An Alcoholic’s Guide To Musturbation

Are you a musturbator? Perhaps you have a “friend” who thinks they might suffer from musturbation? Maybe you are just curious about musturbation and would like to know more. Musturbation? Hmm… Does it sound familiar but you can’t quite put your finger on it? Don’t worry, you’re in safe hands.

Anyone interested in musturbation should get themselves along to a god-fearing AA meeting. Upstanding members of AA are often to be found musturbating quite openly in public. With the benefit of this handy guide you’ll be able to spot them.

Musturbation, you might be surprised to learn, starts with the ears. As you enter the church meeting room you are likely to hear a steady drum beat, a  thump-thump-thump-thump. This is the sound of the headboard of the Steps banging against the wall of addiction. It makes a kind of tom-tom, beating sound – will those drums never stop? Nope. They probably won’t.

Here’s a classic example:

“Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:”

I am a native speaker of English. The meaning of the word “suggested” seems pretty clear to me. It seems very clear, in fact, that a “suggestion” is distinct from a “rigid requirement”. Wrong. An enthusiastic musturbator once defined suggestion in the following manner:

“Yeah, well… it says “suggestion”… but that’s like saying when you jump out of a plane it is “suggested” that you pull the string on your parachute…”.

This invaluable insight was followed by the furrowing of his bushy eyebrows in obvious disapproval. He knew me to be a notorious and un-aplogetic heretic. I did try to invite him to consider potential weaknesses in his analogy. But I didn’t try very hard. There is no First Amendment to the AA constitution. Freedom of speech, logic and critical thinking are not welcome. You are there to believe, not to think. Such behaviour, thinking, is clearly “grandiose” and an obvious sign that a relapse is on the cards. Somewhere in, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan, the character Christian says:

“His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor.”

You’re damn right it is, pal, and that is how it will remain.

Dr Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy and a most remarkable man, coined the term “musturbation”. What he had in mind was the tendency we have to encumber ourselves, others and the world in general with rigid demands. You must “do service” or your recovery will be at risk. You must! During lockdown, other pedestrians must keep two metres away from me or they must roast in hell. They should know better! What is wrong with these people? After all, they must have heard about the pandemic on the news, inconsiderate idiots. They should be like me, considerate, scrupulously courteous.

Similarly, when viewed through the goggles of the musturbator, the following is no longer a suggestion,

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

But wait, there’s good news. They’re willing to make allowances for those difficult people who take a perverse pleasure in being awkward,

          “You don’t have to call it, god, Charles…”

Gee, thanks. That makes all the difference. Can I call “it” Brian, like the dog in Family Guy? What if I call “it” Brittney Spears? William Shakespeare once said that,

          “A rose by another name would smell as sweet.”

So what’s in a name? Yep, the fellows of faith are happy for me to call “it” Brittney Spears just as long as underneath the name “it” bears some kind of resemblance to the Judaeo-Christian sky dude. You probably know the guy I mean. 

Call it:

          “A group of drunks!”

No. I will not call “it” a group of drunks!

Call it:

          “Good Orderly Direction!”

No. Check the back of my head for a zip, if you like, but I won’t call it Good Orderly Direction.

          “Grow or die…?”

Listen, if you keep this up, “it” won’t end well. Cut me a bit of slack here, Christian. I waggeth not my finger at thee, nor by night nor by day… Gimme a break. I’m an atheist, not an imbecile.

This fixation on g.o.d. is a bit of a giveaway, is it not? It really sticks out. It can be anything you like, just as long as there’s a g.o.d. in it, just as long as it sounds like god. This is a rigid, inflexible demand. This is what intolerance sounds like. This is how to underline division. They demand I have some kind of god, even if god is disguised as Brian Griffin, a well-known d.o.g. For the righteous musturbator, the atheist must be mistaken, she must be deluded, they must be confused. For the musturbator, the atheist must be a potential believer, a misguided fool, a believer-in-waiting. A Roman Catholic priest once said to me:

          “I knew an atheist once – but he saw sense!”

Ho, ho, ho! Oh, how we laughed! Bless you, father. I believe this was a sincere attempt, on his part, at humorous banter. How to relax your atheist friends at parties:

          “Don’t worry about the god thing!” they cry, cheerfully.

