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  • Writer's pictureMike and Glenn

When to jump

The evocative story of the boiling frog took root in 1872 when German physiologist Friedrich Goltz performed a series of experiments with lab frogs – concluding that if you put a frog in boiling water, he will jump out immediately, but if you place a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat to boiling it will allow itself to acclimate to the temperature until death becomes it.

Subsequent experiments and studies were done by scientists like the University of Oklahoma Zoology Professor Dr. Victor Hutchison and Dr. George R. Zug, who concluded that given a way out, the frog would have escaped before its ultimate demise.

We are probably going to hack the metaphor, but it seems to us that it is evident that we lived as that frog for far too long in that the heat turned up all around us, and we acclimated – almost to the point of death.

This writing focuses on the incremental increase in heat coupled with a powerful reminder that there is a way out of the pot. Though it is easy to look back at the transition from abuse to sobriety, the boiling frog principle applies significantly to life in recovery.

It started before the first sip.

We have come to believe that we were alcoholic long before we took the first sip. We now understand that every human being is born with a void deep inside their soul that we look to fill throughout our lifetime. We refer to this as the ISM. From an early age, we sought to find what would provide fill. We tried just about everything: acceptance, fantasy, faith, food, strength, appearance, etc.

The water was still cold, but the burner had been turned on as we found fulfillment in our awkward attempts. It was hit or miss, but the void was often filled temporarily. Even in those early days, pushing the envelope did not take long. The warmth was becoming apparent, but we saw no need to jump.

We want to interject that experimentation frequently slows as we grow and mature. That has not been the case for us as even today, deeper into recovery, we are aware that something shiny will come along, and we will embrace the hope that it can further fill our void. To this end, we try to exit the pot as soon as we become aware of the impending heat.

Getting comfortable with awkward

The first drag of a cigarette is rough. The first roller coaster ride is scary. The first dip in the pool is cold. That first sip of alcohol was nasty. The second drag was smoother. Fright morphed into excitement. The water felt warmer, and the effect of the alcohol outweighed the adverse taste.

The temperature went up a few degrees, and we were getting comfortable that we had finally found our filler. The negative was quickly forgotten, and we forged toward the positive. Had our need been conquered? Not so for us; if two drags were good, three would surely be better, as would a taller roller coaster, and a pool heater would do the trick. More drinks would become our target in our quest to find the euphoria that matched our needs.

We were programming ourselves that more was better, never looking at the reality that what we were chasing could never be achieved.

Oh, to have exited the pool at this point. An entuned frog would have jumped.

Damn, that’s hot.

At some point, the negative began to emerge. The consequences of our actions began to show: a nagging cough, an obsessive quest to seek thrill, chlorine fatigue, and effects from drinking such as regrets, shame, remorse, and, of course, hangovers. All of which were quickly discounted and discarded as the cost of ultimate fulfillment.

We justified the not-jump. We knew things were not as right as it once was. But the pain was spaced, and the highs kept us from taking an accurate temperature.

How often are we accepting the outside heat of an inside decision? It was as though we were turning the knob ourselves. We would be wise to jump at the earliest signs of stress, yet our wisdom waned.

Our inner voice said Jump - That is what a smart frog would do.

The final-final call

For us, and many others like us, we fought through the pain of the now bubbling water, constantly wondering why we stayed in so long. Could we muster the energy to jump? Was there desire to survive?

We foolishly expended what was left of our energy, concentrating on what got us so deep into the boil instead of focusing on the escape. Out of options, we took what was left of us and lay helplessly on our back, waiting for someone or something to rescue us from the boiling brew.

Help came our way, and we dragged ourselves out of the heated hell with some effort. We jumped the best we could. Damaged and Scared, we jumped.

Many don't make it out of the pot. Many wait until death defeats the healing power that exists for frogs of all types.

There is hope outside the boiling water. There are recovery options on dry land. We are living proof.

Have questions? There is a solution:


Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a podcast #14 God - "As I Don't Understand Him"... Cary joins to ponder God… the episode dropped on 9/15/2021 Click here to hear the podcast.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash


Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.


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