now-sober person may want others to find what he/she has got and not have to suffer any more, not suffer the full-on effects of the disease in active use.

    I can see why many who have recovered go on to be drug and alcohol counselors, etc. themselves, to plant those seeds so that people can wake up and desire something else, something good, even if it may not seem like it to the addict at the time of active use.

    Anyway, it is true for many things: the wanting, the desire for something different has to be powerful enough to make a move, to make a change. I always call that the “Economy of Exchange” and it bears out in my experience. It’s only until a person wants something enough that they do something about it, whether it is not drinking, losing weight, getting a new job, improving their home or life in some other way. If there is no desire behind something (a change, an effort), it is fruitless to try to attempt it. Ya gotta want it, right?

    • P.S. “What great comments so far… ” Oh and a post, too!! I re-read that and realized I shortchanged the post in my comment, but it was assumed in my mind that the post was a good one. 😉

    • I can see why many who have recovered go on to be drug and alcohol counselors, etc. themselves, to plant those seeds so that people can wake up and desire something else, something good, even if it may not seem like it to the addict at the time of active use.

      Funny you mention this because it’s a precursor of Step 12 (“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs”). One thing i’ve noticed is that i can feel the need and desire for something and then realize it’s coming up in a future step. Like right now i’m dealing with my defective thought patterns and am looking forward to the 11th Step (“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out”)—mediation seems like a tool i could use.

      Thanks for the comment and the blog love, babe! And keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  6. I’m still thinking Al. I read your latest post, too. A group is needed and that I know. I’m not defending the devil but who really wants to be passed out on a grate? I’m sure that isn’t what every little kid wants to be when they grow up. L.

    • The grate and the gutter are no place to be. You’re right, it’s not what we think we’ll be when we grow up. It sounds like you’ve had a slip and, if so, don’t beat yourself up too much. i just hope you reach the point where you feel you need to reach out before the going gets too rough. i’m on your side, L!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

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