What is this “passion for jaywalking”?


Ella street danceFrom p. 37 of Alcoholics Anonymous, The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, Fourth Edition, copyright ©1939 (a.k.a. The Big Book)

Our behavior is as absurd and incomprehensible with respect to the first drink as that of an individual with a passion, say, for jaywalking. He gets a thrill out of skipping in front of fast-moving vehicles. He enjoys himself for a few years in spite of friendly warnings. Up to this point you would label him as a foolish chap having queer ideas of fun. Luck then deserts him and he is slightly injured several times in succession. You would expect him, if he were normal, to cut it out. Presently he is hit again and this time has a fractured skull. Within a week after leaving the hospital a fast-moving trolley car breaks his arm. He tells you he has decided to stop jaywalking for good, but in a few weeks he breaks both legs.

On through the years this conduct continues, accompanied by his continual promises to be careful or to keep off the streets altogether. Finally, he can no longer work, his wife gets a divorce and he is held up to ridicule. He tries every known means to get the jaywalking idea out of his head. He shuts himself up in an asylum, hoping to mend his ways. But the day he comes out he races in front of a fire engine, which breaks his back. Such a man would be crazy, wouldn’t he?

You may think our illustration is too ridiculous. But is it? We, who have been through the wringer, have to admit if we substituted alcoholism for jaywalking, the illustration would fit us exactly. However intelligent we may have been in other respects, where alcohol has been involved, we have been strangely insane. It’s strong language — but isn’t it true?

One Response to “What is this “passion for jaywalking”?”

  1. 1 Sharon

    I love “jaywalking” as an analogy for the insanity of drinking. Unhealthy drinking is just like that… it develops as simply “convenience”… Oh, yeah, right… “Socially”. For many… and “many” is well- thought out, despite our cultural brainwashing that it is not so… it becomes craziness. But that craziness sneaks up on you… just like jaywalking… you stop noticing when you cross at the corner and when you don’t…. convenience again. Before you know it, you have to cross in the middle of the block… how could you possibly be on time? When did that thinking shift? It becomes how you live your life… it becomes unconscious… convenience again. It takes a slap up the side of the head to wake up and THAT is what makes each story unique 🙂

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