They just don’t get it, do they? I don’t think they can. I don’t think there’s any point expecting them to. I don’t think they have it in them to get it. People have said these things to me with total sincerity. They really thought they were helping.

Ellis talks about “making yourself miserable with Jehovian commands”. Hear ye, people of the one book, people of the one true way, not everyone views the Big Book as a revealed text, an object of veneration and wonder, every syllable of which must be pored over as the originalist judge pores over the U.S. Consitution.

I’ve been miserable enough, thank you, through alcohol, without saddling myself with quasi-Christian commandments. My fellow Scot, Mr Billy Connolly, made some interesting points following the ill-advised terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport in 2007. One of the things he said was,

          “Never trust anyone who only has one book!”

You’ll guess who he had in mind, but does it remind you of another group of fundamentalists?

I hesitate to paraphrase Dr. Ellis. No doctor has done more to alleviate human suffering. The broad concept here is that a more flexible, we might say compassionate, approach to ourselves and others may lead to a better chance of sustained sobriety.

About the Author

Sober since April 2019, CH has just discovered the world of secular recovery. He has enjoyed long periods of sobriety in the past but never with the help of a mutual support group. CH lives near the university in Glasgow, within easy walking distance of a number of second-hand record shops and purveyors of fine coffee. His mission statement is, “to live as fully as possible!”

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Megan F.

    Thanks for this fun, insightful article. I’d never heard the term and it piqued my interest. I appreciate the levity and the reminder to not take ourselves (or others) too seriously. To each his/her own.

  2. Anne Johnson

    I so appreciate someone else hating all the ways we should say god when they still mean God! Why must we interpret all the time?

  3. Harry Clark

    Nice to hear from a fellow Glaswegian on here, and a post I enjoyed reading. My comparative paper at Jordanhill Campus (Counselling) in 1991 was on Rational Emotive Therapy and Person Centred Therapy; I liked Dr Ellis’s thinking and technique. A ‘must’ for the intended rational thinker! Yeah, ‘prayer and musterbation’, the soundbite of those who have little need for critical thinking, especially when they inform us that the Bigga Booka holds all the wise words needed by the recovering alkie to anything that ails them in their recovery. I came from the sunnier side of town Charles, until leaving for love in the quaint fishing village of Condorrat right before you got sober. Maybe our paths will cross as we trudge ever more in the company of GOD, that’ll be that ‘group of drunks’ that I have to admit I do miss the company of on a Friday night in ‘Nauldyland. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Charles. Cheers! 😈 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🤝

  4. Pat N..

    I don’t read AA literature any more, not even the BB. When I did, I noticed one thing: although a chapter or article might make a token reference to a “Higher Power” initially,
    INVARIABLY it would go back to referring to “God” by the end.

  5. Peter T.

    I absolutely detest the parachute/ripcord metaphor. If you’re going to jump out of a plane, there’s only one safe way down. If you’re lost in the woods, there’s an infinite number of ways out.

    My g-o-d = Grandiose Obsolete Delusion

  6. Jim Driscoll

    Fun article. Not so funny to ridicule pandemic prevention measures. That is my life you are messing with.

  7. Marty L

    I am a newbie to AA. So far i choose to use my mind when reading AA literature and hearing individual stories. I apply to myself that which is relevant and let the rest go. Fighting the grip of alcoholism is enough for me, fighting semantics and de-valuing the source of help that any of us receives is not worth my time or energy. Acceptance is allowing others choices, not berating them.
    Day thirty for me.

  8. Dan L

    A good read thanks. I always found it funny that we were allowed to not believe in god as long as we believed in god. I do not have a problem with believing life is difficult, chaotic and unfair. What frightens me is the idea that some people think it HAS to have meaning and be run by some rational being. The conviction that “Nothing happens by accident…” is one that I find most disturbing or even terrifying.

  9. Philip

    I always found that saying ridiculous – “when you jump out of a plane it is “suggested” that you wear a parachute”.

    No, no, no. When you jump out of a plane, they INSIST that you wear a parachute.

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