It seems to be a part of northern European heritage to drink, and asÁsatrúar, we seem to accept that image. the custom of being ableto somehow drink all day and most of the night without getting drunk or losingcontrol is almost genetically encoded. A good deal of history as we know itfrom the sagas and Eddas seems to include a great deal of drinking. WouldBeowulf have gone to all that trouble if Grendel were merely trashing the localcoffee shop? Or, as a popular tee-shirt once had it, "Drinking problem? Idrink. I get drunk. I fall down... No problem!"
I saw an ad in the Llewellyn magazine recently from a young woman which said,"does anyone know of a 12-step for Pagans in the New York area?" The answerthat came to my mind was, "real Pagans don't do 12-stepprograms!" Which leads us to the question: what if some of us inÁsatrú come to realize that we are drinking too much, too oftenand are not in control of our drinking? Is it proper or correct to just saythat we Viking types drink as much as we want and to Hel with the consequences?Half drunk most of the time and mostly drunk the rest of the time? Our culturalmindset notwithstanding, many of us are grown-ups with jobs, families, andresponsibilities. Uncontrolled drinking puts all those aspects of our lives injeopardy. So, why not control it, or just quit? If you can control yourdrinking, fine, read no further. But if you can't control your drinking andwant to try to quit, then read on.
I drank quite a bit for about 25 years, from 1959 to 1984. I used to say that Icould quit any time I wanted; I just didn't want to. When I finally did decideto quit, it was to a large degree because I decided that I wanted to quit.There was a lot more to it than that, but I managed to quit without fallinginto the 12-step trap. Although I didn't see it at the time, looking back nowfrom the vantage point of the enlightened heathen, I can outline a few basicideas. These ideas have worked for me and may help others for whom drinking isa problem. Don't forget that the great wisdom of Odin given to us in theHavamal contains much of the best advice about drinking and moderation if notoutright abstinence.
The first realization I had was that I was responsible for my behavior.I had chosen to drink; now I was choosing not to drink. There wasno real "higher power" into whose hands I placed myself. I realized that I wasthe higher power, and took charge of my life and made my own decisions. I alsofeared becoming addicted to those damned meetings, as I had seen some of myfriends do. I didn't want to trade one dependency for another. So, instead of12 steps, I came up with 5 key points to reinforce my decision not to drink.
1. I don't want it. 2. I don't need it. 3. I don't like it. 4 I am betteroff without it. 5. I can't have it. That's it. Actually these all stem froma single 1-Step Program: Shape up or else! These are pretty muchself-explanatory, but it is essentially that you truly believe these points arevalid; otherwise, this won't work. You can't fake it, or make a halfway attemptto maybe try some of this. You must undergo the transformationalprocess!
As we discover and accept that the ideas of Jung form a valid part of theÁsatrú philosophical and religious beliefs, the idea ofself-transformation becomes an achievable and do-able goal. For many of us itis the driving force in our beliefs. Many of us are consciously trying tochange ourselves; therefore, the idea of changing our self-perception is not aninconceivable concept. The key here is based on the self-perception as either aDrinker or Non-drinker.
If you are a Drinker, then how much you drink, how often you drink, andhow it affects you are the issues. If you only drink on special occasions, orwhen it seems to be appropriate, then you probably don't have a problem. But ifyour drinking istoo much, and for no other reason than to get drunk, then youhave a problem, especially if it results in problem behavior. If you becomeviolent and get into fights, if you become abusive to someone with whom you arein a relationship, if you jeopardize your job or the safety of your household,if you get busted for drunk driving--you have a problem. A recent study castfurther light on the problem by discovering that those of us who are good atdrinking are more inclined to become problem drinkers than those who have lowtolerance, or just don't enjoy it. Taking pride in our ability to hold ourliquor becomes part of the problem.
If your self-perception is that you are a Drinker, but you are, forwhatever reason, not drinking, then you have become an Alcoholic. Inthis case, you still think of yourself as a Drinker, and you will beconstantly thinking about drinking. You will want it, need it, like it, believethat you are better off with it, and that it's not fair that you can't have it.In this case, you are in the trap that leads to transferring your dependencyfrom alcohol to AA and those damned meetings.
If you want to stop drinking, then the best method is to change your selfperception from that of the Drinker to that of the Non-drinker.Then, based on the five points we've mentioned, you are someone who does notdrink and for whom drinking is not an issue. You are not tempted to drink bybeing around situations in which others are drinking. In fact, you will come toenjoy the obvious advantages of sobriety by being the only one at the party whois still in control of his faculties! "Sober," by the way, is one of the wordsby which the weak proclaim themselves. It is their way of saying, "Look at me!I'm Special! I'm a Screwup!" I prefer to look at it this way: drunk isabnormal. Intoxicated means poisoned! I prefer to use the term Normalrather than "sober." Not "in recovery" or "recovering," but recovered!Not "co-dependent," but independent! Not "one day at a time," but onelife at a time! My self-perception is a matter of my own choice, not somecollective non-committal blunder beyond my personal control.
Eventually I quit smoking the same way: by altering my self-perception. Ofcourse, being in an ambulance with an oxygen mask strapped on helped meimmensely in making that decision! In deciding to become involved inÁsatrú, I changed my self-perception in other ways as well, aprocess which is still continuing. At the very heart of my personal practice ofÁsatrú is the idea that I try to empower the might and main whichexist within me by making a link or connection with the Gods and Goddesses ofNorse traditions. Thus, I don't exactly pray to Thorr to protect me as much asI call on Thorr to empower me to protect myself. Whereas those who areconditioned to the mental slavery of the three branches of the rotting andcorrupt tree of Jehovaism are prone to beg for their "God" to do all the workfor them, I call on my Gods to enable me to perform the transformationalprocess myself, to the greater glory of myself and the Gods! Even many New AgeNeo-Pagans other than Ásatrúar are inclined to beg their Gods forhelp rather than take the God by the horns and just do it!
It would have been much easier for me to undergo this transformation if I knewthen what I know now. (There's that one again!) I did it the hard way. When youdrink a lot regularly, you become impervious to the normal inputs of both painand pleasure; you have your invisible protective shield! But when that shieldis taken away abruptly, you become quite vulnerable. I must say that my firstyear of Normalcy was tough. I found myself over-reacting to stress and gettinginto as much difficulty as if I were still drinking. I even went for counselingand therapy with (horrors!) a Freudian shrink! Jikes! Now, I think that I couldhave accomplished the same work a lot more easily as a Heathen/PaganÁsatrúar. Thus, in answer to the question, "Is there a 12-stepprogram for Pagans?" my answer remains "real Pagans don't do12-step programs!" We have the means and the self-empowerment to transformourselves. This process starts at the heart and proceeds from the inside out,not by enforcing external and superficial pseudo-solutions, from the outsidein. We are our Gods.
For comments or reply, write to Lavrans Reimer-Møller, P.O. Box 472;Cambridge MA 02139-0006.